By Peter Schwartz
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In the 2014 NCAA women's tennis tournament, Jamie Loeb suffered a disappointment when she lost in the quarterfinals. But the North Carolina star and native of Ossining, N.Y., brushed off that setback and came back in 2015 looking for more.
And she found it.
Last Monday, Loeb -- the seventh seed -- knocked off No. 2 seed Carol Zhao of Stanford 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 to become the first women's singles champion in Tar Heels history. After capping off her amazing season with a championship, Loeb was able to sum up her emotions with one word.
"Relief," Loeb told WFAN.com. "I've been working so hard to get to that point, and to actually win was an amazing accomplishment."
At the age of 20, Loeb becomes the seventh sophomore in the last 11 years to win the NCAA singles title. She is a product of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, and the boss was quick to contact her after the match.
"(John) texted me afterwards and congratulated me," said Loeb. "It was nice because I know he's in France (at the French Open), so it was nice that he took the time to send me a text."
John McEnroe launched the academy in New York City back in September 2010 at the SPORTIME Randall's Island Tennis Center, and the academy now includes locations in Westchester and Long Island.
Needless to see, the academy has been jumping for joy over Loeb's success.
"JMTA is extremely proud of what Jamie has accomplished in her first two years of college," said Felix Alvarado, Loeb's coach.
Alvarado is also the assistant general manager and associate director of tennis for SPORTIME Randall's Island and the John McEnroe Tennis Academy.
Born in Bronxville, Loeb held the No. 1 ranking for most of her freshman year and was named ITA rookie of the year as well as ITA player of the year. Even though she has been away at college, the academy still plays a huge role in Loeb's development.
"We keep in touch with her throughout the year and continue with her training during school breaks," said Alvarado. "I regularly go to Jamie's matches and follow her progress so we can continue to help with her development and growth."
The McEnroe Academy has all the tools necessary for a player to reach success at any level. Their team includes a world-class staff of coaches as well as fitness trainers, nutritionists, therapists and a sports psychologist.
Loeb has been with the academy since she was 16, and the experience has certainly helped her career.
"The McEnroe Academy has done a lot for me," said Loeb. "They've given me the chance to play professional tournaments as well as top international junior events. They've supported me for the last four years, and it means a lot."
Loeb's tennis idol is Martina Hingis, who won five Grand Slam singles titles and spent a total of 209 weeks as the world's No. 1 player. Today she just plays doubles, but has always been a source of inspiration for Loeb.
"I always loved Martina Hingis," said Loeb. "I loved the way she played and composed herself on and off the court."
Loeb had the chance to meet Hingis at a grand slam tournament, but it was at the McEnroe Academy a few years ago when she stepped onto the court with her.
"I actually had a chance to hit with her," recalled Loeb. "She's always been an idol to me."
This summer, Loeb plans on playing in a number of professional tournaments, but for now she'll maintain her amateur status. She's training for a tournament that starts in the middle of June, but what she really has her eye on is playing at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and competing in the U.S. Open.
"It's always been one of my dreams," said Loeb, who could be in the main draw as a wild card, which has been given in past years to the winners of the NCAA individual championships. "I'm hoping to get that."
She has been an NCAA champion for a week now, but perhaps the best is yet to come for Loeb. She could very well have most, if not all, of Westchester squeezing into Arthur Ashe Stadium to see her play later this summer. Achieving this kind of success is not a surprise for her.
She kind of saw this coming.
"When I started competing at the professional level a few years ago, I realized that I can compete at this level and beyond and play with these girls," said Loeb. "That gave me the confidence and belief. Even now, after winning the championship, I'll go into the summer with a lot of confidence."
For Loeb, that confidence grew by leaps and bounds thanks to the work that she put in and the guidance she received from her coach and everyone at the McEnroe Academy. Those lessons blossomed during her first two years at North Carolina, and now she's the pride of both Ossining and Chapel Hill.
Oh, and I think a former U.S. Open champion from Douglaston is all smiles about this, too!
For more information on the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, visit their website at here.
Don't forget to follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan.
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