|YU’s tennis team won its division championship this year. David Spiegel|
The Yeshiva University Maccabees men’s tennis team made history on April 27, when it became the university’s first athletic program ever to earn a berth in a National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament.
The distinction was won automatically when the Macs bested Mount Saint Mary College in the championship round of the 2014 Skyline Conference postseason tournament.
Though the Macs did not get far in the NCAA Division III men’s tennis championship – they lost to Skidmore College 5-0 in the opening round on May 8 at Middlebury College in Vermont – the team’s head coach, Ira Miller of Tenafly, still was pumped about the unprecedented accomplishment when talking to the Jewish Standard three days later.
“I was very proud of the team’s performance,” Mr. Miller said. Before working with the Macs, he coached the tennis teams at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck for 15 years, and before that he did the same at Drew University in Madison for seven years. “We showed we can compete with a nationally ranked team. I think we also learned what we need to do to go even further into the tournament.”
The Macs’ season ends with a 13-3 overall record. Mr. Miller noted that the team won 10 of those 13 matches with a score of 9-0.
YU’s appearance at the Division III championship was historic for another reason as well. It was the first time that NCAA officials needed to change the schedule for a regional round due to Jewish Sabbath observance.
“Originally, the men were supposed to begin playing on Friday, and if they won they would play the next match on Saturday,” Mr. Miller said. “If we won on Friday, we weren’t going to play on Saturday unless it was very late at night. So they decided to start our regional round a day early, on Thursday.
“In the history of the NCAA, they never had to accommodate anybody for Saturday play. In the 1950s, Brigham Young University said they wouldn’t play on Sunday, and others have since followed suit, but this was the first Saturday exemption.”
YU has been part of the NCAA Division III since 1956. The nonprofit association regulates athletic programs at colleges and universities throughout North America. The Skyline Conference includes YU, Mount Saint Mary, Farmingdale State, Maritime, Mount Saint Vincent, NYU Polytechnic, Old Westbury, Purchase, Sage, and Saint Joseph-Long Island.
Macs team member Avi Seidman of Bergenfield, a YU sophomore who finished the season with a 4-0 record, said that for him the highlight of the season “was the camaraderie that we had. We took it match by match and everyone worked hard. No one messed around. We knew where we wanted to go and took it step by step.”
Mr. Seidman first played competitive tennis at the Frisch School in Paramus. He said he attributes YU’s Skyline Conference victory to the coach, who began working with the Macs in January and instituted a rigorous training regimen. “He brought all the drills and focus that we needed as a team. It was an incredible season and everyone tried their hardest.”
In relation to the loss to 20th-ranked Skidmore, “We weren’t prepared to play a team at that high a level,” Mr. Seidman said.
“As we get better, we will get better draws,” Mr. Seidman said. “We need to start playing tougher teams. Next spring, we will set out to defend our conference championship and hopefully make it deeper into the NCAA tournament.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Miller will direct the Adidas summer tennis camp at Ramapo College in Mahwah, for boys and girls, from 8 to 18 years old. He’s holding a free clinic there on June 1 from 1 to 3 p.m.