ME Boys Tennis Sets the Right Tone


Since before the season began, the Manchester Essex boys’ tennis team has set the right tone. As a result, good things have followed.

The Hornets began this week with an impressive 9-2 record, losing only to tennis powerhouses in St. John’s Prep and Hamilton-Wenham so far this season. They are in second place in the Cape Ann League’s Baker division, just behind the Generals.

The key reason that Manchester Essex is where it is at this season? Look no further than the tone that has been set each day by number one singles player John Pope. The captain has been stellar at first singles and was the only Hornet to pick up a point in the season-opening loss against St. John’s.

“It’s not just how he plays or what he does in each match, it’s the energy and attention he brings every day in practice,” explains ME boys tennis coach Rob Bilsbury. “He wants to get better every moment of practice, and that’s kind of catchy, the rest of the team follows that lead. That’s how every team grows and gets better, and I think we’ve done that.”

Pope isn’t the only one setting a tone for the Hornets in 2022. Owen Bappe and Remsen Demio have done the same at first doubles. Roemer deWitt was greatly missed at third singles when Manchester Essex lost to Hamilton-Wenham on May 5, and he was a pivotal figure in the Hornets defeating Swampscott earlier this season. Freshman Jack Cummins has been a revelation at second singles, and Nick Macfarland and sophomore Charlie Vierden have been standouts in a very deep field vying to get time at second doubles.

“We have hotly contested doubles matches to see who will play in the varsity lineup each week,” says Bilsbury. “You’ve got to bring it every day in practice, and that’s helped us to stay competitive and focused. It’s another reason why we’ve had a good season.”

The Hornets need to continue to set that same tone with the remaining regular-season schedule. Newburyport and Marblehead loomed at the start of this week as crucial, non-divisional matchups. Next week, Manchester Essex will face North Reading on May 19 and has a big rematch on the road set for May 20 against Hamilton-Wenham. The Hornets will be looking to avenge their previous loss to the Generals with a full roster this time around, and a victory will bring them closer to first place in the Baker Division while knocking HW back a peg. Lynnfield also serves as a pretty good measuring stick for the Hornets.

“It’s close no matter what, basically, with how they’ve been playing,” Bilsbury says of Hamilton-Wenham. “They’re winning the small. And Lynnfield has beaten everyone, so if we can get any kind of positive result against Lynnfield, that will be big for us.”

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