If the boys' tennis team is to capture the Div. 3 state championship again, this may be the season.
Not only did the Generals capture the top seed in the North but the entire starting lineup are seniors, except Joe Love, a sophomore who is part of the five players for four doubles spots.
The No. 1-seeded Generals had a first-round bye and will play Stoneham on Monday at 1 p.m. at Bass River Tennis Club in Beverly. The match was moved from .
Ninth-ranked Stonham beat No. 8 Lynnfield 3-2 on Saturday.
But despite experience and seeding in its favor, Hamilton-Wenham (12-2, 10-0 in the Cape Ann League, its fifth straight title) realizes that they may not actually be the favorite.
“We are pleased to be recognized as the top seed, with the great season we have had, but we recognize that a state title will have to be won by beating two-time state champ Weston,” said coach Joe Maher.
“For years, and this year included, Weston is the team to get through in the North. They had a fantastic team last year, and although they graduated a lot (this year), they have had young kids step up.”
The two powerhouses would meet in the semi-finals - if Weston beats North Reading and Hamilton-Wenham takes care of the Stoneham in the quarterfinals.
Last year the Generals, seeded No. 3, dropped a 3-2 decision to 10th-seeded Bedford in the semis. That followed two highly successful seasons – 2009 State champions and 2010 North finalists.
This year’s regular season was similar to past years. Hamilton-Wenham sported an impressive record with the only two losses to Div. 2 Burlington. Both defeats were 5-0, in the first and last matches of the season, but the second loss was much closer. And that is a great sign, according to Maher.
“The kids knew, based on the first match, how good (Burlington) was,” said Maher, whose team had four matches go three sets. “(Our kids) felt that they really improved. The kids were disappointed when they lost but we know they pushed them.
“We feel real good coming out of that match heading into playoffs.”
In Div. 3, the Generals have as good a chance as anyone with Stuart Rowe and Ben Chansky at first and third singles, respectively. Both finished as all-league players for their spots; both finished 10-0 in the league with Rowe sporting a 12-2 overall record and Chansky completing his season at 11-2.
“What we have this year, and maybe not in the past, is Stuart Rowe at No. 1 is as good as you get in first singles in Div. 3,” Maher added. “We feel we will win in that position most of the time and then all we need to do is win 2 of 4 (of the remaining matches).”
Brian Rogers is the No. 2 singles player for the Generals. His 6-4 record wasn’t as glimmering as his singles teammates, but he plays hard every point.
The doubles teams have seen five players split the four spots. Joey Merrill and Ryan Richard usually team at No. 1, with Jacob Cline, Jacob Rendall and Joe Love fighting for second tandem spots.
With the top seed, the Generals possibly could be playing a few matches at home, something that Maher will take.
“Our home court is definitely an advantage,” he said. “We have great support (from families and friends). Some teams are surprised by how many people we get. I think the kids thrive on that.”