Daily file photo by Brian Lee
Raleigh Smith is one of the best tennis players to play at Northwestern in the past decade. Now, he looks to add a coda to his career with a strong showing at the 64-person NCAA Singles Championships beginning Thursday in Athens, Georgia.
“It was definitely one of my goals to be in this tournament,” Smith said. “I’m glad I finally made it. It took me four years to get in, but I’m finally here, and I’m ready to do some damage.”
No. 49 Smith has a 13-10 record on the season playing at No. 1 singles for the Wildcats, including five wins against ranked opponents. He ranked as high as 37th in the nation and was a first team All-Big Ten selection for the second straight year.
But Smith’s success doesn’t end with singles. Teaming with sophomore Mihir Kumar, he went 14-12 this year in doubles with a career-high rank of No. 21.
For his career, the senior captain has 67 singles victories and 63 in doubles. In addition, he has led a young team in the clubhouse this season to success both on and off the court. With four freshmen on its roster this year, NU finished 21-11, 7-4 in the Big Ten, made it to the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely improved a lot from playing in the fifth and sixth spots and losing a lot of matches my freshman year to now competing in singles in NCAAs,” Smith said. “I have a lot to be thankful for: I’ve gotten a lot better at tennis and I’ve been around a great group of guys.”
But Smith isn’t the only one excited he’s playing in the Singles Championships.
“It’s my last time I get to coach Raleigh as a Northwestern tennis player,” coach Arvid Swan said. “It’s a pretty special opportunity for me too. I’ll just be happy to be coaching him.”
And Swan is confident in his star player.
“My expectation is he’s going to compete really hard and be really prepared,” he said. “He’s very capable of performing well on a national stage. He’s worked really hard over the course of his career, so it’s a great opportunity for him to play against the best players in the country.”
Still, it’s hard for Smith to see his career coming to a close.
“My most memorable experiences at Northwestern were with the team, with the wins and with the losses,” he said. “I forget a lot of my test scores and a lot of my grades, but I don’t forget the memories we’ve had as a team. I’ll remember those for the rest of my life.”
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