Baldwin tennis looks ahead to WPIAL playoffs

Monday, October 8, 2018 | 5:03 PM

The Baldwin girls tennis team enjoyed a four-peat this season.

Baldwin qualified for the WPIAL Class AAA team playoffs for a fourth year in a row, thanks to a fourth-place finish in Section 3 behind Shady Side Academy, Fox Chapel and Oakland Catholic.

The Highlanders were coached by Zach Smith, in his first season at Baldwin, and were led at season’s end by the tandem of junior Bethany Yauch and sophomore Emma Sukal at the top of the lineup.

“As a first-year coach at Baldwin, I believe we did very well as a team,” Smith said, “not just record-wise but also building the program for future years. We had 14 freshman this season, which will be promising for years to come. We will also have back our No. 1 and No. 2 singles players.

“Emma Sukal and Kelsey Murphy both spent time as the No. 2 player, but Emma is the one who competed at sections so she is the No. 2 as of now.”

Yauch, who sailed through the regular season undefeated, and Sukal represented Baldwin at the WPIAL sectionals, with Yauch taking first place to become the first girl to win a section title in tennis in school history.

Yauch also finished as the WPIAL Class AAA runner-up.

Seeded second, Yauch fell to No. 1 seed, North Allegheny senior Ashley Huang, in the championship match at Shady Side Academy, 7-6 (7-2), 6-4.

“As a team, we did really good things and achieved a lot of firsts, including Beth’s WPIAL performance,” Smith said. “We only lost three section matches, and they were all so close.

“The girls were faced with so much change the last few years, and tennis (now) is earning the support of the community.”

Along with Yauch, Sukal and Murphy, the Highlanders’ starters consisted of seniors Natalie Zgurich, Jenna Tarson and Una Banovic, freshman Carly Kennard, and senior Julie Mainarich as a spot starter.

“As for our most improved player, it was really everyone,” Smith said. “Everyone has their best individual record and played at their highest spot in the lineup.

“As a coach, I am really looking forward to grooming the next generation of players. The varsity will have Bethany, Emma and Carly return on the team next year.”

Yauch has qualified for the PIAA singles tournament, which will take place Nov. 2-3 at Hershey Racquet Club.

“The season went well,” Zgurich said. “We are very proud of Beth for making states for her second time. Our sophomore starter, Emma Sukal, has had an impressive season because she is not usually a singles player and she really came out on top for the matches we needed her.

“My doubles partner and I had a good year with the highlight being (us) beating Shady Side’s doubles team. Since I have been at Baldwin, we have made the playoffs all four years, so it’s really special to keep the streak alive for my senior year. I’m looking forward to the playoffs.”

Ray Fisher is a freelance writer.


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