When the Swarthmore Women’s Tennis team cruised into the playoffs last week with a 9-0 shutout against Dickinson – their third straight shutout this season – Head Coach Jeremy Loomis was rightfully pleased.
“We came into the season with our entire roster from last season. So we expected to go far riding on that increased experience from last year,” Loomis said. The team has clearly risen to his high expectations this season, as they will enter the playoffs with an 11-2 overall and 8-0 conference record.
But for Loomis, these results are not surprising. In fact, the team came into the season with this goal in mind, and set out on a more intense training regime to achieve it.
“We definitely had a bigger emphasis on conditioning and fitness this year. We worked out together as a team, and we’re definitely beginning to see the results at this stage in the season,” Co-Captain Stephanie Chia ‘13 said.
Additionally, according to Loomis, the players were enthusiastic about the new program, which has played a heavy role in their success as a team
While the players were certainly physically fit going into the season, they were also better mentally prepared. “I think we realized just how good we could be this season. Because of that, our practices became more intense, but more collaborative,” Brooke Wilkins ‘14 said.
This collaborative mindset played out well on the doubles courts, with the Garnet recording greater success in the doubles match-ups. “We tried to start off with a partner and consistently develop an on-court understanding with them. I think that that has improved team dynamics a lot,” Chia said.
Loomis also believes the team is responding well to the challenges on court itself. “I think everybody now realizes that when you step onto the court, you have to start from scratch, from 0-0,” he said.
Looking at some of this season’s matches, it is evident that the team has embraced this philosophy. One in particular – a non-conference match-up against The College of New Jersey – stands out. Down 3-0, the Garnet won five out of six subsequent singles matches to upset an opponent who eluded them for three years.
“To me, the TCNJ victory was the biggest match of the season. We really fought hard to pull through, and it was really satisfying,” Epiphany English ‘14 said.
The team also regarded their 9-0 shutout against Dickinson as a defining moment in the season. “We never really expect a shutout when we play them,” Wilkins said in reference to the Red Devils, who were ranked third in the conference last season.
However, the team is looking out for Johns Hopkins, the top ranked team in the conference who defeated the Garnet in last year’s conference finals.
“Hopkins are a challenging team, they’re higher ranked and past matches between our team and theirs haven’t been close,” Chia said. “But, we’ve taken points in past matches against them, we just hope we can put it all together this year.”
After keeping all their players for the past two years , the team will lose three seniors after this season. “It’ll definitely be different next year,” Loomis said. “But we will have a strong core leadership with four rising seniors, and we’ll plan to ensure that we have a stable transition.”
Loomis believes that the players have come a long way since the beginning of the season. ”We’re excited, and ready to play some good tennis,” he said. To Wilkins however, the sky’s the limit. “Everybody just seems to want it so much more this year,” she said.
However, at the moment, the team is solely focused on their upcoming matches. They play Haverford on Thursday and Johns Hopkins on Saturday, and have only one ultimate goal in mind.
“We want to beat Haverford, Hopkins and get to the NCAA Tournament,” Chia said.