Generals Halt Hornets in State Finals



The third time, unfortunately, was not the charm for the Manchester Essex girls’ tennis team.

The second-seeded Hornets have looked spectacular throughout the spring, playing well and picking up wins over talented teams as they blew through the regular season and then advanced through the MIAA Div. 4 Tournament.  There were big tournament wins over a 14-win Hopedale team, and a decisive victory over the three-seed in Lynnfield.

The one roadblock all season seemed to be the top-ranked Hamilton-Wenham.  Manchester Essex played the Generals twice during the regular season as part of their Cape Ann League schedule and lost both times.  When the Hornets drew Hamilton-Wenham in the state finals over the weekend, the hope was that having a level of familiarity and the heightened stakes would help them to break through against their rivals and earn the Div. 4 title.

“We were always the underdogs in this one after losing to them 5-0 twice during the season, so we tried to go out and play with freedom and very little pressure,” explains ME girls tennis coach Barrett Alston.  “We knew we could compete in the doubles and needed one singles match to go our way.  [There was] an exciting buildup to the match over the last few days.”

That result was not to be, as the Hornets fell to the Generals, 4-1, on June 18 at MIT in a contest that would determine the top squad in the area.  Manchester Essex did not go quietly, however. Vanessa Gregory and Callista Lai were game to go against Sky Jara and Naomi Provost at first and second singles, respectively, but struggled against two of the best players in the state.  Grayson Crocker looked great at third singles but lost to Chloe Gern.

“Grayson Crocker lost at third singles but played her best match of the year,” says Alston.

The doubles teams were very competitive in this one: Grace Scarborough and Sienna Crocker scored the Hornets’ only points in the contest with a 6-2, 6-2 win at second doubles, and Emily Provost-Weber and Sophie Zalosh lost a tight one, 5-7, 6-4, 10-8.

“Of course, everyone was feeling a little down, but ultimately I think we all understand how successful the season was,” explains Alston.  “We played, frankly, as well as we could possibly play in the final, and there's nothing more you can ask for as a coach or an athlete.”

In 2022, much of this same core group of players made it to the Div. 4 Final Four, and advanced one step further this spring.  More than half of that group graduated earlier this spring, with Scarbrough and both Crocker sisters returning in 2024.

“Just a feeling of overall success, joy, satisfaction as having reached the final and given it our best shot,” says Alston.  “Certainly, the returning players have seen the level of tennis needed to be successful at the highest level in the state.”

That much was evident in this year’s Final Four win over Lynnfield on June 15, a 4-1 victory over another familiar foe that catapulted the Hornets into the final.

“Grayson Crocker at third singles and Sienna Crocker/Grace Scarbrough at second doubles won easily,” explains Alston.  “Calista Lai won in three sets at second singles and Sophie Zalosh/Emery Weber-Provost won in three sets at first doubles, coming back from a set down to win and send us to finals.”

The victory carried special meaning for the coach.

“ME girls' tennis has a rich history and it's awesome to be able to add to that,” says Alston.  “I think the unique part about this year is we added to that history without really having any tournament players at the top of the roster.  Truly, and I know this is a cliche, but this was a team effort from one through seven, our depth and effort at all five spots is what got us here. Never clearer than in the Lynnfield matches.”

jory collins, alabama state hornets and lady hornets, tennis, paul clark, barrett alston, callista lai, coach, emily-weber, sienna scarbrough, girls tennis coach, grayson crocker, chloe gern, naomi, sophie zalosh, cape ann league, hamilton wenham