By Dan Harrison
---- — TOPSFIELD — The top two boys’ tennis teams in the Cape Ann League clashed yesterday afternoon when Manchester-Essex visited Masconomet.
The visiting Hornets proved to be the elite squad in the CAL behind a dominant performance from their three singles players in the 4-1 win over the Chieftains.
The win gave the Hornets (12-0) the CAL Small title, while the Chieftains had already clinched the CAL Large title.
“They match up really well at singles. They have no weaknesses,” said Masconomet head coach Andrew Turchon, his team now 10-2 on the season. “We have solid players at first, second and third singles, but they’ve got more talent there.”
Mike Fuca bested Masconomet’s Alex Fizz 6-3, 6-0 at first singles; Calvin Lamothe topped Jon Cabour 6-2, 6-1 at second singles and Sam Girian defeated Cam Netland 6-4, 6-1 at No. 3 to ensure Manchester-Essex (12-0) the victory in what was an extremely windy afternoon on the courts.
“All the kids dealt with the wind really, really well,” said Hornets coach Rob Bilsbury. “We both came in at 7-0 in the (Cape Ann) League, so something had to give.”
Fizz had his forehand working early against Fuca, but the freshman had no real answer for the Hornets’ top singles player. Cabour did his best at second singles, but Lamothe seemed to hit every shot he took in a match that featured two players with extremely powerful strokes.
Netland, meanwhile, was extremely patient against Girian, and his strategy worked early. But eventually, Girian became more and more confident and took over in the second set.
“Calvin was just feeling it; I didn’t see him miss many shots,” said Bilsbury. “And Sam, hats off to him. Cam is a very steady player who often frustrates his opponent. I thought Sam did a good job of negotiating his frustration and finding good patterns that worked. He found that other gear in the second set.”
Manchester-Essex’s Seth Cohen and Jeff Durkin made quick work of Nick Drago and Jack Roscoe at first doubles, winning 6-0, 6-1 before the Chieftains’ second doubles team of Sam Gordon and Clay Greenberg downed Colin Babikian and Josh Christopher, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4 tiebreaker).
“(Falling) 4-1 feels a lot better than 5-0,” joked Turchon about preventing the clean sweep. “It’s good to play teams that are better than you. It’s a good measuring stick with the (state) tournament still ahead. We have bigger things to look forward to in the tournament.”
Masconomet should fare well in postseason play, especially if Gordon and Greenberg (who have only lost twice on the year) continue to work well together. Greenberg in particular has been a bright spot for the Chieftains, considering he only began playing tennis a short time ago.
“They’re a funny team. Clay’s only been playing for a year-and-a-half, but he’s an athlete so he knows how to win and he gets to every ball,” said Turchon. “And Sam has that fiery personality and he always goes for it. They’ve played about a half dozen three-set matches, so it was good for them to win in straight sets today.”