Steamboat Springs It’s not Steamboat Springs High School tennis alum Jamey Swiggart’s style to get rattled by the moment or crumble under overwhelming pressure.
So when Swiggart’s coaches threw some added weight on his sophomore shoulders by bumping him up on the roster from No. 5 singles to Idaho State’s No. 1 solo player, he decided to embrace the leap.
“I don’t think that’s my personality type,” Swiggart said Monday, a day after finishing up his sophomore campaign. “I’m not discouraged by a little bit of a challenge. I was definitely intimidated at first, though.”
Things came fairly easy in college for the 2012 high school graduate. Swiggart cruised to a team-best 15-2 record as the Bengals’ No. 5 singles and No. 2 doubles player in 2013, including a perfect 9-0 in Big Sky Conference play.
When Idaho State kicked off its new season at Utah State on Jan. 20, Swiggart found out he was the Bengals’ new No. 2 singles player. Five days later, he was bumped up to full-time No. 1 singles, pulling double duty as part of the team’s No. 1 doubles pair, as well.
“That first match against Utah State, I realized what my potential could be,” Swiggart said. “I ended up having some really close matches after that, and I realized I could compete.”
Swiggart lost the No. 2 singles match against Utah State, 6-2, 1-6, 6-4, and dropped his first top singles match against Weber State on Jan. 25.
The sophomore traded wins and losses in the early going, taking some lumps against top competition but also boosting his confidence with some early-season wins.
A turning point in Swiggart’s newfound role as the Bengals’ top singles player happened a little more than two months into the season in a dual with perennial Big Sky power Sacramento State.
Swiggart faced the Hornets’ Marek Marksoo, a proven top singles player. The Steamboat product admittedly was shell-shocked in the first set, having to dig himself out of a 6-0 opening-set loss.
“After that, I decided to talk to my coach to see what I could do differently,” Swiggart said. “That’s where I found where my game could be. That was definitely a turning point of knowing I could compete with anyone in the Big Sky.”
Swiggart would go on to lose the match, forcing a winner-take-all third set, which he dropped, 10-5.
He won his next four No. 1 singles matches following the loss to Marksoo en route to a 9-8 record in his first season as Idaho State’s top solo performer.
The Bengals missed the Big Sky Tournament this year, pushing through a 3-7 team record with a host of freshman starters and zero seniors on the roster.
But next year, Idaho State will have a junior-led squad with Swiggart and others to build upon. Swiggart said he already has felt like a leader on the Idaho State roster, and he’s hoping his standard offseason training will get the team — and himself — back to its winning ways in 2015.
“I noticed a few things I need to improve on already,” Swiggart said. “It didn’t get me down, but it would have helped me a lot this year. This season was more for team experience.”
To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll