Not often can one say that a defending state champion has improved the year after capturing its crown. But when it comes to the defending Division 3 state champion Manchester Essex girls tennis squad, it is an accurate statement.
The Hornets graduated just two players from last year's title winners are on a tear midway through the 2012 campaign with an 8-0 record putting the Cape Ann League and all of Division 3 on notice that they are still the team to beat.
A first year head coach and five returning starters have the Hornets poised for another title run in 2012.
"The girls had a strong start at the beginning of April and maintained momentum," head coach Brendan Grimm said. "We are hoping to keep the momentum going into the tournament."
The Hornets play on the court this spring has been nothing short of dominant as they haven't just beat their opponents, they beat them up. Through eight matches Manchester Essex has dropped just five out of 40 individual matches on the year picking up four 5-0 wins along the way. All this in the ultra deep Cape Ann League where they are one of the three smallest schools.
In their most competitive match of the year Manchester Essex dispatched an extremely talented Ipswich squad 4-1 drawing praise from their coach.
"The girls saw their best competition yet (against Ipswich) and they were great," Grimm said. "There were a few long battles but we dug down deep and were able to come away with a win.
Manchester Essex has gotten production across the board from No. 1 singles to No. 2 doubles.
No. 1 singles player Michelle Fuca, who's brother Mike is the No. 1 singles player for the Manchester Essex boys, has been especially dominant establishing herself as one of the top performers in the Cape Ann League despite the fact that she is just a Sophomore. Fuca, who has been the team's No. 1 singles player since she was in middle school, put her skills on display with a hard fought and impressive win over Ipswich's Alex Sulkan, the reigning Cape Ann League Player of the Year.
The production for the Hornets does not end at No. 1 singles as No. 2 and No. 3 singles players Kendall McCormick and Eliza Rohner have also had tons of success this season.
Rohner, a senior captain, put forth her best performance of the year last week with a two set win over Marblehead's Lindsey Cohen despite the fact that she was ill entering the match.
The doubles tandems of Rachel Daley and Molly Carlson along with Maura McCormick and Avery St. Sauvere have also been strong as each team has not been defeated more than once on the year.
A stacked lineup from top to bottom and a tough regular season schedule that will make them battle tested come the tournament leaves no doubts that Manchester Essex is the team to beat in Division 3. Come June there is a very real chance that they could bring another state title back to Cape Ann.