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Season Preview

Men’s Basketball hopes to defend title

in Men/Sports/Winter by

If you take a walk through the lobby of the Fieldhouse these days, you’ll likely hear the sound of a ball repeatedly striking hardwood. That’s right, basketball is back in season, and the Garnet Men’s Basketball team are making a statement to start the season. They’ve so far gone 4-0, averaging almost 95 points a game, the 20th most in the nation, while outscoring their opponents by nearly 15 points a game. Coming into this season, the Garnet were ranked No. 25 in the nation and were the preseason Centennial Conference Champion selections, and now they find themselves at No. 12 in the most recent rankings.

The Garnet reached their first NCAA basketball tournament last season after winning the Centennial Conference for the first time. However, this year’s team only returns six of last year’s players. Key losses include Sam Lebryk ʼ17, career 1000 point scorer Chris Bourne ʼ17, and former starting point guard Matt Brennan ʼ18. However, they retain the services of point guard Cam Wiley ʼ19, who had an absolutely phenomenal breakout sophomore season and was named the first ever Garnet All-American after setting the program single-season record for scoring. He is also joined by Zack Yonda ʼ18, a two-time All-Conference selection. Big man Robbie Walsh ʼ18 also returns for the Garnet as a force in the paint. Last year’s top rebounding team has been well serviced by him so far, along with fellow big men Zac O’Dell ʼ20 and Nate Shafer ʼ20. All three already have at least 20 boards each on the season. Jim Lammers ʼ18, the final returner for the Garnet, has tallied the second most minutes on the team and is perhaps best known for his spectacular defense.

Because of all of those personnel losses from last season, the Garnet brought in a very large first-year class of seven.

The freshman are doing a good job getting acclimated to our system and have continued to improve as they get more reps in practice and more game experience.  Since we only have 6 returners from last year they will have to play a big role since many of them will need to play significant minutes for us,” said Walsh.

Already some of the first-years are having a big impact for the squad. In the first game of the season, when the Garnet blitzed Hood College for 111 points, first-years sharpshooter Conor Harkins ʼ21 had a career performance in his first career game as he scored 27 points, all coming off of three pointers. Abass Sallah ʼ21, another first-year, has already taken on the role of primary ball handler for the Garnet whenever Wiley is off the floor, and he recorded eight assists in the game against Hood. Ryan Ingram ʼ21 has also been playing significant minutes for the squad.

In terms of expectations coming into the season, Yonda’s might have been initially tempered.

“Because we have so many new, young guys, I realized coming into this season that we might have a slower start than past years. It’s a lot easier to start the season strong when we’ve have a team full of seniors and juniors that all have three plus years of experience under their belts. I wasn’t expecting us to struggle at the beginning because we brought back some key guys and brought in a ton of talent, but I was prepared to face some tough ‘learning experiences’ early on,” said Yonda.

However, as the Garnet have opened with a four-game win streak, the team’s performance has surely exceeded his initial expectations.

“The young guys have been doing an incredible job at picking things up quickly and absorbing information and have exceeded my expectations in that regard. Their performance so far is a huge part of why we already have four wins,” Yonda said.

Head coach Landry Kosmalski, in his five years at Tarble Pavilion, has managed to transform the Garnet from the dregs of the Centennial Conference into a regional powerhouse. Last year’s Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year and two-time Centennial Conference Coach of the Year took over a team that had only won three games the previous year and by last year had brought them to NCAA tournament and their most successful season in program history.

The Garnet already have a game under their belt in conference play as they travelled down to Maryland to face the Shoremen of Washington College. Wiley scored a game-high 18 on an efficient 7-of-13 shooting as the Garnet pulled out a 79-70 victory in their lowest-scoring game of the year. Yonda added 17 points, including seven from the charity stripe. Shafer and O’Dell both had near double-doubles as Shafer went for 11 points and nine rebounds while O’Dell scored 10 and grabbed eight boards, in addition to adding four blocks.

If there is anything to complain about in the Garnet’s performance so far, it might be their slow starts. In their game against Albertus Magnus, they trailed at the half before going on to win by a comfortable 10-point margin. In their game against Misericordia, they only scored 33 in the first half to find themselves tied, before going on to score an astounding 60 points in the final twenty minutes. The Garnet have consistently made up for any slow starts with rousing second-half performances and have managed to win all their games by fairly comfortable margins.

“We’re winning games because we are talented and can really turn it on for short periods in games which not many teams can handle. You saw that in the Misericordia game with the second-half run that blew the game open. I think we’re doing a good job right now sharing the ball and getting good shots on offense, and also our bigs are doing a tremendous job defensively protecting the rim,” said Yonda.

The Garnet open home conference play tonight against Muhlenberg at 8:00 p.m. as they hope to keep their hot start going. Perhaps another NCAA tournament appearance awaits later this season. In any case, they’ll surely be an exciting team to watch.  

Women’s basketball looks to turn the page with new season

in Season/Sports/Winter/Women by

Although last year’s Swarthmore Women’s Basketball team did not live up to its own goals, the team showed an immense amount of promise for future success. Now, with a more cohesive squad and a strong resolve to change the tides after last year’s disappointing 3-21 season, the team holds high hopes about their prospects for a turnaround season.

Especially considering that all three wins last year came against Centennial Conference opponents, the seasoned team seems better prepared to face the tough conference competition, hopefully leading to postseason play. Even in some of the conference losses, the team held their own all the way to the bitter end, particularly in two notable losses to McDaniel and Franklin & Marshall, two Centennial Conference powerhouses, with scores of 51-55 and 61-65, respectively.  To this end, the team continues their training with a positive outlook, with good reason, too, as the new season brings some exciting changes.

First and foremost, the team welcomes three new first-years: Guard Isabelle Ewart ’21, Guard/Forward Jayna Jones ’21, and Forward Kendall Tribus ’21. All three players are coming off of strong high school careers, and will look to contribute towards a potential Centennial Conference Championship run here soon. However, the freshmen do have their work cut out for them, as they must try to replace last year’s losses of G Jordyn Bell ’17 and G/F Maggie O’Neill ’17. O’Neill, in particular, led the team in minutes played and three-pointers, while Bell provided important minutes off the bench and strong leadership. Although both will surely be missed, the team looks forward to turning the page for a strong season ahead.

The main mentality shift for this upcoming season has come at the hands of this year’s seniors, hoping to go out on a high note. With F Bridget Scott ’18, G Hayley Raymond ’18, F Raina Williams ’18, and G/F Kemi Oladipo ’18, the team is clearly in good hands and leadership as the season approaches. Raymond and Williams both played at some point in every game last year, and Raymond scored the second most on the team. All four seniors will be called on even more this year to foster a winning culture for years to come.

“This season is definitely going to be a highlight.” Between the support of the coaching staff, athletics department, and our amazing seniors, we have all the pieces for a successful year,” said F Tina Holmgren ’20.

One test of this new team philosophy, and arguably the most exciting change to this year’s season, will come about halfway through with the scheduled winter break trip to Puerto Rico. Unfortunately, the aftermath of Hurricane Irma on the island has caused some rumors to spread that the trip will be cancelled. Nevertheless, the prospects of such a trip and cultural experience have the program abuzz. The trip serves as a midseason change of scenery, offering new competition, as well as introducing many students to a completely new cultural experience. Given that the team will only actually play two other organizations — Inter San German and UPR Mayaguez — there is potential for the team to contribute to the ongoing efforts to aid to the island’s rehabilitation. The trip does occur during the middle of conference regular season play, though, so there is definitely an argument to cancel as well for continuity’s sake. However, there are no definitive plans yet, so the team continues to await their trip’s fate.

Either way, the team will still return from winter break with a month of regular season play before any potential playoff berths, so they will need endurance and focus through the finish line. With the continued dominance of returning F Lindsay O’Sullivan ’20, who led the team in most offensive and defensive statistics last year, and strong support from G Lizzie Stiles ’20, the team leader in assists by far, the Garnet will look to take advantage of their young team’s health and energy.

“The team has been working really hard the past couple weeks, and we are all really excited to see our progress,” said F Abbie Posta ’20.

While the rest of the team shares Posta’s sentiment, the rest of campus eagerly awaits another exciting season and will surely show their support. The season opener will take place at home against Widener University on Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. The team and athletics department will no doubt expect a large crowd then and hopefully for the rest of the season, as the team pushes for a playoff berth this year.

Swat Volleyball Takes China by Storm

in Fall/Season/Sports/Uncategorized/Women by

While most Swarthmore students were enjoying their last few weeks of summer, the Swarthmore Women’s Volleyball Team headed to China in search of some challenging competition to prepare them for the fall season. Along the way, they tried new foods, found a local karaoke spot, and climbed the Great Wall of China. With fourteen days and four cities to navigate through, Swat Volleyball was kept busy with practices, games, and sightseeing.

Getting to China was the hardest part for the team. The team missed a connecting flight and were forced to spend the night in Texas, Swat Volleyball finally arrived in China on Aug. 6th in high spirits. Upon arrival, they took to the court, playing against challenging club teams from Beijing, Nanjing, and Suzhou. Olivia Leventhal ’18 shared her thoughts on the differences between the styles of play in the States and in China.

“The Chinese teams were not as different as I had expected. They utilized a lot of the same strategies that teams in our conference do. They did, however, have a designated “shrieker” who screamed every time we served the ball to try to mess us up, which isn’t really that common in the Centennial Conference.”

Although most of the trip was spent playing volleyball, there was plenty of time for the team to explore China. Sarah Girard 19 gave her take on the team’s experience off the court.

We took sightseeing to a new level. We visited the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and the Forbidden City, as well as some other places like a Buddhist temple and the Nanjing Massacre Museum that allowed us to really see a different side of China besides what the tourist locations were showing us,” said Girard.

The team spent two weeks travelling through Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing, and Beijing, which proved to be an exhausting endeavor. Elise Cummings ‘19, who swears she is still jet lagged three weeks later, felt that the two weeks in China prepared her and the team for the upcoming season.

“Competing against challenging Chinese teams prepared us physically for our season, but more importantly, our shared experiences in China and the great appreciation for volleyball we developed overseas will prove to be a valuable experience that will help us succeed together this season,” said Cummings.

With this trip to China under their belt along with two consecutive ECAC Championships, the Garnet are poised for another strong season. With 15 players returning and two incoming freshmen, Swat Volleyball intend to build off of their past success for an even more successful upcoming season.

The team’s next game is this Thursday at Stockton University, where the Garnet hope to get a win before conference play begins. Conference play begins this Saturday, September 16th at 1pm against Dickinson.

2017 MLB Preview Part II

in Sports by

After two weeks of baseball, it is tempting to immediately jump to conclusions about how well teams are going to do this season. However, as anyone who has taken a statistics class could tell you, conclusions based on small sample sizes are often inaccurate. For example, Tuffy Rhodes started off the 1993 season with a bang, as he hit three home runs for the Cubs on Opening Day and led them to a big first win. He proceeded to hit only five more home runs that year and hit .234 for the season, regressing to his normal status as a below-average MLB player. Basically, I am saying that it is still totally acceptable for me to be writing a season preview. Let’s take a look at the next 10 teams in part two of the three part series.

Houston Astros: Despite the fact they switched leagues over four years ago, I still get confused every time I see the Astros listed as an American League West team. As a result of the move, interleague play begins at the start of the season, and I irrationally hate the Astros for messing up the schedule like this. One redeeming factor for the Astros is that they have one of the coolest players in baseball with Jose Altuve, who is one of the best hitters in baseball despite being 5’5”. They added veteran talent at the plate with Designated Hitter Carlos Beltran and Catcher Brian McCann, and they will bolster an offense that Fangraphs, a leading MLB statistics website, projects to lead the MLB with 4.96 runs per game. They also have the best bullpen in the league based on Wins Above Replacement (WAR), which will bode well if and when the Astros play in close postseason games. Overall, the Astros are a good dark horse World Series pick.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals were a great anti-sabermetrics example in 2014 and 2015, where they made back-to-back World Series appearances despite projection models predicting sub-.500 seasons each year. Manager Ned Yost will sacrifice bunt, aggressively steal, and instruct his players to swing early in the count and not look for walks, all strategies that directly oppose those of “Moneyball”. The team’s fortunes reverted back to matching their mediocre statistical projections last year, and this year does not look like it will be any better. They lost ace pitcher Yordano Ventura to a tragic car accident in the Dominican Republic, and didn’t make any big offseason moves to bolster their roster. The Royals may benefit from a weak AL Central, but they don’t seem likely to make the playoffs this year.

Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers once again have the highest payroll in baseball, which gives them a heavy advantage to start the year. They have Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball, who will probably win another Cy Young award as long as he stays healthy. On the mound, the Dodgers also have Julio Urias, who makes me feel really bad about my own baseball abilities considering he is a year older than me and already a solid MLB pitcher. At the plate, they have an MVP candidate in Corey Seager, who is only 24 years old and already one of the best shortstops in the league. L.A. also has Yasiel Puig, who will either be garbage like he has the past few years or will dominate with his raw talent like he did in 2014. The Dodgers will probably be good, but their World Series chances depend heavily on how burned out Kershaw gets this year, and also on him hopefully not turning into a mortal during the playoffs as he has almost every other time he’s pitched in the postseason.

Los Angeles Angels: I feel bad for Mike Trout. He’s the best player in baseball, but won’t receive nearly as much attention as he should because the Angels are trash. He is the all-time leader in WAR through a player’s age 24 season, and has won two AL MVP awards and probably deserves at least two more. Despite his Hall-of-Fame talent, the only national advertising I have seen for Trout has been on the boxes of microwaveable soft pretzels. Beyond Trout, the Angels really don’t have much to help him out. Albert Pujols, who was at one point the best player in all of my baseball video games, is just average now, but will be paid $28 million for what will likely be around 1.0 WAR. His sudden drop in productivity does seem to lend credibility to the conspiracy theory that he’s really five years older than he claims. Garrett Richards will either be at the All-Star game or rehabbing his elbow from Tommy John surgery when we get to July. Unfortunately for Trout and for all baseball fans, I think this will be another year that the postseason will not feature baseball’s best player.

Miami Marlins: The Marlins faced a lot of adversity in 2016, especially after their ace pitcher Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident. The team has some bright spots going into this season, but none shine brighter than Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton is the best raw power hitter in baseball. He had half of the ten hardest-hit balls last year based on Statcast exit velocity, and he’s demonstrated his power with mammoth dingers in games and in the home run derby, which he won last season. Stanton’s biggest issue in the past has been durability, as he’s only played more than 125 games once over the past five seasons. Beyond Stanton, the Marlins have a lot of potential in the outfield with Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, who both have a lot of upside and are already among the NL’s better outfielders. The biggest question mark will be pitching, as the Marlins return a rotation with a 4.70 ERA, which puts them near the bottom of the NL. Miami has potential, but will need some luck, as they will be dealing with one of the better divisions in baseball.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers haven’t made the playoffs since 2011, and this doesn’t look to be the year they break their streak. Ryan Braun is the only remaining star from that team. He’s likely going to give the Brewers another solid season. The rest of the roster is filled out with young talent with high upsides. Jonathan Villar hit 19 home runs and stole 62 bases last year, and looks to build on that success this year at second base. Junior Guerra, who once went five years without an MLB contract but now features one of the filthiest splitters in the league, leads the pitching rotation. The future looks bright for Milwaukee, especially due to their top-three farm system, but this doesn’t appear to be their year.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins were the worst team in baseball last year, losing 103 games. They probably won’t pull off a worst-to-first run this year. They still look to be building for a future that does look promising, but does not look like it will be realized anytime soon. Top prospect Byron Buxton finally started hitting well in his September call-up at the end of last season. Miguel Sano also had a great rookie season two years ago, but regressed last year. If these two play to their potential, the Twins will be scary in the middle of the order. Joe Mauer can still be a solid contributor if he stays healthy. Out of the bullpen, Craig Breslow reinvented his delivery and looked great in Spring Training. Another pitcher to watch is Jose Berrios, who was dominant in Triple-A last season, but was shelled in his 58 major league innings. The Twins probably won’t be good, but they won’t be the worst team in the MLB for two seasons in a row.

New York Mets: The Mets may have the scariest starting rotation in the MLB. That rotation carried them to the World Series two years ago, but they faltered last year due to injuries and the fact they had to face Madison Bumgarner in an elimination game in the postseason. If the rotation stays healthy, no team will be able to compete with a rotation of Noah Syndergaard, Jacob DeGrom, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, and Zach Wheeler. However, in baseball, arm surgeries are not sure fixes, and many pitchers never regain their pre-injury abilities. Statistically, with four pitchers coming off surgeries, at least one of their stud arms will have some problems. On the offensive side of the ball, the Mets are lead by outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, king of fancy cars and riding horses. If everything goes well and injuries are avoided, the Mets look like they’ll once again make the postseason and challenge the Cubs in the NLCS.

New York Yankees: One of the weirdest developments across the MLB is the fact that the Yankees actually have a decent farm system. Most baseball fans are used to the Yankees just relying on absurdly high payrolls and big-time free agent signings rather than actually developing talent. Unfortunately, for pretty much any sane person, the Yankees may be good this year. Gary Sanchez went on a tear in the final third of the season and finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting. The Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman to the largest relief pitcher contract in baseball history over the offseason, apparently deciding that they needed him again after trading him away last July. The Yankees are in a weird half-rebuilding, half-trying-to-win state, and we’ll likely see which direction they decide to go in once we reach July and see what their record is at the trade deadline.

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are projected to finish second-to-last in the NL this season. I looked up their roster and the first player I recognized was Clay Buchholz, which is not a good thing. Buchholz is infuriatingly inconsistent, as any Red Sox fan will tell you. I’m sure that he’ll finally pitch up to his potential now that he left Boston, but even if he does, the Phillies have an extreme lack of developed talent at the big league level. They may be good by the time I graduate Swarthmore, as they have the makings of a Big Three in their starting rotation with youngsters Vince Velasquez, Jerad Eickhoff, and Aaron Nola. 2013 number one draft pick Mark Appel may finally make his MLB debut this year, but there’s no reason to rush his development. Overall, the 2019 Phillies look like they’ll begin to compete with the Mets and Nationals for NL East dominance.

Stay tuned for part three of the MLB season preview, where my predictions will probably start to be influenced by actual production on the field this season. Until then, enjoy April baseball and all of the absurdities that it brings, and, more importantly, the faint hope of your team bringing home a World Series title this year.

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