Baldwin tennis team determined to snap long WPIAL playoff drought
At the start of each season, it's common for coaches to set their sights on qualifying for the WPIAL playoffs.
For the Baldwin girls' tennis team, that goal has been unrealized for an astonishing 26 years.
The Lady Highlanders are hopeful they can finally end the dubious streak this year, thanks to a large and experienced team ... and maybe even some help from a German exchange student.
Dave Hayden returns for his fourth season as Baldwin's head coach. He said there are six returning starters on this year's team who should have the experience needed to make a legitimate run for a WPIAL playoff berth in Section 5AAA.
Among those returning starters is Taylor Czarny, Baldwin's lone senior and team captain who is expected to retain her spot atop the Lady Highlanders' starting ladder.
"She made varsity as a freshman and has been No. 1 since she was a sophomore," Hayden said.
Other starters in this year's lineup include juniors Corinne Kirk, Allie Claherty, Candace Danielson and Desiree Allridge, sophomore Alex Stojanoff, and freshman prospect Morgan Schaming.
Hayden is hopeful junior Liz Backo, who is recovering from knee surgery, eventually will contribute as well.
Other members of Baldwin's varsity team include juniors Bri DiLucia, Natalie Garda, Kayla Carr, Jackie Marx and Syrina Neumah, sophomores Kyra Kinsler and Jenny Yanko, and freshmen Emily Barton and Samantha Stark
A surprise, but a welcome addition, to the team is Marie Lux, a foreign exchange student from Germany.
Lux did not arrive in Pittsburgh until midway through preseason practice, so Hayden is unsure what role she will play.
He is hopeful, however, that Lux will be able to bolster the team in its quest for the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Schaming is the first freshman to land a starting position on the varsity team during Hayden's tenure as head coach.
That, along with the two other freshmen team members, bodes well for the future of Baldwin tennis.
"Morgan has worked extremely hard this summer and has improved her game a lot," Hayden said.
Section 5AAA includes perennial powers Mt. Lebanon and Upper St. Clair, while North Catholic also is a consistently strong section team.
USC lost four players to graduation last year, giving Hayden hope the Lady Panthers might be beatable.
Hayden welcomed a new assistant coach, George McCormack, to the girls' tennis program this year. McCormack also is Baldwin's head wrestling coach, and a gym teacher at the high school.
Together, they have made some minor changes to the preseason practices, including utilizing more running and footwork drills.
"Our goal is to end the streak of not making the (WPIAL)playoffs,"Hayden said. "I think the girls seem really concerned with helping Taylor finally make the playoffs."
Czarny has played tennis at the varsity level since she her freshman year, and hopes to continue her career in college.
"Taylor is a very determined player on the court,"Hayden said. "She has been one of the best players I've ever coached.
"She will no doubt end up as one of Baldwin's winningest players."