ME Boys Tennis Makes Statement with State Title Win Over Lynnfield


It’s been a while, but it was certainly worth the wait.

The Manchester Essex Regional High School boys’ tennis team won a dramatic, fiercely-contested match by a 3-2 score against Lynnfield in the MIAA Div. 4 State Final game at MIT on June 15. The win gave the Hornets their first state title win since 1998, the year before current coach Rob Bilsbury was hired as coach of the team.

“It was an absolutely amazing experience, incredible through and through,” Bilsbury says of his team’s journey to the state title in 2024. “Throughout the whole season, we’ve been in this mindset of getting better every day in practice, competing at our highest level, and it was amazing to see the results.”

He adds: “With Hamilton-Wenham, we lose to them early on, 2-3, and then turn around to beat them, 4-1, to grab a piece of the Cape Ann League title. We won the Cape Ann League Open, an individual tournament, which speaks to the depth of our team. And to have that match against Lynnfield -- who beat us during the season, 5-0, so not many people gave us a chance on paper. We kind of like it that way.”

Alexander Breuker and Charlie Langendorf won at second doubles with a gritty victory, setting the tone early and sending the message that this match was not going to be anything like the previous meeting between the two teams. In that earlier matchup, Breuker and Langendorf were swept by Lynnfield’s Kurt Rothermund and Matthew Reinold. In the state final, the Manchester Essex pair won by a 6-2, 6-3 score.

“That was the first match off the court, and basically a tone-setter for the entire thing,” explains Bilsbury. “It added to the nerves for the Lynnfield kids, I think, and set the stage for everything else.”

Other Hornet players followed suit, even if the points didn’t fall their way. Jack Cummins has played the best competition in the state all season long as Manchester Essex’s number one singles player, and this time around was no exception. Despite a game effort, the junior lost to Lynnfield stalwart Daniel Levin, 6-1, 6-1.

From here, the timing worked out that as this three-hour epic continued, the remaining three matches were all in a third set and playing out dramatically at once, with the possibility of a state title win hanging in the balance.

Jack Lawler and Finn Birkeland added to the drama with an incredible effort that came up just short, falling to Russell Kasdon and Brendan Sokop at first doubles, 6-7, (3-7), 6-4, 7-5. This meant that it was up to Charlie Virden at second singles and Jan Vytopil at third singles to come through with wins if the Hornets wanted to take home their first title in 25 years.

Vytopil was the first to finish, coming through with a 6-3, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 victory over Shlok Kudrimoti that showed the tennis player’s resiliency.

“Jan won the first set, 6-2, then lost the second set,” explains Bilsbury. “He played a bit careful after that, like he was hopeful the kid would make mistakes and the kid elevated his game and took Jan in the second. Jan then turned it around.”

Virden scored the winning point, beating Lynnfield’s Shea McCarthy, 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 to make the score 3-2 in favor of Manchester Essex.

“In that third set, he began steady with the kid from Lynnfield, picking his times to be aggressive,” Bilsbury says of Virden’s match. “He outlasted a really talented second singles player and got the deciding point. Then we all ran out and pig-piled on top of him.”

The Hornets were celebrating more than a win or a state title with this victory -- this win was confirmation that the hard work and commitment to improvement could help this squad rebound from a 5-0 loss and defeat a titan of the sport in the most pressure-packed situation at the high school level.

“You lose 5-0 to a team and you think, ‘Maybe we’ll flip one match next time and it will be 4-1,’” says Bilsbury. “We were able to flip three of them -- with two of those, they beat us in straight sets -- and we turned around and won.”

Winning the state title is a rare enough occurrence for most teams. Even rarer, this is pretty much the same squad that came close in 2023, with all starters returning with experience under their belts and all the time spent working on their games in the offseason paying off.

“We had a special year last year, and the entire team came back with the same focus and the same team dynamic,” explains Bilsbury. “They worked hard over the summer. Jan was out there hitting every time I drove by those courts like he was on a mission. His only loss all season was to Lynnfield, and he came back to win the second time.” The Hornets won’t be quite as fortunate when it comes to roster turnover in 2025: Manchester Essex loses Breuker, Vytopil and Virden to graduation, key pieces on a title winning team. The other four starters should be back, however, providing a talented core to help start the climb back to tournament worthiness yet again.

“I’m going to remember all of it,” says Bilsbury. “This was an amazing group of boys. The adversity we faced -- it would have been easy to lose matches like the Hamilton-Wenham match and say, ‘We’re not as good as them.’ Then we turned around and beat them, 4-1, and beat Lynnfield in the state finals after losing to them, 5-0. They were so clutch; you don’t forget stuff like that.”