Perfect regular season a Malverne first


For the Malverne boys’ tennis team, the 2024 regular season was simply perfect.

This year’s group became the first in program history to run the table from start to finish by going 14-0 this spring while winning the Conference IV championship. The Mules, who shared the conference title with Freeport during coach Heath Hocoluk’s first season at the helm in 2022, joined Manhasset and Lynbrook as the only Nassau teams to not suffer a loss during the regular season.

The Mules’ season did end with a defeat to Conference I powerhouse Roslyn in their postseason opener last Saturday, but that did not in any way diminish what the boys accomplished this spring.

“The boys deserve it,” Hocoluk said. “They’ve worked hard since middle school age coming to the high school. When I took over the team three years ago, there were about nine players on the team, now there are a total of 30 and it’s a good group of boys.”

But the road to perfection was not easy. Malverne won five matches by 4-3 scores, including two against second-place West Hempstead, three others by 5-2 margins, and had just two 7-0 sweeps. The two one-point victories against the Rams featured clutch wins by two of the Mules’ doubles teams and the only set loss dealt to top singles star Jamar Smith all season, courtesy of rival Aden Palmer.

On May 1, the third singles pairing of seniors Justin Costa and Ryan Hayes lost the first set to West Hempstead 3-6 before rallying to win the last two by 6-2, 6-4 scores. Eight days later, the first doubles team of Chase Rucker and Saim Qureshi played the heroes by winning the decisive third set 6-3.

“We were counting on our doubles to step up and I spoke to them before the matches started and I said, ‘Listen boys, we have to have all hands on deck here from top to bottom.’” Hocoluk said. “You’ve got to step your game up.”

Smith won all 12 of his matches in 2024 and is an astounding 33-2 since his freshman year, with the only two defeats coming last year against Baldwin’s Brandon Firth. He also boasted a 134-46 won-loss mark in games this season.

“As he’s getting older, he’s getting more vocal and becoming a leader,” Hocoluk said. “Next year when he’s a senior, I’m waiting to see what he does for the team. It should be exciting.”

Sophomore Matthew DaCosta was 10-1 in the second singles slot, including a hard-fought 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-6 (5) victory over Freeport’s Johncarlo Rivera that keyed the Mules’ sweep of the Red Devils on May 6. Senior Chadrick Glenister won nine of his 11 third singles matches.

Rucker and Quershi went 9-1 together as the top pairing and sophomore Zain Raza filled in admirably with Christopher Ferguson in second doubles while senior Jerico Villanueva was sidelined. Costa and Hayes posted a 5-3 mark and the fourth doubles team of juniors Andrew Li and Noah Viscaino were one of the most consistent performers with four straight set victories.