When Leslie Leopold became the girls tennis coach at Winchester Thurston four years ago, there were males playing on the team because the Bears didn't sponsor a boys tennis squad.
Now, the school's boys tennis team is one of the best in the district.
This season marks Winchester Thurston's third in the WPIAL (they had one season as a club team), and the first two seasons ended with PIAA tournament berths.
"There's been a good bit of interest now," Leopold said. "That first year we had maybe nine guys. Now we're much stronger and bigger. We have 16 players this season. We're very strong."
It's not the first time Leopold has helped build a program from the ground up. When she started high school as a freshman at Baldwin in 1971, the Highlanders, like many teams in the area, didn't have a girls tennis team.
But Leopold was part of a group that petitioned the school to start a team, and by her sophomore season, she was playing for Baldwin.
So when she was asked to coach the new program at Winchester Thurston, she didn't hesitate.
"I told them I absolutely would do it," Leopold said.
It didn't take long for the Bears to become a force in the WPIAL.
In its first season, Winchester Thurston qualified for the PIAA Class AA tournament by beating Quaker Valley in the consolation match to take third at WPIALs.
The Bears lost their first match at states, but Leopold still got to put a medal around the neck of one of her players at Hershey, as senior D.J. Goldblum took second place in the PIAA Class AA singles tournament.
Last year, the Bears again took third place at the WPIAL Class AA tournament and lost in the first round of the PIAA tournament.
The Bears did well individually, though, as Tym Hoban and Alex Kietz placed fourth in the PIAA Class AA doubles tournament.
This season has a chance to be Winchester's best. For one, Hampton, which has finished second in WPIAL Class AA each of the past three years, has moved up to Class AAA this season.
Secondly, Hoban is back to lead the way. He has been with the program since its inception and will be counted on to be the team's top player and its leader.
"Tym is a coach's dream in the sense that he is an excellent athlete but also is a strong leader," Leopold said.
Behind Hoban will be junior Charlie Orr, who played doubles last season but has moved to No. 2 singles this season. Sophomore Max Pollack, who also started at doubles last season, starts at No. 3 singles this year.
Senior Morgan Culbertson, who Leopold said is the team's best doubles player, will play No. 1 doubles.
Freshman Max Rogow and senior Andrew Linzer will likely play No. 2 doubles, while Culbertson's partner will be either junior Nikhil Mohan or senior Sam Schreiber.
"We're younger this season but I think they're going to get better and have great potential over the next few years," Hoban said.
But Leopold believes that Hoban, Culbertson, Linzer and Schreiber will be able to use their experience to teach the younger players and take the team to new heights.
"I think this team could be as good if not better [than the past few]," Leopold said. "We have enough veterans who know what it takes and can guide the younger players through it."