Baldwin boys tennis program shows growth under new coach

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Sunday, May 23, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Emily Maerz is a new fixture in the Baldwin athletic program.

She coached the Highlanders tennis team this spring, her first season coaching at the high school level, as well as coaching a boys squad.

“I was very pleased with our performance, especially since we had a small team — only six players — so we did not have a full lineup,” Maerz said. “We won three of our last five matches and finished with a 5-8 record. All the players improved greatly throughout the season, and we have a lot to build on.

“We are planning on adding players. I think after doing some (in-house) recruiting over the summer, we will definitely have a full lineup. Our outlook for next season is that we will be even more competitive in the section, and our goal is to qualify for the playoffs.”

Maerz was a four-year varsity player in tennis from 2009-13 at Hood College, a Division III school in Frederick, Md. She was a three-time all-conference selection, three-time team captain and finished her career with the school record for wins at the No. 1 singles position.

“Coach Maerz has a passion for the game of tennis,” said John “Jay” Saras, Baldwin’s athletic coordinator. “I am sure she coaches the matches just as she played during her time. In addition, her playing and coaching experience allows her to provide valuable insight to our tennis players.”

Maerz, 29, was a two-sport standout during her athletic career. She played four years on the women’s basketball team at Hood and finished fourth all-time in 3-point field goals.

She was the 2013 recipient of the President’s Award, given to student-athletes who distinguish themselves throughout their college careers in the areas of academic achievement, athletic excellence, service and leadership.

Maerz graduated with a degree in political science.

She also competed in tennis and basketball at Middletown High School in Frederick County, Md.

“My general coaching philosophy focuses on effort and attitude,” Maerz said. “If you give 100% effort and have a positive attitude, I will be happy as a coach no matter the result.

“There are a lot of things out of your control — the weather, the opponent, the court conditions — but effort and attitude are completely in your control.”

Baldwin was led this year by sophomores Braden Yokopenic and Owen Garofalo at No. 1 and No. 2 singles.

Maerz has high expectations for Yokopenic, who ended up with a team-high five victories this season.

“Braden is an excellent player and a true No. 1,” she said. “He has a strong serve and forehand and great court coverage. He competed hard against the top players in the section.

“Next year, I think he will be one of the top players in the section. He also is the ultimate team player and helps out the other kids on the team. He wants everyone to do well.”

Yokopenic practices and plays tennis year-round as a member of the Glen Creek Tennis Club.

“I thought we played really well considering we were very inexperienced and did not have a full team,” Yokopenic said. ” I started to play better as the season went on.”

One of the highlights of the year for Baldwin was Garofalo’s victory-clinching performance against Canon-­McMillan in the season’s final match.

“Owen is very consistent on both sides and can hang in long rallies,” Maerz said. “This was his first year really playing actual matches, and he picked up on the strategy quickly.

“Against Canon-McMillan, he won the 10-point tiebreaker 11-9 and saved two match points in the process. That was huge for us.”

The Highlanders’ doubles tandems consisted of senior Hunter Kozlowski and sophomore Danny Khalil at No. 1, and junior Sergej Stojanovic and sophomore David Werner at No. 2.

“Hunter Kozlowski, who is our lone senior, has gone through three knee surgeries,” Maerz said, “and we weren’t even sure he could play. He had a leadership presence, and he stepped up and got some key wins.”

Baldwin’s first-year coach said Werner improved the most from the beginning of practice to season’s end.

“He was our No. 6 player, and he had never picked up a racquet before he joined the team,” Maerz said. “He improved immensely in just a couple months. He has a great attitude and loves tennis, so the sky is the limit for him.

“Another pleasant surprise this season was our victory over Bethel Park, one of the stronger teams (in Class AAA).”

Maerz was assisted this spring by her brother, Tommy Maerz. She will coach the girls tennis team at Baldwin in the fall.

“They were pretty strong, qualifying for the section playoffs, and have a lot of depth,” she said.

Yokopenic, meanwhile, is looking to lead the Highlanders into WPIAL playoff contention in 2022.

“I am confident we will have a full team and we will get better,” he said. “I feel that we have a shot at making the playoffs.”

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