The Manchester Essex football team’s season was a success story last year no matter how you look at it, writes Jason Brisbois in his preview of 2022 Hornets Football. “I don't think last year's success added to the pressure these guys are under, but it has given us renewed focus that carried into the summer,” explains ME football coach Josiah Grimes, now in his second year as head coach of the Hornets.
For Bill Melvin, returning to Manchester to coach the same sport he played in high school in the same town where he played, marks a special kind of homecoming. The Hornets’ first-year head golf team coach definitely has some returning talent to work with in 2022. Sam Athanas and Mark Pollack return to help anchor the lineup, while also helping to guide some young players -- and even some seniors -- trying to navigate the sport at the varsity level.
Everything is coming up in Manchester Essex. At least, that’s the case when it comes to spring sports. After the entire spring season was cancelled in 2020 due to the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and then a truncated season in 2021, it was a return to familiarity in 2022 for the Manchester Essex sports teams this spring.
When BJ Weed knows one of his players is dialed in and ready to deliver a prime performance, he will often use the phrase, “He had that look in his eye.”
All season long, the Manchester Essex baseball coach would say this about any number of his players, knowing they were going to elevate their game and lift the team along with them. Whether it was Vaughn O’Leary, AJ Pallazola or Mike Deoreo or one of any number of other key players in 2022, there were plenty of Hornets that “had that look” in their eyes, be it during practice or during a playoff game. These players were dialed in, and wins were sure to follow.
The switch to a new tournament format seems to have really struck a chord with the Manchester Essex spring sports teams. This season, the MIAA switched from a more regionally-focused tourney bracket to a new formula to determine brackets that included strength of schedule in addition to a few other tweaked factors – think along the lines of NCAA Basketball’s “March Madness” format.
Even with an overall winning record through 13 games this season, the Manchester Essex baseball team is still searching for its breakthrough. Manchester Essex has won more than it has lost in total so far. A pair of non-conference victories over Northeastern Conference foe Marblehead at the start of the season should pair line up with a win over Bishop Fenwick to help the Hornets when it comes to determining playoff seeding based on strength of schedule at the end of the year.
Even with an overall record of 8-5 and a likely berth in the MIAA tournament, Manchester Essex girls’ tennis coach Ed Conley states this season has not been an easy one.
It began with a 12-4 steamrolling of non-conference foe Marblehead (with the most recent win a 9-8 victory over familiar foe Pentucket) and has included wins over North Shore heavyweights such as Hamilton-Wenham, Georgetown, North Reading, Bishop Fenwick, Triton, Essex Tech and Ipswich. It’s been a fast start to the season for the Manchester Essex girls’ lacrosse team, and the Hornets haven’t let up on the gas since.
It’s year two of the softball co-op between Hamilton-Wenham and Manchester Essex, and there are signs of the program taking steps toward a brighter future.
Despite facing strong opposition from the rest of the Cape Ann League Baker Division each spring, the Manchester Essex girls and boys tennis teams seem to put together excellent seasons year after year.