Jan. 15, 2012
BY AMANDA PRUITT
This is the sixth in a 10-part series looking at each member of the Vols' 2012 roster leading up to the start of the season Jan. 20 with a home double header against Memphis and Eastern Kentucky beginning at 1 p.m. All 10 feature stories will be part of the 2012 media guide.
For Bryan Swartz, it was now or never.
With one more season left in his college career, the senior has made the most of his final ride so far by getting into the best physical shape of his life.
Swartz stayed Knoxville for summer school and kept on a fitness regiment with strength and conditioning coach Herman Demmink. The basic schedule consisted of training for hours a day, eating until it was exhausting and sleeping because he had no energy left to do much else.
The daily grind of exercise and eating eventually translated into nearly 20 pounds of added muscle.
Now at 6-foot-3, 182 pounds, Swartz has seen that work immediately pay off on the tennis court. He captured his first career singles and doubles titles to start the year at the Tennessee Fall Invitational and the wins just kept stacking up from there.
"I hadn't really put it together up to this point," Swartz said. "I suppose maybe just working from the end of last season in May all the way through the summer just before the season, I put in a lot of training. I got three or four months of good work in. Having that start propelled me through the fall a little bit."
By the end of October, Swartz built a team-leading 10-3 record, a win total that matched his career best for victories in an entire season. He even strung together a personal-best eight-match winning streak dating back to his junior year.
Being a senior has had its plusses; most regional opponents he faced he has seen once or twice during his career. The experience has also helped him settle into a routine before matches and one the road.
"It's always a little different, but I know what to expect from the coaches, from myself, college tennis in general and how that works," Swartz said. "It's probably a combination of a bunch of different things that made the fall a pretty good success for me."
Swartz' summer-long focus on fitness or improvement was not just because he wanted to make good on his last season of college tennis. Like everyone else on the Vols' squad, he said a major motivation is pure and simple opportunity.
With five of the Vols' 2011 starters -- four of them All-Americans -- graduated or touring the professional circuit, lineup spots were up for grabs. He said the non-existent pecking order heading into the season has pushed the returning players and incoming freshmen to improve daily as a team, including himself.
"From the beginning of the fall to now, guys just look different than they did at the beginning," Swartz said. "People are a lot more fit. A lot more comfortable. It takes awhile to get used to the grind of college tennis and just the college lifestyle in general. Just from guys getting stronger and fitter, it lets you do more with your game."
Swartz, a close follower of college tennis on the national scale, cannot predict who will play where but he knows this: the young Vol team will continue to improve as the year wears on and players get experience.
"You can guess by how well people do in the fall, but spring's a whole different ballgame -- I definitely know that," Swartz said. "It'll be very interesting to see, but the thing I do know is we've improved a ton through this point in the fall and we're going to improve even more in the spring. It's going to be a totally different team between now until the beginning of the year. I can't even imagine in the spring how it's going to be. Totally different.
"I think everybody's looking forward to the challenge. People are ready for it."