During Matt Kraft's first year on Seneca Valley's boys tennis team in 2019, the sophomore found the environment to be very inclusive.
It's just in his nature to return the favor.
Last spring, the team's roster included 16 players. According to longtime SV coach Eric Grove, it was “the biggest team we've ever had.
“Matt did a great job of recruiting players to the team, teaching them and making them feel welcome. He's a leader and the glue that holds everybody together.”
Even though the spring season was shut down shortly after it began, Grove was still impressed with Kraft's attitude and effort and nominated him for the Positive Athlete of Western PA award.
Kraft, a resident of Cranberry Township, was recently named the region's boys tennis representative for the honor.
“I was proud and honored, but also surprised,” Kraft said. “I try to be positive for the team, but never thought I'd get an award for it.”
When Kraft joined the team, Parker Logue and Victor Myrna took him under their wing.
“Parker was the one who urged me to join. Victor was only a freshman, but he already knew everybody,” Kraft said. “Coach Grove creates a positive environment on the team to begin with, but those two made it really easy for me to join in.”
Kraft played No. 1 doubles that season and was going to be the Raiders' No. 2 singles player last spring.
“I improved a lot from my sophomore year and the battle for No. 2 was really competitive,” he said. “We were going to have a good team, too, and I was so excited for the season.”
“When the season was lost, Matt wanted to find a way to keep the team together, keep playing,” said Grove. “Because of all the restrictions, that didn't happen, but that's just the type of kid he is.”
Kraft is active in the youth group at Dutilh Methodist Church and has taken part in work with food banks, assisting older people with the upkeep of their homes and aided the homeless on a trip to Atlanta.
Academically, he maintains a 4.2 GPA.
He has also found the time to remain sharp on the tennis court, playing at various venues recently, including Lakevue Athletic Club where he will be competing in an upcoming tournament.
He has his senior season in his sights.
“We're all working hard in the offseason and are hoping we get to play next spring,” he said. “Tennis is cool because I get to play with my friends. If I get finished with my match and their's are still going on, I go watch them. And they can watch me, too.”