The Swarthmore College men’s tennis team made history on Saturday by defeating Johns Hopkins, 5-2, to claim its first ever Centennial Conference title. The victory ended Hopkins’s 14-year reign atop the Centennial and qualified Swarthmore for the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time since 2007. There, the team has a bye into the second round and will face 37th-ranked MIT at Tufts University on Saturday, May 6.
The Garnet entered Saturday’s match ranked 21st in Division III, while the Blue Jays came in at 10th. Hopkins had defeated Swarthmore in the past seven Centennial Conference finals, but Swarthmore won the most recent meeting, besting Hopkins by a 5-4 score on April 1 and ultimately earning hosting rights for the championship match.
“We knew beating Hopkins was our biggest challenge this year and I believe our win over them in the regular season gave our team confidence going into the finals,” says head coach Jason Box. “More importantly, that win allowed us to host the finals where we had an amazing crowd pack the Mullan Center, which truly impacted the outcome.”
Swarthmore fell to Hopkins in second and third doubles to start the match, but the duo of Michael Melnikov ’26 and Utham Koduri ’26 picked up a crucial 8-7(3) win at first doubles to give Swarthmore momentum entering singles competition despite the deficit.
At third singles, Max Lindstrom ’26 made quick work of his opponent, 6-0, 6-3, and evened the overall score at 2-2. Melnikov took care of business at the top spot with a 6-2, 6-4 win, to remain undefeated in singles play during the spring season.
Charley Force ’24 followed with a hard-fought, 7-6(2), 6-4 victory at second singles, putting the Garnet one win away from the championship. Finally, Lalith Suresh ’26 clinched the match for Swarthmore with a 6-4, 6-2 decision at the fourth singles spot.
Melnikov was named Tournament Most Valuable Player and is a likely selection for the Division III Singles Championship and also the Doubles Championship (along with Koduri), both of which will be announced on Wednesday, May 3.
The team’s win is even more remarkable given its relative youth: members of the Class of 2026 fill nine out of the 12 lineup spots and factored into every one of Saturday’s victories.
“The players in the starting lineup are young, but the older players and leaders on our team have also played a big role in the success this season,” says Box. “They have been supportive of the first-year players both on and off the court which has made the transition to collegiate tennis much easier.”
Visit the Swarthmore Athletics site for more information on NCAA tournament coverage.