PJStar Articles 05, 07, 08

2008, 2007 and 2005 Articles

2008 Peoria Journal Star Articles

Metamora No Longer a Sectional Surprise – 5/16/08
Redemption for Metamora – 5/10/08
Mid-Illini Race Gets Down to Business – 4/30/08

2007 Peoria Journal Star Articles

Metamora Wins Ottawa Sectional – 5/20/07
Area Teams Go Their Separate Ways in Postseason – 5/19/07
Ahead of Schedule – 5/15/07
Metamora Sees Youthful Success – 5/12/07
Baby ‘Birds Ready to Leave the Nest – 3/29/07

2005 Peoria Journal Star Articles

Metamora Tennis Tops Dunlap – 4/29/05

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 16, 2008

Metamora No Longer a Sectional Surprise

By Josh Wessler

PEORIAWhen the Metamora boys tennis team made its first trip to the Ottawa Sectional last spring, the Redbirds were essentially strangers to the rest of the field.

The young squad used that unfamiliarity to its advantage as they swooped in and captured the team title by edging out defending champ LaSalle-Peru in the final standings.

Now, with the element of surprise largely gone, the Redbirds will begin their title defense today with eight other teams aiming to take them down.

But as it proved last Friday at the Mid-Illini Conference tournament by holding off Morton to win its second straight league title, Metamora will not relinquish its crown easily.

“It was fun to go up there last year, with nobody really knowing us, and win it,” said Metamora coach Kelly Willard, whose team will be attempting to win its fourth sectional title in six seasons.  “It’s going to be tough again this year.  The singles draw is stacked and the doubles is wide open.”

“I feel like we’ve got a pretty good shot (to repeat), but as always, you’ve gotta beat the person on the other side of the net.”

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 10, 2008

Redemption for Metamora

Donnelly Bounces Back from Tough Loss to Help Redbirds Defend Mid-Illini Title

By Adam Duvall

EAST PEORIAIt’s been a wild week in the tennis life of Ryan Donnelly.

On Tuesday, the sophomore from Metamora lost at No. 5 singles to Morton after having 11 match-point chances.

But on Friday, with the Mid-Illini Conference title on the line at Illinois Central College, Donnelly came up huge.

Thanks to Donnelly’s win at No. 2 singles, the Redbirds claimed their second consecutive M-I tournament and overall conference crown.

“I just wanted a little redemption from losing (on Tuesday),” Donnelly said.

Donnelly came back to beat Mike Christison of Morton, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.

Things were tight between Morton and Metamora the entire 6 1/2 hours of the tournament.

Both teams came in with 5-1 dual meet records, which translates to five points in the overall standings.

With Metamora leading the tournament 17-16 and the final match at No. 2 singles giving seven points to the winner and five to the runner-up, Donnelly was feeling the heat.

“I didn’t think I was going to be the one winning,” Donnelly said.

“We knew we had to win two and get second in two going into it.”

Donnelly held tough even when he went from up 4-1 to 5-3 in the final set.

“This is ridiculous fate (for Donnelly) and incredibly pleasing to everyone watching,” Metamora coach Kelly Willard said.

“I’m just really proud of all these guys.”

Dunlap took third after also coming into the meet with a 5-1 record in conference duals.

Pekin was fourth, followed by Washington, East Peoria, and Limestone.

In No. 1 singles, Morton junior Brock Reiman captured his third straight title.  Reiman defeated sophomore Stephan Rauh, 6-4, 6-2.

“I was just trying to battle with him,” said Rauh, who had taken Reiman to three sets on Tuesday.  “Trying to get back whatever I could.  I kind of ran out of steam towards the end of the second set.”

Added Reiman, “I had the wind, so I was hitting my heavy top-spin ball back, kept him pinned back in the court and tried to look for my opportunities to attack.”

Alex Clark and Martin O’Connor from Dunlap beat Metamora’s Tyler Lampe and David Stewart, 7-6, 6-4, to capture the No. 1 doubles title.

Clark and O’Connor led 5-2 in the second set before dropping two straight games.

The Dunlap duo responded with strong service and net play.

“We just put the games behind us that we lost and focused on getting my serve in and just finishing them off,” O’Connor said.

In No. 2 doubles, Matt Elliott and Nate Wilson fought back to beat the Potter tandem of Mike LaHood and Aaron Roecker, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

“We weren’t really that nervous,” Elliott said.  “They are pretty good, so we did feel like we’re kind of the underdogs.”

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

April 30, 2008

Mid-Illini Race Gets Down to Business

By Josh Wessler

PEORIALast year, Metamora ended Morton’s bid for a fourth consecutive Mid-Illini Conference boys tennis championship by turning in a title-winning performance at the league tournament.

Just three days after a 6-3 loss at home to Morton, Metamora came on strong at the M-I tournament.  Featuring a line-up that consisted of four freshmen, Metamora played its way into three of the four division finals and won two.

In doing so, the Redbirds edged the Potters 15.5-15 for the overall league title.  The M-I title is decided by a combination of dual-meet and league-tournament results.

Morton’s first opportunity to throw a wrench into Metamora’s title plans will come May 6.  That’s when Morton plays host to the M-I regular-season finale for both teams.

Metamora, unbeaten at 5-0 in the M-I, holds a one-point lead over both Morton and Dunlap, who are 4-1.  If Morton beats Metamora and Dunlap beats Limestone that same day in Bartonville, all three teams would end the M-I regular season with five team points heading into the league tourney May 9 at Illinois Central College in East Peoria.

In that scenario, every match in the tourney — which awards 10.5 points to the winner, nine to the runners-up and 7.5 to the third-place finishers — would become that much more important.

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 20, 2007

Metamora Wins Ottawa Sectional

By Journal Star Staff

OTTAWAWith its tournament fate in its own hands, Metamora finished the job and held off LaSalle-Peru, 27-23, to win its third sectional title and first since 2004.

After advancing both doubles teams and one singles player into the semi-final round, Metamora came into the final day of competition leading L-P 22-18 in team points.

The doubles combo of Tyler Lampe and Stephan Rauh helped assure victory by winning the title 7-5, 6-4 over Princeton’s top-seeded duo of Kevin and Doug Faber.

Freshmen Nate Wilson and Dave Stewart did their part by placing third in doubles.

Ryan Donnelly finished fourth in singles to give Metamora a total of five state qualifiers.

“It’s nice to get our hands back on a sectional plaque,” Metamora coach Kelly Willard said. “Those things are precious.”

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 19, 2007

Area Teams go their Separate Ways in Postseason

By Journal Star Staff

PEORIAFor the first time since the 1995 season, the Metamora boys tennis team is competing in the Ottawa Sectional. The young Redbirds, whose regular varsity line-up consists of four freshmen and two juniors, seem to be fitting right in with the rest of the field.

This year, the singles draw contains just six seniors among the 18 competitors and has three freshmen. Last year’s singles champ, Patrick Hammers of LaSalle-Peru, defeated Ottawa’s Alex Fleshman 6-0, 6-1 in the all-freshman title match.

“There are two absolute studs in the singles draw,” Metamora coach Kelly Willard said. “But the doubles draw is wide open.”

Team-wise, the Redbirds posted a pair of 7-2 wins over last year’s team champ LaSalle-Peru and runner-up Ottawa during their regular season slate this year.

While those dual victories look nice on paper, Willard and his team know anything can happen in a tournament format.

“That doesn’t mean anything for the (sectional) tournament,” Willard said. “But if we play like we did (at the Mid-Illini tournament), we’ll be fine.”

After Friday’s opening rounds, the Redbirds enter today with a 22-18 lead over L-P.

Both doubles teams (Stephan Rauh / Tyler Lampe) and Nate Wilson / Dave Stewart) are alive, as is freshman Ryan Donnelly.

Donnelly, who helped the Redbirds win the M-I last weekend by taking third in the No. 1 singles division, is competing as a 3-4 seed and will get a shot at the top-seeded Hammers today at 9 a.m. in the semi-final round of the singles division.

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 15, 2007

Ahead of Schedule

By Journal Star Staff

METAMORAWith four freshmen and two juniors making up its regular varsity line-up, not many people expected Metamora to win the Mid-Illini Conference so soon. But after winning the M-I tournament and league titles last week, the young Redbirds showed just how quickly they’ve progressed since the season began.

“Certainly we’re looking forward to the future, but I told the guys at the start of the year that it was about this year,” Metamora coach Kelly Willard said. “We have seniors on our team that want it to be about this year.”

The Metamora players’ composure and confidence in pressure situations also has shown marked improvement.

Nate Wilson, who teamed with Dave Stewart to win the No. 2 doubles title, showed a confidence not usually displayed by a freshman playing with the league title on the line.

“Before Nate went to serve in the last game of that final set, he came up to me and said, ‘Coach, don’t worry. I’ll get it done,’ ” Willard said. “Now, I don’t know what that means or if that’s necessarily a lock, but he kind of had that gleam in his eye, like, ‘You can’t tell me anything, I’m gonna win this game.’ You’ve gotta love that.”

Said Wilson after the match: “You’ve got to love the pressure.”

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 12, 2007

Metamora Sees Youthful Success

Youngest Team Nets Mid-Illini Conference Title

By JOSH WESSLER

METAMORAYouth was served Friday afternoon at the Mid-Illini Conference boys tennis tournament.

Competing as the youngest team in the seven-team field, host Metamora played its way into three of the four finals and won its third M-I title by edging out three-time defending champ Morton, 23-22.

By winning the tournament, the Redbirds were awarded 10.5 points to go with the five they earned from dual meet victories, giving them a total of 15.5

Morton, which came in with six points after an unbeaten league run, received nine points for second place and ended just a half-point behind the hosts.

“The day had to go perfectly for us to even have a chance,” Metamora coach Kelly Willard said. “The neat thing is that all six guys scored as many points as they possibly could. We couldn’t have squeezed one more point out of this tournament if we played it 50 times.”

Staying true to form, the tournament and conference championships came down to the final match of the day.

Needing a win to secure both titles, Metamora freshmen Dave Stewart and Nate Wilson came through with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Dunlap’s Ryan McMickle and Nick Skender in the No. 2 doubles title match.

That victory came minutes after the Redbirds’ No. 1 doubles team of junior Tyler Lampe and freshman Stephan Rauh won the division title with a 6-4, 6-3 win over East Peoria’s Dewey Kim and Ben Morrow.

“As soon as we saw our No. 1 doubles team win, we knew we had to beat Dunlap,” Wilson said.

“Everybody helped today. It wasn’t just one or two people. It was a total team effort.”

Following a semifinal round that put the Redbirds in three finals and one third-place match, the hosts knew their fate was in their hands.

“Before the match, coach let us know that if we got the third-place match and both doubles, we could win the conference,” Lampe said.

“That was all we needed. We wanted this so bad, it’s just awesome.”

Morton sophomore Brock Reiman won his second straight No. 1 singles title with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Dunlap’s Alex Clark.

Ryan Donnelly, the fourth freshman on the Redbirds’ varsity squad, contributed to the cause with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Pekin’s Brandon Brill in the No. 1 singles third-place match.

Morton’s Michael Christison won the No. 2 singles title with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Metamora junior Justin Cregger.

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

March 29, 2007

Baby ‘Birds Ready to Leave the Nest

Freshmen Foursome Looks to Lead Metamora Tennis Team to Top of Mid-Illini

By JOSH WESSLER

PEORIAWith two sectional championships, five regular season Mid-Illini Conference titles, three league tournament titles and countless individual triumphs, the past is certainly a point of pride among those associated with the Metamora boys tennis program.

But with a crop of talented freshmen ready to make their mark, the focus is beginning to shift towards the future for the Redbirds.

Freshman Stephan Rauh, younger brother of former Redbird ace Nate Rauh (2005 Metamora Sectional singles champ), and classmates Nate Wilson, David Stewart and Ryan Donnelly are all getting their feet wet at the varsity level this spring. Joining them in the Redbirds’ top six are juniors Tyler Lampe (2006 state qualifier – doubles) and Justin Cregger.

While they have enough talent in the fold to potentially challenge for a M-I title this season, having four freshmen in the starting line-up can make any team begin to look ahead.

“We’re going to have a good time,” said coach Kelly Willard, who is entering his 10th season at the helm in Metamora. “It’s going to be difficult at times, but it’s also going to be really exciting. You can kind of see how good these guys can become and what kind of team we could have in two or three years.”

While some coaches might opt to go with an easier schedule in order to slowly work their younger players into the varsity level, Willard decided to challenge his young team right off the bat.

By doing so, he hopes to help the young players reach their potential by letting them experience first-hand what it’s like to compete at a higher level.

The Redbirds opened the season by taking on some the best teams in the state at the Redbird Indoor Invite on March 17, most notably Deerfield, which finished third at state last spring and is projected as one of the state’s top three teams this season.

As expected, Deerfield took first place and the Redbirds finished fourth behind Moline and Danville.

“Those were some of the best teams in the state,” Willard said. “It was educational.”

Metamora will also compete in the Tom Pitchford Invite in Hersey, which is commonly referred to as ‘mini-state’ because of the quality of teams involved in the event, contested one month before the state finals.

“Our schedule is daunting for an experienced team,” Willard wrote in his team’s season preview. “And it will certainly be challenging for our young squad.”

Now that their eggs have hatched, Willard expects his young Redbirds to experience some growing pains in their first M-I season as they compete against the likes of three-time defending champ Morton and perennial contender Dunlap for conference supremacy.

But a change in the league’s scheduling format may end up helping Metamora’s chances of competing for a M-I title.

With the addition of Pekin giving the league seven teams instead of six, teams will compete just once against the rest of the league compared to the home-and-away setup of the past few years. With equal weight placed upon league standings and league tournament results, scoring one key against favorites Morton or Dunlap could put the Redbirds in prime position when the tournament rolls around.

“With everything the way it is, it’s really going to come down to the conference tournament,” Willard said.

Already 1-0 in the league after a 9-0 win over Washington, Metamora has a chance to score a significant blow early in the conference race when it hits the road to take on Dunlap next Tuesday.

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

April 29, 2005

Metamora Tennis Tops Dunlap

DUNLAPIt came down to the last match of the day Thursday, but Metamora’s Nate Rauh and Nick Vaughn battled back from a first-set loss to win at No. 1 doubles and hand host Dunlap its first boys’ tennis loss of the season, 5-4, in a Mid-Illini matchup.

Rauh and Vaughn also won their singles matches for the Redbirds (10-3, 6-2).

Dunlap is 13-1 overall, 7-1 in the conference.