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The modernization of the pitcher

in Columns/Sports by

One day in the summer of 2015, I found myself on a seemingly endless three hour drive from my home in Washington, DC to Atlantic City, MD. The old pitching hermit my dad said we were meeting to work with awaited at the other side. After the excruciating drive through cornfields, woods, and unpaved roads, we finally arrived at a ramshackle pitching facility in an abandoned warehouse in the woods. Upon meeting the man and paying three hundred dollars for his “advanced arm care program,” I found myself seriously questioning the legitimacy of this man‘s renown baseball tutelage. However, for the next three hours, I found myself undergoing one of the most physically challenging baseball and weight programs I have ever seen. Rejuvenated by the strenuous day and expert refinement, I took on the program as a long-term project to improve my endurance, arm strength, and velocity as a pitcher.

For all of those who are not familiar with baseball, the sport seems to lack much physical ability between standing for large periods of time and the endless flow of sunflower seeds, bubble gum, and Gatorade. However, the athletic ability required throughout the game derives from a far greater technical basis. Particularly at the position of pitcher, quite arguably the most important in the game, the combination of brute strength, endurance, and mental toughness make the prospects of success for the average person quite slim. On top of that, the risk of detrimental injury as a pitcher remains quite high as the constant wear and tear weakens the tendons and muscles in the arm irreparably. Taking a further step past basic arm care, to be more competitive, pitchers constantly seek to improve their arm strength such that they can throw faster — a process that can add even more stress to the developing arm.

Therefore, from Little League to the MLB (Major League Baseball), the never-ending question of how to care for pitchers physically encounters constant scrutiny. At the most basic levels, coaches generally restrain their young pitchers to pitch limits, such that the children can grow and potentially be more successful when games matter more. However, beyond that, the biological facts and baseball folklore constantly intertwine to create a confusing mashup of eclectic training styles, all with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, for many professionals, the pressure to succeed debilitates their mental preparations, thereby affecting their performance on the field. However, for others, the same strive to succeed leads to cheating whether through performance-enhancing drugs, altered equipment, or some other means. Therefore, this topic widely and dramatically affects the play of the game and the culture of the sport.

Here at Swarthmore, the baseball program generally follows a strict arm care regimen to combat the constant strain undertaken in the rigor of games. The seven-day workout schedule generally consists of only a few days of actual throwing, supplemented with other drills — weighted balls, elastic Jaeger band work, sprinting, hip mobility exercises, and long-distance running among a slew of others. However, on top of these workouts, each pitcher has their own individual style to caring for their arm, ranging from unique throwing drills to holding towels as they throw. The culmination of this has resulted in a relativelyhealthy and successful pitching staff. The general arm care of pitchers at all levels of talent and competition is an extremely important science.

However, just as baseball statistics have expanded in their breadth and analysis, so too has this arm care science modernized to better aid the pitcher. Similar to football’s current issue with concussion technology and minimizing the damage to the brain through the daily rigor of the sport, baseball too must come to terms with its rapidly increasing arm injury problem that takes away the bright futures of so many young pitchers. Simply sitting in a discussion between a trainer with the Philadelphia Phillies organization and the Swarthmore pitching staff, it became quite clear that many pitchers actually had been taught incorrect and potentially harmful methods in the past for strengthening and caring for their arm.

Two young MLB superstar prospects, Baltimore Orioles’ Dylan Bundy and Cleveland Indians’ Trevor Bauer, who played an integral role in their respective teams’ playoff runs last year, both swear by the science of Alan Jaeger (whose elastic band workouts Swarthmore baseball uses extensively). Both pitchers have thrown upwards of 100 miles per hour during certain drills with impressive success, but Bundy has undergone the fated Tommy John surgery, calling into question the legitimacy of their long-distance throwing program. Others swear by modern tactics such as biometrics, as Swarthmore baseball implemented via a University of Pennsylvania initiated science lab, or more old-fashioned lifting and running techniques. Nevertheless, the combination of these large scientific progressions with the individual flair of baseball players everywhere has created a sport far more aware of the injuries and care necessary to be successful in the sport.

However, not only has biomedical progress aided the plight of the modern pitcher, but psychology has made leaps and bounds in the field of high-pressure performance. It is often described of pitchers that they control the game entirely, as their performance sets the tone for the rest of the game. That high intensity, coupled with being the center of attention on each played, can debilitate even the most talented of pitchers with one fell swoop. Recently, former professional pitcher Rick Ankiel published a memoir, in which he admitted to drinking vodka before games to calm the nerves of being the main actor on baseball’s biggest stage. At the same time, it is also rumored that legendary ace, Dock Ellis, even pitched a no-hitter on LSD. On account of all of this mental stress, psychologists now have calming techniques for these pitchers in high-intensity situations that let them slow the game down, focus better, and perform at a far higher level.

All of this scientific empirical evidence just adds to the rhetoric already surrounding the betterment of pitcher performance. In the rapidly modernizing world, the game has sought to keep up with the technology and speed of daily life, and the arm and mental care of pitchers has been just one facet of this initiative. It has enabled pitchers to come more prepared to succeed and stay healthy, and has altered the game for the best. Hopefully at Swarthmore, the bright future scholars we produce will further the progress already made thus far.

Tennis serves it up in sunny SoCal

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While most of campus enjoyed a break off from school, the nationally ranked Swarthmore Men’s Tennis team hit the road, stopping in Virginia and then flying to California to compete against some of the top Division III tennis teams in the country.

Last year, the Garnet spent most of their spring break in the Pacific Northwest at the Whitman Invitational, largely taking on schools from California, Washington, and Oregon. The trip was for the most part a success. Wins over California Lutheran University and Lewis and Clark College prepared the Garnet for a season that included a 15-6 record and a Centennial Conference Tournament Finals appearance. Mostly, the spring break trip was used as an opportunity for the Garnet to challenge themselves against unfamiliar opposition in an entirely different part of the country.

The team graduated two seniors last year, and recruited three freshman, Max Gruber ’20 of Iowa City, Iowa, William Teoh ’20 of Duluth, Georgia, and Kevin Xu ’20 of Princeton, New Jersey.

The Garnet, who are ranked 29th nationally by the NCAA, started their eventful 2017 spring break in Lexington, Virginia against Washington and Lee University, who are ranked 38th nationwide. The Garnet dropped the match by a 3-6 score, but notched wins at first doubles, third singles, and sixth singles. Highlights of the match included Kevin Xu’ 20’s win at sixth singles. They continued their trip in a neutral site match against another nationally ranked opponent, Sewanee: The University of the South, another team ranked in the top 30. Swarthmore’s doubles teams won on the day, but the team was swept in the singles lineup.

The team then headed to Southern California, in hopes for a final spring tuneup in warm weather before a return to Conference play. The Garnet fell to the 18th ranked University of Redlands, and then, in a split squad match, fell to Cerritos College, and the 6th ranked co-op team of the Claremont Colleges (Claremont McKenna and Harvey Mudd). On Friday, March 10, the Garnet picked up their first win of the year, beating Glendale College 6-3. Subsequently, the team concluded their California road trip with losses to top 10 nationally ranked opponents, Pomona-Pitzer, and Carnegie Mellon in Claremont, California.

Teoh reflected on his experiences on the spring break trip.

“The experience was unique because it really gave us a chance to bond off the court and outside of the classroom as well, particularly as a new freshman. I definitely became closer with the guys, and Coach Mullan too. Along with tennis, we also visited Manhattan Beach where Evan Han’s family hosted us.”

Teoh also commented on his takeaways from the difficult results from the trip.

“Some of the major takeaways from this trip from a team perspective is that things won’t always go our way and we will make mistakes. Instead of worrying about results on a trip like this, we should worry about what we can control. A lot of the matches didn’t end the way we wanted, but we definitely learned that results on the court should not affect our lives off the court. We still enjoyed the trip regardless of the results.”

Finally, Teoh addressed the difficult schedule the Garnet faced over their break.

“Playing 4 teams in the top 15 in the country was very difficult, but our guys feel very prepared for conference matches now. We now know what level we want to play at. At this point, we will only get better and we are still motivated to make NCAA’s and win as many matches as possible.”

Teoh and the other Garnet tennis players are looking to replicate their success from last season. The spring break trip to Virginia and California challenged the team against some of the best teams in the nation, while giving them a nice break from being on campus. They open Centennial Conference play with an away match against Gettysburg on Saturday, March 25 at 1pm.

After slow start, baseball bounces back strong

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After a slow start losing two doubleheaders to open up the season, the Baseball team bounced back over spring break in Fort Myers, Florida. The team flew south for their annual trip the first Saturday of spring break to escape the cold. After seven days of sunshine, the team returned with an overall record of 6-8, going 6-4 in Florida. Over 100 Division III baseball and softball teams from across the United States headed to Fort Myers to compete in the annual Gene Cusic Collegiate Classic. The tournament is a memorial for Cusic, a former Lee County Parks and Rec athletics manager and baseball fan. Established 26 years ago, the classic has expanded tremendously, originally having just 11 teams. Other Conference teams to attend this tournament included Gettysburg and Haverford.

The Garnet baseball team faced a packed schedule with 10 games in just six days. The trip began on an incredible high note with a walk-off win in extra innings in their first game on Sunday. Jared Gillen ’20 drove in the game winning run for the Garnet to defeat Rivier College in extra innings. The team lost a doubleheader on Monday to Defiance College and rallied to finish 4-2 in their next 6 games, defeating Hiram College, Rockford University, Baruch College and the United States Coast Guard Academy. One of the team’s losses was to Alvernia University who is currently ranked 23rd in the nation in Division III.

Other notable performances came from Conor Elliott ’19 and Cole Beeker ’20 at the plate, as well as Ryan Warm ’20 on the mound who, despite the loss, had a strong pitching performance against Alvernia. Elliot and Beeker lead the team with batting averages of .383 and .367 respectively.

Despite the busy schedule, the team was able to get some rest and relaxation during their spring break. Fort Myers is the spring training home of both the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins, offering a great opportunity to see some Major League Baseball. The team saw the Minnesota Twins defeat the Toronto Blue Jays before returning to Swarthmore on Friday to conclude their spring break trip.

Up next for the Garnet is a home doubleheader against Penn State Berks on March 18th after their game scheduled for March 14 against Eastern was canceled due to weather. Centennial Conference play will begin April 1 against Johns Hopkins University, who was picked to finish first in the conference coaches poll. The Garnet, who were picked to finish 10th in the same coaches poll, must make a strong conference play campaign to reach the Centennial Conference playoffs.

Spring Break Brings Success For Swat Softball

in Columns/Sports/Women by

Swarthmore’s Softball Team kicked their season off in full gear during their spring break trip to Fort Myers, Florida. The team started the trip on March 5 with an early double-header. Stellar pitching from Emily Bowman ’18 led the team to a dominating 8-0 victory over Albion College. Bowman had nine strikeouts in the outing and was backed with strong showings at the plate by Marisa Mancini ’20 and Kennedy Kings ’20.

After an early momentum boost, the team picked up right where it left off in the afternoon against Rockport University. Swarthmore once again put on a hitting display. Hannah Thompson ’19 went 4-for-5 at the plate while McKenzie Ward ’19 had a strong showing on the mound to help lead the team to an 8-2 win.

Day two started off strong for the team as well. They barely defeated the University of Pittsburgh Bradford by a score of 6-5. The team fell into a 1-5 hole early in the game, but continued to fight until the end. Late in the seventh inning, the young team showed its true colors. Kings, Mancini, Anna Jensen ’17, and Elizabeth Curcio ’19 all contributed and pushed Swat into the winner’s circle.
After this dramatic comeback, Thompson and Curcio were very optimistic about the team’s performance.

“We came back in the seventh inning of one of our games to score five runs and win! I think that shows that our team has a lot of maturity,” Thompson said.

Curcio believed that the team’s youth played a major role in their success over break and will continue to moving forward.  

“Having such a young team made the offseason really important. Our freshmen are all very good and most of them have learned to play new positions this year. Winning a game like that is just so much fun and showed all of us how good we can be,” Curcio said.
Swarthmore suffered a tough loss in the afternoon of day two, losing to Geneva by a score of 1-4.

Frankie Ponziani ’18 had a strong performance on the mound, striking out three opponents and only allowing one earned run. However, Geneva offense came on strong late in the game which propelled them to the victory.

Time spent off the field has helped add to the team’s camaraderie and companionship. In Florida, the team had a balance between games and free time. After a couple of long days of competition, the team had a break day to go to the beach and relax. Thompson said this added time together away from Swarthmore built even more team chemistry.

“We spent most of our time off together as a team. We went mini golfing, watched spring training games, and played countless hours of catchphrase and cards against humanity,” Curcio said. “On our full day off most of us went to the beach and then caught the end of Swarthmore’s baseball game that night. Just spending that much time together both on and off the field has created close friendships and these relationships help build good team chemistry.”

After some much needed time off the diamond, the team was ready to return to the field and play.
On day three, Bowman once again dominated the mound and led Swarthmore to a 3-1 victory over Eastern Nazarene College. Bowman struck out seven batters in a row and held her opponents to just three hits. Emilie Morse ’20 and Sara Planthaber ’17 had strong showings at the plate as well. The team continued their strong play in their second game of the day, played that afternoon. They defeated Clark University 4-1. Ward recorded her second win of the trip. Ward pitched seven innings in the outing and allowing no earned runs. Gabriella Natoli ’20 and Planthaber both shined at the plate, leading Swarthmore’s offensive attack.

Going into their final day of spring break competition, the team looked to end the trip on a high. In their first game of the day, Swarthmore defeated Bridgewater State by a score of 8-4. The win was highlighted by a five-run fourth inning and a three-run sixth. Morse, Kings, Mancini, and Curcio all contributed with strong at-bats in this impressive offensive stretch. On the mound, upperclassmen Ponziani and Bowman worked together to push the Garnet to the victory. In game two, Swarthmore recorded eleven hits, but ultimately came up short in a 1-2 loss to Rivier University. Mary Olesnavich ’18 kept the Garnet in the game with her strong pitching, recording a no-hitter through her first five innings. A tough stretch in the fifth inning was enough for Rivier to record two runs and slide past Swarthmore.

Overall, the players believe a strong offseason regimen has led to the team’s success thus far.

“We worked a lot with Chris and Erika at lifts and agilities. This helped our power at the plate a ton,” Thompson said.

With consistently strong performances at the plate game-in and game-out accompanying stellar pitching, the team looks to bring this high caliber play into conference games this spring.

“I feel like spring break was a really strong building block for us,” Ponziani said. “The freshmen in the lineup stepped up and got a lot of clutch hits, returners picked up where they left off, we have a completely healthy pitching staff this year that should do some great things, and everyone seems to be focused on winning. Going forward, I’m expecting a lot of positive things from this team, and I’m really excited.”

All signs point to a successful season for the Garnet this spring.

Athletics as a Benefit or Detriment to Academic Performance

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A common concern surrounding the community of student-athletes is whether or not the incredible time commitment warranted by athletics serves as a benefit or detriment to academic performance. Many varsity athletes at Swarthmore, given the rigorous academic standards, are well aware that they are students first and varsity athletes second, as the term “student-athlete” suggests. All Garnet athletes have encountered the predicament of balancing team practice and school work. There is certainly merit to both sides of this debate, leaving many to seriously consider the prospect of participating  collegiate athletics.

        Some student-athletes, like Tom McGovern ’17, member of the Men’s Swim team, believe that athletic time commitment does improve academic performance.

       “I find that having a regimented routine actually helps me perform better academically,” says McGovern. “The structure of the athletic season forces me to exercise, regulate my diet, and get enough sleep, which are all harder to prioritize when I don’t have the immediate physical consequences staring me in the face during practice. Athletics certainly help my general performance in classes.”

        In season, most varsity athletes practice six days a week, creating the regimented routine McGovern talks about. A 2012 article of the Chicago Tribune titled “The Blessings of Routine” contends that “patterns of behavior, properly harnessed, help keep life on track.” The article features input from University of Southern California psychology professor Wendy Wood who states, “Habits help us get through the day with minimal stress and deliberation.”With a large portion of the day going to class and practice for student-athletes, time devoted to school work must be regularly carved out and fit into a student-athlete’s busy schedule.

        Further, time spent on school work must be extremely productive as it is limited by athletic commitments.

        “Having the responsibility to be on top of my work not only for myself but for my teammates helps me stay motivated and focused when I feel like slacking off,” says McGovern.

        Of course, for some student-athletes, there is seemingly not enough time in the day to balance sports and school, given the burdensome academic demands here at Swarthmore.

        Nicole Khorosh ‘20, member of the Women’s Tennis team adds,

        “As an athlete you learn to manage your time well. However, when school work really picks up, you don’t have any time left to manage.”

        Choosing between an assignment and practice is something many athletes face, certainly hindering their performance in the classroom. At the Division 1 level, student-athletes must often miss class to travel across the country for sporting events. Fortunately, this is a rarity at Swarthmore, an institution whose athletic coaches understand the priority of education. However, the sizeable time commitment to athletics, even at the Division 3 level, has numerous negative externalities.

       “My sleeping schedule becomes a factor I didn’t feel I had to watch when I wasn’t playing sports,” says Khorosh. “Not to mention the constant fatigue and soreness that you just have to get used to.”

       The NCAA’s website features an article on sleeping disorders from the Sports Science Institute by author Michael Grandner. In the article, Grander states “given the timing of practices, travel and competition, student-athletes are likely at high risk of sleep difficulties. In addition, extra time demands, including balancing athletics with academics, can reduce sleep opportunity.”

       In season, student-athletes are significantly more susceptible to sleep deprivation, which, given the importance of sleep,  can seriously interfere with academic success.

       “Sleep is not a passive state of rest, but an active state of rebuilding, repair, reorganization and regeneration,” says Grandner.

       That opportunity to repair and rebuild, is essential for student-athletes, not only for their success on the field, but more importantly, off it.

       All students at Swarthmore face a tremendous challenge when it comes to effectively managing their time. Student-athletes, in particular, face a unique challenge given the physically demanding nature of the substantial time commitment. Whether or not that time commitment serves as a benefit or detriment to their academic performance truly does vary from person to person. A regimented routine offers some students a regular opportunity to do schoolwork and be incredibly effective during such time. Additionally, the routine created by athletics can lead to a healthier lifestyle by regulating diet and sleep.

       Conversely, for many student-athletes, there simply is not enough time in the day, and balancing both requires cutting out sleep and hindering academic performance. Overall, student-athletes are students first. If athletics impedes with their success in the classroom, stepping back and re-evaluating the decision to play sports is a good choice.

 

Kicking and screaming, but with a purpose

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The Women’s Soccer team wrapped up the 2016 season with a 15-4 overall record and a 7-2 record in Centennial Conference play. Although the Garnet fell short in the NCAA tournament, their season as a whole wasn’t short of successes.

           The Women’s Soccer team is really damn good. If you don’t believe me, let the numbers do the talking.  Over the past three years, the squad is 46-14-3, one of the best marks in program history. During that same time period, their goal differential is incredible; they’ve outscored all opponents by 121 goals, scoring 169 times while only letting up 48 times. They’ve also averaged 2.63 goals per game during those years, with the highest mark being their astounding 3.61 average in 2015. In 2015, the Garnet’s goal differential was an unbelievable +70. The Garnet scored 83 times while only allowing 13 goals in the entire season.

           This year, the team had seven players earn All-Centennial Conference honors, many of which have earned the same honors multiple times before. In fact, each of the three members that were selected for First-Team were all selected for First-Team last year. Those three players have combined for seven First-Team selections over the past three years.

           This season, with a 2-1 win over Muhlenberg on the second to last regular season game, the team ensured themselves yet another spot in the Centennial Conference tournament. The team has gotten into a good habit of doing so. The Garnet have forced themselves into the Centennial Conference tournament five times in the last six years, winning the tournament in 2014 by beating Johns Hopkins in penalty kicks.

           The team’s dominance in the conference has been duly rewarded, earning a bid in the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. This year, the team was given the 63rd bid out of 64, sneaking into the tournament.

           Nobody can forget the incredible run the team had last year. After going 9-0-1 on the season, the Garnet was nearly guaranteed with a spot in the NCAA tournament. The team showed no mercy. The team breezed through the early rounds of the tournament, beating St. Joseph’s College 5-2 and Catholic University 1-0. As expected, teams get better the deeper you go. In a nail-biter, the squad sneaked past Hardin-Simmons University, beating them in penalty kicks. The next challenge was tougher. The NCAA Quarterfinal game featured the #10 ranked Swarthmore and the #1 ranked Messiah College. Messiah, who already has five Division III Women’s Soccer championships to its name, walked away with a 5-0 victory.

           Although this season’s tournament run was not as miraculous, the results are still commendable. The squad traveled to Amherst College in Massachusetts for the first two rounds after hosting the first two rounds last year. After beating Misericordia University 2-1 in the first round, the team went on to lose a hard-fought battle 4-2 against academic rival Amherst College.

           The game was a sure-fire test of the team’s will and tenacity, as an early 4-0 deficit didn’t stop them from cutting the lead in half later in the game. Hannah Lichtenstein ’17, who will actually be returning for another season after missing her freshman year to injury, noted the competition of the teams in the tournament saying, “You know you’re playing with the best teams in the country. You don’t have games where you’re running circles around other teams. I thinking having the mindset of needing to be playing our best soccer gets us prepared for that sort of pressure and that sort of test.”

           Katherine Zavez ’17, a key member of the defense and Centennial Conference Academic Honor Roll Selection, had similar words regarding the competition. She said, “It feels like you get to start a fresh season. You’ve never really seen these teams before in the regular season. Our team does better when we have less room to think. We’re not thinking about our opponents because we might not know a lot about them. The mindset is ‘come ready to fight’ the whole game. The pressure helps step up the play.”

          Lichtenstein also mentioned how important this game was to the team, especially after not performing to expectations in the conference tournament. She said, “We suffered a bad loss in the conference finals, and coming into the tournament, that’s something we wanted to comeback from and get stronger from, especially for our seniors.”

          After falling behind 4-0, Claire O’Brien ’18 scored a goal just minutes before the half. Sydney Covitz ’20 described the team’s emotions going into the second half. “We were pumped, we knew we were still in it. Everyone was so hyped.” Covitz also had similar words regarding the game as a whole. She said, “It was really rough, but we really fought hard, especially in the second half. It’s never good to end on a loss, but I think people were really proud of the way we fought. We fought harder in that game harder than we had ever fought throughout the season. “

          Zavez concurred saying, “We knew we could do it; we knew we could come back. We were playing so well. We were moving the ball around very well. We said, there’s no way we can’t do this. The second half was a 1-0 game. I was really satisfied with the way we came out and played our game.”

          The Garnet will miss the Class of 2017 very much as the class has done so much for the team on and off the field. Marin McCoy ’19 had some incredible words regarding her senior teammates,

          “These seniors made huge impacts in other parts of the game, whether it was defensively, in the midfield or off the field. Caroline and Miranda were so strong in the midfield; they were the reason we could even get scoring opportunities. Justine was so important off the field in keeping up a positive attitude and creating energy. Mele was so important for the morale of the team and was a huge contributor with the danger of her shot, and KZ kept everything together defensively with her communication.”

          McCoy is not far off from the truth as the Class of 2017 is one of the most winningest classes in program history, and often gets praised for their impeccable leadership and dedication to the team. Aside from being incredible players, the class is also filled with incredible people, who consider each other as best friends. Lichtenstein said, “Community is built through adversity. When we were freshman, we didn’t even make playoffs. Being where we are now, a lot of friendship and growth has come about. They’re my best friends. I very much identify with that class. What they’ve done for this program is incredible. The senior class has really put the program on their back and taken it to a new place.”

          Covitz, being a first-year, also talked about her experiences with the seniors and team as a whole, saying, “Our seniors were so amazing, at soccer and as people. On and off the field, my experience with them has been so amazing. This team is so much fun, in additional to being really good.”

          Although experience makes a big difference in college athletics, the Garnet have a promising future. With regard to the Class of 2020, Zavez said, “I was really excited about the first-years this year. They’re a really cool, fun group, and added a lot to the team energywise. I’m excited to see them continue on. They’re great teammates through and through.”

         The team will now enter into the offseason, focusing on eliminating weaknesses and reinforcing strengths. Until next year, they eagerly await their relentless pursuit for another Centennial Conference title.

Women’s Volleyball claims second consecutive ECAC title

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Returning as veterans of ECAC postseason competition, the Women’s Volleyball team knew what hard work lay ahead in order to repeat their championship win. After a crushing 3-2 loss to Johns Hopkins University in the Centennial Conference championship tournament, the Garnet focused their attention solely on finishing the season on a high note in the ECAC tournament. Although certainly disappointed by their defeat, the Garnet did not allow the situation to dampen their work ethic but rather relied on their impressive team chemistry to overcome challenges on the court.

       “Our team has one of the best energies I’ve ever experienced. The girls are too fun, weird, and loving,”said Emma Morgan-Bennett ’20. On Sunday, Nov. 13th at Lebanon Valley College, all of that hard work came to fruition as the Garnet topped both NYU and Emerson College in 3-1 and 3-0 matches respectively, thereby securing their second consecutive ECAC title.

       After dropping their first set to NYU, the Garnet rallied back to win the second set, led by veterans Amanda Reed ’17 and Christina Shincovich ’17, as well as tournament MVP Sarah Wallace ’18. However, that shift in momentum carried the team through the finish line as they handily dropped NYU in the next two sets, and followed that by trouncing Emerson in straight 25-12, 25-12, 25-19 sets. In the stunning championship victory over Emerson, the Garnet posted impressive numbers, with 11 aces and a staggering .319 hitting percentage. Wallace and Olivia Leventhal ‘18 finished as team leaders, with 26 and 16 kills respectively.

       Following the route of Emerson, the team appeared ecstatic as they raised the trophy overhead and paused to reflect on the season. As Isabelle Andrews ’20 stated, “Overall, our season was pretty incredible. We grew and learned so much about ourselves and the team as the season progressed.” However, the maturity and discipline among the players was clearly evident as they also recognized those that had led and taught them up to this point.

       “This season was a such an honor to be a part of. We can all see how much our coaches push us to exceed their expectations, all while still caring and nurturing us,” Morgan-Bennett said,

       However, the championship game also proved to be even more special for Wallace, as she not only won tournament MVP, but also reached the challenging feat of 1,000 digs in her collegiate athletic career. According to the Swarthmore Athletics page, she is the 11th player to achieve the daunting record in program history and only the fifth at Swarthmore to have 1,000 kills and digs. Sarah Girard ’19 also won All-Tournament honors and appears set to become the 12th player to reach 1,000 kills, as she currently stands at 988 with two seasons of eligibility left.

       Now a consistent force to be reckoned with in the ECAC and Centennial Conference, the Garnet look forward to future success as they return their entire starting lineup for next year. As Andrews said, “I’m very optimistic about next year, and can’t wait to see how far we’ll go.”

Athlete of the Week: Sarah Girard ’19

in Athlete of the Week/Sports by

This season, the Women’s Volleyball team won a school-record 27 games in addition to its second straight ECAC championship. One of the main contributors to the team’s sustained success was libero Sarah Girard ’19. Over the past two years, Girard has been a digging machine. She was awarded the 2015 Centennial Conference Rookie of the Year and was named to the 2015 and 2016 All-Centennial Conference first teams. Though only a sophomore, her 988 digs place her just outside the top 10 on Swarthmore’s career digs list, and her 4.53 digs/set is the highest mark in school history.

THE PHOENIX: What do you like most about being a student-athlete?

SARAH GIRARD: There are a lot of great parts of being a student-athlete, like the chance to play against some amazing teams and the opportunity to continue competing at the collegiate level. I think the best part, though, is the second family I get away from home. If I’m having a rough week or need someone to talk to, it’s so reassuring to know that I have a whole team of amazing women in my corner.  

TP: What is your (prospective) major, and what influenced you to pursue it?

SG: While I’m still not completely decided, I’m planning to double major in mathematics and political science.

TP: How does it feel to repeat as ECAC Champions?

SG: Although it’s not the outcome we were aiming for, I’m still really proud of our team for winning ECACs again this year. After losing to Hopkins in the conference championship match, we challenged ourselves to stay competitive despite our disappointment, and it was so nice to end the season on a win.

TP: How will your ECAC success prepare you for a future NCAA tournament run?

SG: Hopefully, our ECAC championships will serve as stepping stones that will eventually lead us to the NCAAs. Every year, it seems like we get closer and closer to making it to the tournament, so I feel like our success in the ECACs just shows that we are capable of achieving this goal if we continue to put in the work.

TP: What is it like to be named first-team all conference in each of your first two years?

SG: It’s definitely rewarding to be recognized individually, but volleyball is unique in the way every single player on the court and bench contributes something important to the team’s success. I wouldn’t get nearly as many digs without the blockers setting me up for success or my teammates pushing me to play my best every day in practice.

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