In the 2013-2014 season, the Women’s Tennis team finished with an overall record of 9-10 and a conference record of 7-3, good enough to qualify for the Centennial Conference tournament. After crushing Muhlenberg in the first round, the Garnet then lost to Johns Hopkins in the semifinal round. Going deep into the conference tournament was not something expected of Women’s Tennis at the beginning of the season, especially due to the team’s 1-6 start to the season and small roster composed of only seven players.
Since then, the team has seen substantial growth in numbers. The 2014-2015 season featured nine total players, with last year’s team featuring 13 and going 8-2 in conference play. This season, the roster is composed of 17 total players, more than three times the number of players from just several years before. The quick increase in the number of players has been brought on by large recruiting classes. The 2013-2014 recruiting class consisted of only one freshman, but this year’s team has five. As a result, the team is very youthful, donning those new five freshman in addition to five sophomores, six juniors, and one sole senior.
Having such a young squad with few upperclassmen to rely on for experience and leadership could be challenging for the Garnet this upcoming season. The team’s success may be heavily thrust upon the underclassmen this year, some of which are excited for the opportunity. Emma Kassan ’20, a native of New York, mentions that, “There’s a lot to look forward to this year. We’re all really excited and can’t wait to get started. It helped that we put on a good showing at the Swat Invitational this past weekend.” Kassan did not over exaggerate. The Garnet cleaned house, going 29-8 overall in singles matches and 16-3 overall in doubles matches. Kassan recognizes that this continued success requires hard work and dedication, mentioning that, “There is a lot to be done and a lot to figure out between now and the beginning of conference play. We’re working really hard, practicing in the early mornings and afternoons. It’s pretty rigorous, but we also all have a lot of fun.” The Garnet have high hopes for the upcoming Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Southeast Regionals next weekend in Fredericksburg, VA.
It seems like the large number of underclassmen has made an impact on the competitiveness and motivation within the team. Shivani Gupta ‘19 says, “The underclassmen will play an integral role in strengthening our team. They make it more competitive to earn a spot in the lineup, which I think has motivated all of us to work harder.”
Aside from excelling on the court, the team also puts on a pretty strong showing in the classroom. Over the summer, the team collectively was named an All-Academic team by the ITA with nine individual players being named ITA Scholar-Athletes. It seems like Swarthmore athletes often find their way onto all-academic teams.
Leading the way on the court for the team is Alli Wong ’17, the only senior on the roster. Wong has had quite an impressive career at Swarthmore. Over the last three years, she has earned her way onto three All-Centennial Conference teams, making First Team in doubles and Second Team in singles in 2015 and First Team in doubles in 2014. Wong, a native of New York, has captained the team for some time now. She says, “Because of the small size of the team in the past, there has been a lack of upperclassmen leadership since my sophomore year. Being the only senior can be tough at times, but the coaches are really supportive.” Wong also notes that the team does not desperately lack experience, but actually has a strong leadership crew in the junior class. She also had some encourage words regarding the first-years, saying “They bring an incredible amount of energy to the team and possess pretty impressive talent overall. I think from here on out, the team can only get better.” It seems like a youthful roster is one of the team’s greatest strengths and not weaknesses.