---- — Manchester Essex high school has long been known for its tennis prowess. Year in and year out the boys and girls tennis squads sit atop or near the top of the Cape Ann League and successful tournament runs usually follow in the postseason.
This spring has been been a little different. The Hornets boys and girls are in the midst of strong seasons, but believe it or not each team has raised the bar and stepped their respective games up a notch which has led to many disappointed opponents this season.
Entering the home stretch of the regular season the Manchester Essex boys and girls tennis programs have put together a combined record of 28-0, the girls 15-0 and the boys 13-0, both sit atop the Cape Ann League Small and both are poised to make a run towards a state title. One only needs to take a quick look at both Hornets squads in action to see how they have made it this far without a blemish on each of their records.
Dominant doesn’t even begin to describe the Hornets’ success this season as they don’t just beat teams, they annihilate them. Through 15 matches this spring only three teams have been fortunate enough to take a point from the Manchester Essex girls, who also have a pair of unbeaten players on the roster to go along with 12 shutout wins.
The boys have also been stellar with six shutout wins and victories over Cape Ann League powers such as Hamilton-Wenham and North Reading, teams that have been a thorn in their side in recent seasons.
Every good tennis team must have a strong one-two punch at the top of the singles lineup, and unsurprisingly that’s where the strength of both the Hornets boys and girls squads lie.
On the girls side No. 1 singles player Brittany Collens and No. 2 singles player Michelle Fuca are as good a one-two punch that you will find in Division 3 and the duo is one of the main reasons the Hornets are the favorites to take their second Division 3 state title in three seasons. Collens, who is heading to Division 1 New Mexico St. next year, is unbeaten at the No. 1 spot as is Fuca, who was the Hornets No. 1 player in each of the last two seasons thriving in that role.
The boys also sport an outstanding duo as No. 1 singles Mike Fuca and No. 2 singles Calvin Lamothe have been the top two guys for three years now and each is a returning All Cape Ann League performer from 2012. The Hornets boys always have a strong team but have just fallen shy of the elite teams in the division, this season the team has taken that step up to elite status and Fuca and Lamothe are a huge reason why.
“They have been the No. 1 and No. 2 guys for three years now but this season they have gained the experience to take their games to the next level,” Manchester Essex boys head coach Rob Bilsbury said. “They’ve dedicated their time in the offseason and have learned how to beat people.”
Of course it’s not only each teams one-two punch that has led to such a strong season as each team has plenty of depth to go around.
On the boys side seventh grader Sam Girian is unbeaten at No. 3 singles even picking up a win at No. 2 singles and clinching a win over North Reading earlier this season when Lamothe was out with an injury. Doubles players Jeff Durkin, Josh Christopher, Seth Cohen, Colin Babikian and Jake Rich have also excelled in every role they have been called upon to play.
According to Bilsbury it all starts at practice.
“These guys practice hard against each other,” Bilsbury said. “There’s so much depth on this team that everybody practices hard and it’s awesome seeing them make each other better through practice.”
On the girls side Kendall McCormick has been outstanding at the No. 3 spot as has the No. 1 doubles tandem of Chanel Bullock and Rachel Daley and the No. 2 doubles tandem of Molly Carlson and Avery St. Sauvere as each has dropped just a single match all season. Like the boys, the Hornets girls are also a spirited squad and according to head coach Phil Logsdon, it’s their team chemistry that brings their game to another level.
“This is a very spirited team and the girls are really supportive of one another,” Logsdon said. “Of course the talent and love for the game is there too but having your teammates push you in each and every match really goes a long way.”
With the tournament on the horizon the Manchester Essex boys and girls are both staring a top seed in the face, and one thing’s for sure, nobody wants to see Manchester Essex on the schedule come tournament time.