Women’s tennis blows past McDaniel for first conference victory

Olivia Cheng '17 prepares to serve.
Olivia Cheng '17 prepares to serve.
Olivia Cheng ’17 prepares to serve.

Swarthmore’s women’s tennis team won their first match of the spring in decisive fashion, defeating McDaniel 9-0. The Garnet were thoroughly dominant, winning every set and losing just eight games collectively.

The victory provided the players with confirmation that their difficult non-conference schedule, which featured matches against several nationally ranked opponents, prepared them well for Centennial Conference play.

The team’s non-conference slate was highlighted by a three-match trip to Claremont, California. The trip allowed Swarthmore to test itself against some of the best teams in the nation, something that head coach Jeremy Loomis believes has helped the team to improve. As Loomis pointed out, “When you expose yourself to the best competition, it provides you with a clear diagnosis of what works and what needs to be improved. If we can figure out what can work against a top-20 opponent, that hopefully will be able to transfer into a positive outcome for the rest of the conference [season].”

Brooke Wilkins ’14 explained the value of playing against a variety of strong opponents, saying, “It was nice to play different styles. Some of the nationally ranked teams will really cream the ball whereas some of the teams will play really steady. Seeing different styles by teams that are really good at those styles prepares us for when we see those styles at the conference level.”

Beginning the season with such difficult competition can be hard on a team, especially as players try to build up their confidence. Swarthmore, however, appears to have used their challenging start to the season as a source of strength, as evidenced by the team’s performance against McDaniel. According to Loomis, the team’s ability to keep its eye on the prize, which is to ultimately have success in conference play, allowed them to maintain a positive attitude during the early season. The coach observed that, “It is not difficult to keep a positive state of mind as long as you have the proper focus on the end goal and remember that each match is a new opportunity for a different and better outcome…. In any scenario, we’re learning new things each time to get closer to our best.”

Alli Wong ’17 has enjoyed a very successful first few weeks in her rookie season. Wong has won four of her seven matches, including a victory Sunday against 21st ranked University of Mary Washington. Wong nearly defeated her opponent against 8th ranked Carnegie Mellon University, losing narrowly in three sets. The freshman explained her approach to matches against top-ranked competition, saying, “You try not to think about it because you start off [the match] even. If you come in with the mindset that it’s just another person it helps.”

Lia Carlson ’14 agreed, adding, “There are so many individual matches that you think of it as this individual match and just do your thing and then cheer for everyone else.”

The team had an additional opportunity to learn from the best during their trip when they drove to Palm Springs to watch some of the top players in the world compete in the Indian Wells tournament. Wilkins noted that, “We got to see all the pros play and practice and even got to meet some of them.” Drawing a particularly large crowd, was, unsurprisingly, Swiss superstar Roger Federer. As Wilkins put it, “We watched Federer and it was like a stadium just to watch him practice.”

Returning home after competing against such strong competition, it would have been easy for the Garnet to let their guard down against McDaniel. As Loomis pointed out, “McDaniel could have been easily overlooked.” Swarthmore, however, refused to play down to the level of their competition, delivering an impressive performance.

As Jackie Lane ’16 put it, “Our biggest goal was to be as quick as possible [with our victories].” All of Swarthmore’s players succeeded in this objective. In singles play, Carlson, Katie Samuelson ’14, Wong, Lane and Epiphany English ’14 did not lose a single set and Gayatri Iyengar ’15 was not far behind, winning 6-2, 6-1. In doubles, Carlson and Wong won 8-0, while the duos of Samuelson and Wilkins and Iyengar and Lane both won 8-2.

Looking ahead, Swarthmore hopes to finish as one of the top teams in the Centennial Conference. While 5th ranked Johns Hopkins will pose a significant challenge, Carlson says the team expects “to get to the conference finals.”

If the early signs from Centennial Conference play are any indication, Swarthmore appears to be primed to have another strong conference season. Above all, the team’s strength is its depth. As Loomis said, “Every one of the players on the team is impressive at times throughout the year.”

Swarthmore will continue to rely on its top to bottom strength in upcoming matches. After hosting Christopher Newport University on Saturday, the team will resume conference play with a home match against Washington College on Tuesday.

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