Middle Township High School senior twins Jeremy and Zack Novick brought an interesting dynamic to the boys tennis team when they were freshmen playing alongside one another in the singles lineup.
Jeremy played at No. 2 with their older brother, Joel, at No. 1 singles. But with the top singles position vacant after their brother graduated, Zack moved ahead of Jeremy into the No. 1 slot as a sophomore and held that position through their junior season.
"Sophomore year we couldn't even ride home in the same car after challenge matches," Jeremy Novick said by phone Tuesday.
This year, the scenario got a little more interesting. Jeremy beat Zack for the No. 1 spot, moving his twin back to No. 2.
But this time the switch hasn't caused any tension between them, and they are thriving in their new roles. Jeremy is 12-1, with his only loss coming to Moorestown's Ryan Dickerson. Jeremy is 59-10 for his career despite having missed most of his sophomore year with a wrist injury.
Zack, who broke the school record for wins (singles and doubles) on April 15, is 73-15 for his career. Andrew Sellers, a 2011 graduate, held the previous record of 64 victories. Joel Novick graduated in 2010 with 60 wins.
The Panthers, who are ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11 this week, are off to a 12-1 start with their only loss coming to No. 3 Moorestown.
"Playing these past four years and constantly battling for positions, it gets easier every time," Jeremy said. "Whether I lose or win, I've been in both situations, so it's not as hard."
Panthers coach Matt Gilbert said by e-mail, "I've never seen a sibling rivalry like this before, but at the end of the day they are best friends."
The twins began playing tennis at 13. Zack said they had played a lot of different sports, but tennis seemed like a no-brainer since they could train together. They both play in United States Tennis Association tournaments and have helped Middle become one of the best programs in the area.
The brothers also are big football fans. Zack roots for the New Orleans Saints, while Jeremy's loyalties are with the Philadelphia Eagles. The two also compete in the same fantasy football league.
They will both attend Washington College in Chestertown, Md., and join older brother Joel on the Shoremen's tennis team.The twins received a partial athletic and academic scholarship.
"It's been awesome to be able to look back at freshman year and see the changes that we've made in our games and even in life," Zack said. "Me and Jeremy have grown so much on the same team, and it's funny to look back at freshman year at what we were like back then and how we helped each other grow as people."
The Cape-Atlantic League tennis tournament begins Tuesday and Jeremy is the No. 1 seed, while Zack is the defending champion. They met in the semifinals last year but have been seeded on opposite sides of the bracket this time.
Mainland Regional junior Ethan Fischer was seeded No. 2 at last Wednesday's deadline, but Atlantic City senior Brian Gallagher beat Fischer 6-3, 6-3 Thursday. The tournament title is up for grabs with a lot of tough competition.
Hammonton's Pete Lancetta, last year's runner-up, also is considered among the top contenders. Jeremy's toughest match this season was with Lancetta; Novick won 7-6 (8-6), 4-6, 7-6 (7-5). Vineland senior Rahi Patel, Mainland sophomore No. 2 Ryan Pangilinan and St. Augustine Prep sophomore Louis Abenante also are threats.
"We've kind of talked about it (meeting in the final), but we aren't worried because honestly, Jeremy and I think we can beat anyone," Zack said. "So it's not really going to matter who we play. We just want one of us to win; we don't care who."
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