You can understand the doubt that crept through the mind of Jeremy Levine before the Syosset boys tennis team first got together for formal practices this season.
"I knew about two or three of the kids going into the year," Levine said. "Most of them I didn’t even know."
Adding eight new starters to the lineup would have caused problems for most teams, but not Syosset, as they won another Long Island championship with a 5-2 win over Commack Friday at Eisenhower Park. It is the third Long Island title for Syosset since 2017.
"Going into the season I didn’t think we would make it this far," senior Brian Gao said. "But after our first practice I could really tell everyone was bonding and the chemistry was there. Obviously there was a lot of stuff for us to improve on and we did, as the results show."
The win capped off a 15-0 season for Syosset.
"This is everything we worked for all year," Dylan Apfel said. "It’s just such a great accomplishment for the whole team."
Apfel and Spencer Keschner won the clinching match at third doubles, 6-4, 6-3.
"It was tough to integrate all the new players because you don’t know who is coming up the ranks and what their skill level is," Syosset coach Shai Fisher said. "It’s a testament to them and how hard they worked and to the Syosset community. We were afforded the opportunity to do intramurals in December and January when things were kind of dicey with COVID and these guys took it upon themselves to introduce themselves and that really helped and started to set the tone."
Gao, Levine and Chris Vallone were the only three seniors on the team and Fisher credits them with being able to bring everyone along.
Gao picked up a win at second singles, 6-4, 6-4, and Levine won 6-0, 6-0 at third singles.
"The senior leadership on this team set the tone," Fisher said. "A lot of the kids didn’t know what team tennis was about but with these leaders it was instantaneous. All the seventh and eighth graders coming in felt like family."
Syosset also won at first doubles with Vallone and Devin Melandro winning 6-1, 7-5 and the final win came at fourth doubles when Ryan Jiang and Clay Jeon won, 6-1, 6-4.
"In tenth grade I was an alternate so I didn’t get this opportunity but of course I cheered on the team and I used practice to grind and get better," Vallone said. "Last year there was no season and that was devastating so I wanted to make the most out of this year. I’m glad we were able to finish off with a great win."