Heath Hocoluk has built up a winning culture on and off the court since taking over as coach of the Malverne boys’ tennis program last year.
Malverne closed the regular season at 10-4 with an easy win against Hempstead May 11 marking its second straight season achieving double-digit wins. The Mules captured a share of the conference title with Freeport last spring.
Hocoluk has helped grow the win total as well as the roster size up to 30 since taking over the team in 2022 a season removed from the program only having 10 players for 11 starting spots.
“Our main motto is to go out there and compete and have fun,” Hocoluk said. “The boys have really taken hold of that.”
The Mules are also excelling in the classroom earning a New York State scholar athlete team award with a combined grade point average in the high 90s. Hocoluk said the academic success is part of a high standard under the school’s athletic director, Micheal Pelan, for all teams to prioritize their studies.
On the court, Malverne has been led by its top two singles players in sophomore Jamar Smith and freshman Matthew DaCosta. Smith, a co-captain, has been on varsity since seventh grade and recorded a 10-2 record on heels of an unbeaten 11-0 freshman campaign. DaCosta recorded an 8-4 record during his second year on varsity.
Senior co-captain Raymond Cecere has also stepped up as leader in the third singles spot. He has made big gains since picking up a racket for the first time last year.
The doubles teams have also picked up some big wins this season led by the first team duo of senior Zain Khan and junior Chase Rucker. They rallied from a set down in a 6-7, 6-1, 7-5 win against MacArthur on April 28 as part of a 5-2 Mules’ team victory. The duo also took Baldwin’s first doubles team to three sets before falling in a tie-break, 1-6, 6-1, 7-6, in a narrow 4-3 defeat to the Bruins on April 21.
“They play so well together,” Hocoluk said of Khan and Rucker. “They have great chemistry on the court.”
Hocoluk noted that the success of his doubles players has been crucial in helping the team win some close matches throughout the spring. The other doubles teams include Christopher Ferguson and Chadrick Glenister; Brian McAleese and Cyrus Villanueva; and Tyrone Davidon and Jerico Villanueva.
Malverne finished the season third in Conference IV behind Freeport and Baldwin.
While team competition has concluded, DaCosta and Smith will be competing as a doubles pairing for the second straight year in the Nassau County Championships scheduled for May 20-21 at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow. The duo last year took heavily favored Port Washington down to wire falling 11-9 in a first team to 10 win by two format and will be looking to once again make waves on the big stage.
“The atmosphere was awesome with people cheering from all over the county for them,” Hocoluk said. “It was very fun and exciting for them.”