Coach: Michael Mullan, 36th Season!
2009 Ranking: NR
2010 Ranking: NR
2011 Ranking: NR
2012 Ranking: #23
2013 Prediction: D3ATS: NR, D3TG: NR
We all know the story of Swarthmore’s season last year. The Garnet (I’m not really too sure if it should be “the Garnet” or just “Garnet”) were a middling team. However, on one fateful day in Claremont, they decided to get swept in doubles by CMS, and then stage the biggest upset in DIII Tennis history by coming back to win 5 of 6 singles matches, a few of those being in three sets. This propelled Swarthmore into the top 20, and they steadily fell from that point on. They begin this year at #22, which, in my opinion is way overrated for them. After a weak fall performance in ITA’s, as well as the graduations of Youngblood, Kelm, and Bressman, who I believe were their three best players, the arrow is definitely pointed down on this year’s season. It would take another miracle win for this team to get back into the top 20, and I really don’t see that happening (who would?) this year or for many years to come. The Garnet bring in a solid but not overwhelming recruiting class, one that could potentially replace their seniors, but that would be a best case scenario. Right now I see the freshmen playing middle of the lineup and probably not making great doubles teams. We’ll get to that a little bit later. I’ve always been a fan of Swarthmore because they are a great bunch of guys and understand what it’s like to be a team, and I think a lot of teams could learn a bit about team chemistry from them. However, talent is something that can’t be made up on teamwork alone.
As I mentioned earlier, Swarthmore doesn’t really have the top talent or the depth to compete with the best teams in DIII, and probably not the mid-range teams either. Much like North Carolina Wesleyan, Swarthmore only sent two players to ITA’s to compete, junior Anthony Collard and sophomore Max Sacks. Together they got one win in the singles main draw, and one in the back draw. Both players ended up losing to seeds pretty handily, so there isn’t much optimism that comes from their ITA play. It’s bad news when you only send two of your guys to ITAs and you get only one main draw win. Obviously, there’s a little bit of an unknown here as I haven’t been able to evaluate the freshmen, but judging from Swarthmore’s history, they probably aren’t impact players in DIII at the moment. Carcione and Poon are decent players, but I wouldn’t expect either to be playing above #6 singles, and both would probably have trouble there against anyone in the top 25. My best case scenario for this team is a rank around #30, and they probably know that that’s the best they can do this year as well. When we go through the schedule analysis, maybe there will be a few winnable matches here and there.
The Garnet’s first match is actually a very important one in my opinion. They’ll be facing off against NYU to start the season, and to be honest, NYU is a very tricky team to play. They actually played close with a couple of solid teams last year, culminating their season with a 5-4 loss to CMU, which was extremely surprising to me. Obviously they have some talent. I think that NYU has the better singles players, and could probably win 4 of the 6 matches. It’ll come down to doubles, and I only see Swat getting the win if they sweep. I’ll predict a 5-4 NYU win. Next up is another decently tough match for Swarthmore against Stevens. I don’t know much about Stevens, and I do know a little bit about Swarthmore, so I’ll take Swat with a close close victory. Let’s keep in mind that I have almost no confidence in that prediction.
From there, Swarthmore gets to the meaty part of their schedule. Coming off tough matches against NYU and Stevens, I think they’ll go into spring break with their confidence low, and it’ll get a bit lower once they get spanked by Kenyon. I don’t see a spot where this team can win. Next up will be Whittier, and while they are not as good as Kenyon, obviously, they still boast an up and coming team and a much more talented team than the Garnet. I see another blowout win for the opponents here, probably 8-1. Swarthmore will then move on to play Redlands and the Stag-Hen. It’s actually pretty crazy how good their spring break schedule is, it’s like they are a weak team playing a legit top 5 schedule. Again, I don’t see any wins here against any of the teams, barring a massive upset. And when I say massive upset, it would be even bigger than last years.
Finishing off spring break, they’ll come back to the East Coast and play some friendlier matches. Other than Hopkins, who will beat them handily, they’ll have some good competition with Farleigh-Dickinson, Washington College, Franklin and Marshall, and Haverford. Excuse me if I don’t go as in depth with these previews, but I think Swarthmore has the doubles base and just enough tournament experienced players to take matches against 3 of these schools. Haverford might be their toughest test of the 4, and I expect a battle there and a very close match. They will then end their season with the Centennial Conference Tournament, where they’ll have to fight with the schools just mentioned to make it to the finals, or get whooped by Hopkins in a match before that.
Overall, this year is going to be tough for Swarthmore. If I were on their team bus, I’d be reliving that win against CMS over and over again in my head. It will continue to be a lone bright spot in their tennis history and maybe can keep them in the top 30 this year based on starting positions. Who knows, maybe they can find the magic one more time.
Note: Kudos to Coach Mullan, 36 seasons is an incredible run. I must say I have a lot of respect for that.