Posted by Dustin Foote
The Skidmore women's tennis team is consistently one of the most successful varsity teams on campus, on and off the court. The team is currently ranked 19th in the country and has been ranked inside the top 25 for the past seven years. The women are also standouts in the classroom. Their team GPA is a high 3.4, and two of the women are part of the Thoroughbred society. The man behind all this success is coach Curt Speerschneider.
When Coach Speerschneider sees something he wants, he goes after it. Nothing is handed to him, except three consecutive Liberty League Coach of the Year trophies.
Speerschneider takes a modest approach to coaching. Rather than accepting praise for coaching an elite team, he gives all his players the credit for the programs success. When asked about his consecutive Coach of the Year awards, he simply said, "I've been fortunate with a good group of individuals that have made up good teams. I give them all the credit."
But let's look past Speerschneider's praise of his players for a moment. When he took the job at Skidmore in 2006, the women's tennis team hadn't been to the national tournament in seven years. In only his first season of coaching, Speerschneider took his team to the National tournament. Since then, the Thoroughbreds have competed in the National tournament for eight consecutive seasons.
One of the keys to postseason victory, Speerschneider said, is "progression." Even though the women's team boasts a 10-2 record and is undefeated in conference play, their non-conference schedule is one of the toughest in the country. They constantly play teams that are at the top of the Division III rankings. Instead of choosing to beat inferior teams, Speerschneider schedules his women to play with the elite. "I like to schedule in a way we are challenged on a weekly basis," Speerschneider said. The matches against dominant teams have become habitual for the women, and this is just what Speerschneider wants.
By the time the 19th ranked Thoroughbreds reach the postseason, they will have played the best teams, such as the second-ranked team in the nation, Williams College. On March 9, the Ephs of Williams beat the Thoroughbreds 9-0. While this might seem like a blowout, Speerschneider saw the score in a different light, "We were right there with them. They were doing the same thing as us, but a little bit better."
A loss like this to Williams was not a setback to Speerschneider and his team; it was a chance to build their confidence. Many of those games against Williams were, in fact, close. And if the two teams meet in the playoffs, Speerschneider believes his squad could come out on top.
But this is not a new line of thinking for Speerschneider, especially with how this season in particular is going. He has always had a tremendous amount of confidence in his players' performance.
"I firmly believe that every year we step on the court, we can win a national title. I see opposing players just like us, playing the same game as us. We just need to play a little better than them."