Feb. 9, 2012
BY MATT MAGILL
Senior Bryan Swartz has seen it all in his career at Tennessee.
The last three seasons, he's been there to see the Vols capture a pair of SEC titles, reach the final of the NCAA Championships and do the same ITA National Team Indoors. This year, he has grown into a mentor role as the lone senior on a team with five freshmen on the 10-player roster.
With junior Edward Jones sidelined with injury, Swartz jumped back into singles and doubles lineups in the last match against Illinois. In his fourth ever appearance in the singles lineup, he took a close 7-6, 6-4 loss to Russ Guignon on court 6 in the Vols' second team loss of the season.
Heading into another weekend against a talented opponent, No. 10 Duke, Swartz talks Saturday's match against the Blue Devils, elevator pranks and the "full face" in this tennis Q&A.
Q: What was it like playing on Sunday?
A: It was obviously not the resulted we wanted at all. We came out a little tight at the beginning of doubles, but we rebounded and got the doubles point. We're used to getting that doubles point. We put a lot of emphasis on that. After getting that, we felt like we were in good position. They took all the momentum from there and we never got it back or handle the situation well.
Q: Will that doubles point be critical for you guys all season?
A: I think it's critical for every team, especially in SEC play. It's difficult to win four matches in singles. Just having that little lead after that point going into singles helps with the confidence. You don't have to win every point.
Q: What do you guys need to do to get ready to face Duke this Saturday?
A: We just have to really work hard and do the things we do in practice. It's going to be that way all year. We need to get better week after week and have good practices. Saturday, we just need to be prepared and ready and get into a good mindset to play a very tough team.
Q: Does playing in the lineup on Sunday validate all the hard work you put into the program?
A: You definitely put in a lot of work and you get an opportunity to play. You just have to go out there and implement what you've been doing in practice. You saw that in doubles. I've been working on stuff with Woody and everything I've been working on was put into action and helped us win the point. It's rewarding.
Q: You played with Brandon in the fall, but then you guys were separated for a few weeks. What was it like trying to find that chemistry again for Sunday? Was it immediate?
A: It took a little bit of time just because fall and spring are a little different because of the dual match. It wasn't necessarily playing; it was emotion. We needed to get on the same wavelength. Once we found that, we started clicking pretty well.
Q: Brandon's really young and fiery. Do you kind of help calm him down on the doubles court?
A: I think that's the job of a doubles partner is to know what you have to do to motivate your partner. You have to have them ready for what's next. For Brandon, I have to get him to focus in and block out all the distractions for when he's about to do something.
Q: You seem to be one of the calmer guys on the team. Do you settle everyone down with your even demeanor?
A: It's a different situation every day. I think I would agree that I'm a little calmer than some of the guys, so that's my role at times. You have to get everyone together and get everybody focused and ready to go full steam ahead. Jarryd's done it this year; Reese and Ed have. I've seen it from a lot of different people.
Q: It's a really young squad this year. What advice would you give to the younger players?
A: I would say just take advantage of every opportunity you can get. It's not always going to be there. Reese has had two clinching matches where it comes down to him, but a lot of guys go their whole career and never have that happen. When you have a situation come up that isn't ideal, you just have to do the best you can and learn from the experience that you get.
Q: You've been around, so you know what it takes to get through an entire season. What does it take to make it all the way until NCAAs?
A: I think it's just thinking of it one match at a time. You can't think of NCAAs in January. We break it up into sections of the year. Within that, we take it one match at a time. You can't think of the big picture, but you have to take it one match at a time.
Q: What are the sections of the year?
A: Starting out indoors leading up until National Indoors is a section. Going outside and starting SEC play is another. SEC tournament and then NCAAs after that are the others. We break it up into those areas more or less.
Q: What's the main difference between indoors and outdoors?
A: There's a little bit of a difference. It's more of a timing thing. Indoors the conditions are perfect all the time. You have to get used to the conditions outside. You have to battle through some bad days where it might be cold or windy or rainy.
Q: Is there any way to prepare for that?
A: You just have to experience it. At the beginning, you aren't going to hit it cleanly like you want, but you work. It takes a few days, but then you get on your rhythm and it's business as usual.
Q: You have a reputation as being one of the slower players on the team. Have you worked on getting faster?
A: I have, but I don't think it will ever break that reputation. I might just be stuck with that throughout my full career. Taylor is the fastest guy on the team at doing anything, so if you ask him, he'll say I'm slow. He's always the first one to be out the door. When we get to the locker room, he'll already be out. I'm pretty slow and he's really fast. Everyone else is in between.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I'm going to grad school with my accounting major. I'm going to get my master's in accountancy and then hopefully start working.
Q: Where would you like to work?
A: I want to work for one of the big four accounting firms in the southeast. I'm not a big fan of cold weather. I've gotten used to it up here, not that it's cold, but hopefully somewhere warm.
Q: Are days like today cold for you?
A: They used to be. If it gets to 50, people in Florida are bundled up like it's the ice age. Getting up here and being up north in general, 50 is a nice day for a lot of people. My freshman year I was dying, but now I can tolerate it.
Q: Do you guys pull any pranks on each other in the locker room?
A: From time to time. We joke around and mess with each other. It's just little things mostly. We throw stuff at each other or jump around a corner to scare someone. A lot of times we do stuff in the elevator. Like someone will go up in the elevator and then hold it so it won't go down.
Q: Who's the biggest jokester?
A: I would say Jarryd. Jarryd's a good joker. Reese is pretty good. Those two are the best. Jarryd sort of does whatever. Reese plans stuff out. He puts a little more thought into it.
Q: Does anyone have a really good practical joke?
A: A couple of weeks ago, I was in the shower and Reese and Fickey came and dumped a bucket of ice on me over the curtain. That wasn't a practical joke; that was more of a jerk move. They got a kick out of it. Every day someone gets held up in the elevator somehow. Yesterday, I pinned Peter in the corner of the elevator and wouldn't let him out. Little things like that.
Q: Who would win an eating contest?
A: I might say Colton. I don't know why, but certain things he can eat for days, like Mexican food.
Q: I've always heard you pride yourself on how much you can eat.
A: I do okay, but Colton puts down 2 ½ Jimmy John's sandwiches. I'd say it's between Colts, me and maybe Jarryd. Definitely not Ed. I always give him a hard time because he makes his full face. He sighs and puts his head down when he's full. It's like halfway through his sandwich. He makes what I call the "full face" and I know that he's done. Someone will come in and swoop up all his leftovers.
Q: How often does your name get mispronounced or misspelled?
A: My last name gets mispronounced a lot. Most people call me Schwartz. I've gotten used to it. A lot of people do that because they assume it's pronounced that way. It's not nearly as bad as the foreign guys. Mikelis gets mispronounced the most. He says in Latvia, they pronounced his last name differently. There's something in the middle that makes it tough for Americans to say.
Q: I've noticed the PA has trouble with that.
A: If he does it a couple of different ways, eventually he'll get it. I don't blame him though. I'm not 100% correct either.
Q: You've had teammates from 10 different countries. How interesting is it to see all those different cultures come to Tennessee?
A: It's really interesting. It's everything. The tennis backgrounds are different. Jarryd is a serve and volley player. The European guys like red clay and they bring that with them. They're cultural background like what kind of food they like is different too. Peter can' t eat a cold, plain sandwich. We call them quirks, but it's totally normal for them.