After finishing at least fourth in the national tournament for four straight seasons, the Nassau Community College men's tennis team has built a reputation that lures local talent to its program.
Talent usually isn't an issue. And coach Cheryl Novins said she didn't think it was a major concern heading into this past season. Still, the team returned only one player, Roey Heymann, a 2013 All-American in third singles. Some small skepticism lingered.
"I knew we had some talent," said Novins, who has coached the team for eight years. "But I had no idea what we would look like this year."
NCC beat defending NJCAA Division III champion Gloucester, 5-4, in the season opener, however, and Heymann said he realized pretty early on that it could be a special season.
"This year, I was the only one who came back from last year, so I didn't know what to expect. I really didn't," Heymann said. "But probably since the first practice we had, we started thinking we might have a pretty good season."
Latest college sports stories
It turned out to be the best in quite some time for NCC, which finished 10-0. The Lions captured the 2014 NJCAA Division III championship on May 15 in Plano, Texas. It was the first national title for NCC since 2001.
"I think it's really crazy because two years in a row of different people and it still was very similar in how we were together with each other, which was pretty great," Heymann said. "Chemistry is very important."
Heymann was named the Division III Coaches Association Player of the Year.
"He's like a chess player out there," said Novins, who earned the Max Grubbs NJCAA Division III National Coach of the Year award. "He never stops working and is just so smart out there. He's extremely coachable and is really a joy to watch play."
The All-American first-team players from Nassau were: Mike Nelson (second singles), Jace Koretz (third singles), Heymann and Nelson (first doubles), and Jace Koretz and Dan Baruch (second doubles).
"Our level from first singles to fifth, sixth singles and then doubles was really solid," Heymann said. "It was even better than last year's, probably, as in throughout the whole team."
"Our whole team just really came through," Novins said. "We had a lot of depth this season. Mike Nelson was a great player who went undefeated and won in nationals. He didn't even have to grind any matches."
The Lions also won the Region XV championship for the fourth straight season.
"We definitely had a target on our backs, so it wasn't the easiest way to play a match," Novins said. "I think our physical endurance this year might have just been a bit better. We outlasted players and just fought hard and grinded when we had to."