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Baldwin boys' tennis team in midst of rebuilding campaign this spring

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

The Baldwin boys' tennis team had virtually no varsity experience at the beginning of the season, according to Dave Hayden, who returned for his fourth season as the Highlanders' head coach.

With only one win at the start of this week, Hayden acknowledges this season is a rebuilding year, but says there is reason to be positive about the future.

“I am optimistic about next year,” he said. “We have some really good athletes on the team who are working hard.

“It's a rebuilding year, but the guys have all expressed interest in playing tennis year round, and they're a great group.”

Matt Proelich, a junior, is playing at the No. 1 singles spot this season. He advanced to the quarterfinal round in the WPIAL section singles tournament before losing to the eventual tournament runner-up.

“He's a very consistent player,” Hayden said.

At No. 2 singles is the team's only senior, Jake Gruber, who also is one of the team's two co-captains.

“He's a very good leader on the team,” Hayden said. “He has played on the team three years.”

Junior David Shoemaker currently is playing at No. 3 singles. After two years of volleyball, Shoemaker decided to give tennis a try; Hayden is happy he did.

“He's a good athlete,” Hayden said. “He picked up the game only about six months ago. He's done extremely well.”

Junior Nigel Armbruster anchors the Highlanders' No. 1 doubles team, and shares the captaincy role with Gruber.

Hayden has been using a combination of varsity players to fill out the starting roster for the remaining spot on the No. 1 doubles team and the two positions on the No. 2 doubles team.

Those varsity players include junior Marin Marina, sophomores Nic Babic, Alex Malenka, Steve Dziadyk, Dillon Hawrylak, Goran Davic, Vinni Sabatini and freshman Mark Kelly

The Highlanders only win came against West Mifflin. Hayden hopes to chalk up another victory against Montour in an otherwise tough 2013 schedule.

“We only had eight returning players and 15 brand new players this year,” said Baldwin's veteran head coach.

Hayden continues to try to build interest in tennis within the district through after-school programs.

And the Baldwin summer tennis program is bigger than ever, according to Hayden, with more than 120 students expected to enroll between mid-June and August for a variety of instructional levels.

The Baldwin Invitational junior tennis tournament will be held again in June at the Baldwin tennis courts.

Mike McLaughlin has joined Hayden as an assistant coach this year. McLaughlin is a 2012 graduate of Gettysburg College, where he played tennis.

Hayden is grateful to have McLaughlin on board.

“Mike is able to hit the ball really well with the guys,” Hayden said. “He's been a great addition.”

Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.

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