ME Boys Tennis Ready for Challenges of 2024


If any group has the experience to handle some of the high-level challenges in store for the Manchester Essex boys’ tennis team this spring, it’s this one.

The Hornets lost three seniors from a team that went 14-8 (9-3 in the Cape Ann League) in 2023 and made it all the way to the Elite Eight of the MIAA Div. 4 tournament and yet were able to retain much of their top talent from last season.  Seniors Erik Bischoff, Alexander Breuker and Charles Virden all return, as do juniors John Bediz, Finn Birkeland, Jack Cummins, Charles Langendorf and Jack Lawler.

Manchester Essex is fortunate to have such a bounty of talent and experience returning with a schedule that ranks as one of the toughest in Div. 4 right out of the gate: The Hornets started the season on the road against challenging non-league foes Masconomet (April 1) and Marblehead (April 2), with road matches against Ipswich (April 5, 3:30 p.m.) and Swampscott (April 8, 5 p.m.) just after that.

“These are good, feisty challenges for us to get ready to play this season,” explains Manchester Essex coach Rob Bilsbury

After the road gauntlet to start the spring, divisional matchups with traditional rivals Hamilton-Wenham and Lynnfield await the team.

“The Cape Ann League is going to have some tough rivalry matches this year with Hamilton-Wenham and Lynnfield in position for the state tournament,” says Bilsbury.  “Those matches are going to be huge this year.  We know the margins are close with Lynnfield and Hamilton-Wenham, so the more practiced and focused we are, the more we are going to be able to elevate our game throughout the season.”

Cummins returns to the number one singles spot one year after facing the opposition’s number one player as a sophomore in 2023.  He anchors the singles players, with Virden returning to his familiar spot at no. 2 singles.  Jan Vytopil moves from first doubles to take the third singles slot.

Vytopil’s move means the doubles teams saw a bit of rearranging from last year as well: Birkeland and Lawler will serve as the number one doubles team, while Langendorf returns to second doubles and will be joined by Burke. “I feel like the strength of our team is depth,” explains Bilsbury.  “We have a deep team that’s pretty solid top-to-bottom, which is nice.  We have good chemistry on this team, and they practice hard every day.”

According to the coach, this team should be hungrier than ever to get back to the postseason and make a run.

“These kids know what it feels like when the season is suddenly over,” says Bilsbury.  “We were close to this, and now it’s over.  As a result, we had good focus and energy in the offseason.”