The Gloucester boys tennis squad lost several key pieces from its 2011 Northeastern Conference Small Championship team. Last season's No. 1 and No. 2 singles as well as it's No. 1 doubles tandem may have graduated, but that does not mean the Fishermen aren't talented and confident entering 2012.
"The team is enthusiastic and has been working hard so far this season," first year head coach Gus Martinson said. "They are ready to pick up where last year's team left off. We lost a lot of good players to graduation but we have a lot of good players coming back."
The Fishermen, who had their best season in years last year compiling an 11-5 record qualifying for the state tournament where they fell 4-1 to Cambridge in the first round, are led by five returning starters. Senior captain Cody Marshall is moving into the No. 1 singles slot vacated by Chase Kelly.
Seniors Cameron Davis and Tyler Philbrook also return from strong 2011 seasons and are expected to be the top doubles tandem.
"Cody has been unstoppable the past two weeks in player to player to player match plays," Martinson said. "Davis and Philbrook look stronger than ever, they are both relentless in their determination to win."
The Fishermen also have a pair of Rockport high school students on the team in juniors Jon Perry and Chris Wile. Because Rockport does not have a varsity boys tennis team, just a girls team, Perry and Wile can play for Gloucester, and their results have been strong as both are key returning starters looking to build off of strong 2011 seasons.
Martinson and company also have an Italian exchange student on the team in senior Lorenzo Colasanti, who is expected to chip in on the doubles side. Freshman Matt Ciaramitaro, Jr. Pat Kelley and senior Guoping Wu are also expected to be solid contributors to the team.
Manchester Essex head boys tennis coach Rob Bilsbury is thrilled with the depth he has entering the 2012 season. Heading into Thursday's season opening match with Chelmsford, a 3-2 Hornets win, Bilsbury and company were already battle tested as a wealth of talent led to several battles for spots in the starting rotation.
"There were some intense battles in practice this preseason because we had a lot of guys fighting for spots," Bilsbury said. "That's the luxury of having depth, practices are tough and intense and it makes us better in the long run. We start nine players but we have 12 guys who can be solid contributors."
Manchester Essex is led by No. 1 singles player Mike Fuca, a Freshman who has been at No. 1 singles for the Hornets since he was a seventh grader. Fuca already proved he can hang with the best the Cape Ann League has to offer, and this year he has gotten even better, and a little bigger.
"Mike is just a gritty, awesome competitor," Bilsbury said. "He's still playing No. 1 singles for us and he gotten bigger and stronger over the last year."
Junior captain Calvin Lamothe, another veteran with big match experience, is expected to chip in at No. 2 singles and the No. 1 doubles tandem of Ben Scarfoni and Colin Babikian are also expected to help the Hornets compete for the Cape Ann League title, which is up for grabs according to BIlsbury.
"There's a lot of parody in the league because a lot of programs have stepped up," the Hornets head coach said. "Our goal is to win the CAL small and hopefully make a deep tournament run."
The Hornets depth was on full display Thursday in a 3-2 season opening win over Chelmsford. Lamothe picked up a win for Manchester Essex moving up to the No. 1 singles spot from his usual spot at No. 2 singles, Lamothe took his match in three sets 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3. Sophomore Jeff Durkin picked up a win at No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-1 and the No. 2 doubles tandem of Kevin Cellucci and Emmett Ryan delivered the win of the match with a three set win breaking a 2-2 tie 6-7 (8-10), 6-0, 6-2.