Middle Township High School senior tennis player Jeremy Novick knew at the beginning of the season he was capable of winning the Cape-Atlantic League Individual Tournament singles title.
So the 18-year old Cape-May Court House resident did everything he could to realize his potential, including overtaking his twin brother and defending tournament champion, Zack Novick, for the Panthers' first-singles spot.
Novick rode that challenge match all the way to what he regards as the best performance of his high school career against Vineland senior Rahi Patel in the tournament final.
Novick, who will continue his education and tennis career at Washington College in Chestertown, Md., won 6-0, 6-1. He went on to post a 30-5 record and is the Press Tennis Player of the Year - the first in Middle Township program history.
"I've always wanted to win a CAL title and I thought it was amazing that I was able to do that," Novick said in a phone interview Thursday. "That was a great experience for me. (Winning POY) feels awesome. No one else has ever done it from this school, and it shows how far our program has come."
Novick continued to challenge himself and earned some key wins at the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships. He was the only local player to reach the quarterfinal round of the prestigious tournament. He won three matches in straight sets, including a 6-3, 6-0 win over Eastern's No. 1, Seth Rose, in the Round of 16, before losing to Haddonfield's Tommy Dodson.
"I had a huge win in that tournament when I beat Seth Rose and it was a great accomplishment for me," Novick said. "I felt like I could have played a lot better in the quarterfinal round, when I lost to Dodson. It was just awesome to compete at that level and play kids of that caliber."
Novick helped lead the Panthers to their South Jersey Group II final for the sixth straight season before falling to perennial power Haddonfield. The Panthers also won the Cape-Atlantic League National Conference title outright for the second consecutive year. Middle has won at least a share of the conference since 2010.
Asked about his individual accomplishments throughout the season, Novick never failed to put his team first.
"He's been a great leader and a great role model for the younger guys," coach Matt Gilbert said. "He brings a happy-go-lucky attitude to the team. He's serious when he needs to be, and he's always confident in his own skills and his teammates. He took the team on his shoulders this year and took it as far as we could."
Team of the Year
The seven members of the Middle Township High School tennis team combined for 132 individual victories, with each of the five positions posting 20 or more wins.
Middle Township, ranked No. 4 in the final Press Elite 11, went 23-2, with its only losses coming to No. 2 Moorestown at the prestigious Moorestown Classic and to No. 1 Haddonfield in the South Jersey Group II final.
The Panthers are the Press Team of the Year.
"In the last 15 years (or so), we haven't been able to produce good tennis players, and in just the last four years we have players going on to play in college," Player of the Year Jeremy Novick said. "It's really exciting for our area and our team and shows how far we've come the last four years."
Novick's twin brother, Zack Novick, held down the second singles position and went 29-4. Third singles player Alijah Broadnax was 21-6, while the second doubles team of Andrew Hoy and Ben Bright was 22-6. Middle's first doubles duo. Tanner Kerr and Dini Ukella, both juniors, made school history by becoming the first to win the South Jersey Interscholastic Championships doubles crown. They were 30-4.
"I think coming into the year, the team was set up and with Tanner transferring (in), he was the missing piece of the puzzle," coach Matt Gilbert said. "Everyone stepped up during the off-season, and I think we peaked at the right time of the year to keep us going.
"They exceeded my expectations from when I first starting coaching. We set our goals and retained them over the years, and it's been tradition now to try and repeat that success."
Coach of the Year
Harry Silverstein is the Press Coach of the Year.
He guided Vineland to a school-record 27 wins, with just three losses, and a share of the CAL American Conference title. Vineland was ranked No. 5 in the final Press Elite 11. Silverstein's first doubles team of Darren Tomasso and Nick Mayo won the CAL Individual Tournament championship, the first from Vineland to do so since 2007. He also led first-singles player Rahi Patel to the CAL final, in which he lost to Player of the Year Jeremy Novick.
A look ahead
Middle (23-2) coach Gilbert says his team should stay strong and hopes some younger players jump into the Novick twins' shoes from the start.
Hammonton will only lose two seniors, likely putting the Blue Devils in contention with the Panthers again for the CAL National Conference title. Vineland (27-3) will lose two seniors but should maintain its prowess in the American Conference, where Mainland Regional (17-3) looks to be the favorite with its first- and second-singles positions returning.
St. Augustine Prep (15-8) should have a handful of returning players to boost its chances to capture its first American Conference title since its move up in 2011.
Final Elite 11
1. Haddonfield 31-6
2. Moorestown 30-6
3. Shawnee 20-2
4. Middle Township 23-2
5. Vineland 27-3
6. Haddon Heights 19-4
7. Toms River North 23-7
8. Mainland Regional 17-3
9. Hammonton 17-6
10. Christian Brothers Academy 18-3
11. Lenape 13-6
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