By Dave Dyer
---- — The name probably doesn’t mean much throughout most of the Merrimack Valley.
But there is certainly a familiar ring when you mention Cam Lynch, a freshman who plays first singles for the Hillies, around Haverhill.
As well there should be. The Lynch name has been almost synonymous with tennis in Haverhill for more than 50 years.
Lynch’s grandfather, John, was a captain at Boston College and played out of Haverhill as an amateur for 40 years before becoming head coach for the Hillies in the 1990s.
In 1997, John Lynch was named MVC Coach of the Year when he was 79 years old. When he retired in 2000, just three years before passing away, he was — at 82 — the oldest coach in the state in any sport.
One of Lynch’s 10 children, Peter, played for Haverhill High as the No. 1 singles player and later played at ULowell. He continued playing after graduation and has been director of the Haverhill Tennis Tournament for well over 20 years.
Cam is Peter’s son and, despite his family background, has only been playing competitive tennis for a year.
“I never wanted to pressure him into playing tennis and I wanted him to play a variety of sports,” said Peter. “He played baseball until last year and he’s still playing football (suiting up for the Hillie freshmen last year).”
But Peter did teach his son tennis and last year his spark for the game ignited. Cam began practicing with his father more and more, he took some private lessons and he played in the winter program at the Newburyport Racquet Club.
“I got increasingly more excited about tennis the last five or six months particularly,” said Cam. “It’s definitely my favorite sport now.”
With a young team that graduated its top seven players from last year, the 5-foot-5 Cam was thrust into the No. 1 spot for the Hillies. Forced to compete against players much taller, older and experienced, but he’s won two matches and been highly competitive in most of the others.
“Sometimes, it can be scary if you’re playing someone who is 6-5, but I think it’s good experience and it’s making me better,” said Cam.
Throughout the spring, Cam has continued to practice with his father because Peter agreed to be an assistant to head coach Zach Eldridge. He has seen marked improvement as his son increases his time on the court.
“He’s definitely hanging in there against older kids and it’s good experience,” said Peter. “He’s improved a lot just since the season started.
“I’m not pushing it but he loves playing. I think he’ll grow a few more inches and I think he has the potential to play in college.”
Cam considers his father his personal coach and they have upped the amount of time they hit to each other. That has benefited both of them.
“It’s actually helped my game because I’m playing a lot more than I have in a long time,” said Peter. “He hits a good ball and he’s definitely on the verge of beating me.”
That could happen next month when Cam takes part in his first Haverhill City Tournament. He wanted to play last year but was not old enough to make the 15-year-old minimum age. In addition to directing the tournament, Peter still plays in it.
“We may have to play on the opposite sides of the bracket,” said Peter.
Whether they meet or not, the family legacy is definitely continuing as they’re reminded every day in the spring because they practice and have matches at the John J. Lynch Memorial Courts at Winnekenni Park.
“It does make me proud,” said Cam. “I think I’m following in their (his father and grandfather) footsteps and I like that.”