1998-2003 Articles (Season Recaps)
2003 SEASON RECAP
Many long-standing goals of the Redbird tennis program were achieved during the remarkable 2003 tennis season, as Metamora, for the first time ever, had the undisputed best tennis team in the greater Peoria area.
Winning the Mid-Illini championship has become an increasingly difficult task due to the continued excellence of both Morton and Dunlap. However, this goal was achieved in 2003 by Metamora with an exclamation point as all six Redbird players went undefeated in the Mid-Illini Conference tournament to clinch the team championship. Ty Wyffels won the #1 singles championship, Joe Harris and Kyle Shoff won the #1 doubles title, Nate Rauh captured the #2 singles crown, and Andy Ngo and Andrew Laird were the #2 doubles champions. That all four championship matches came against Morton made the complete domination a little bit sweeter.
Capturing a sectional title, once thought to be an unrealistic goal due to the domination of Bloomington and Richwoods in central Illinois, was also achieved by this record-setting group. Ty Wyffels defended his 2002 singles sectional title with a long three-set victory in the finals. Metamora also advanced two doubles teams to the state tournament for the first time ever, with Joe Harris and Kyle Shoff finishing second at the sectional and Andy Ngo and Andrew Laird fourth. Being presented with the school’s first sectional tennis championship plaque is a moment that many Redbird players and this Redbird coach will cherish forever.
The conference and sectional titles were the pinnacles of the season, but there were certainly many other accomplishments worth noting as well. Metamora tied with Rockford Guilford for the title of the Red & White Invitational; Guilford went on to finish 7th in the state. Harris and Shoff won the doubles title, defeating a Guilford team in the finals which would finish in the top 8 at the state tournament. The Redbirds also had success at the Bloomington Invitational, finishing a best ever fourth out of sixteen teams. (The top three were Bloomington (tied for 3rd at state), Danville (tied for 3rd) and Edwardsville (tied for 7th).)
Metamora opened the season in a manner unlike any other season in the past, hosting Palatine, Danville, and Moline in a quadrangular tournament. These three teams were three of the state’s very best and provided Metamora with outstanding competition at the beginning of the season.
Perhaps the greatest new experience for the Redbird tennis program, though, was participating in the Pitchford Invitational, hosted by Arlington Heights Hersey High School. The Pitchford invites 32 of the top teams in Illinois in an attempt to more accurately seed the state tournament a few weeks later. Metamora’s tennis team performed very well, finishing tied for 17th place with Homewood-Flossmoor.
The dual season also went extremely well, with Metamora finishing a school best 13-1. All 13 of the victories were by at least a margin of 7-2, showing the dominance of this group throughout the six-person line-up. Metamora played Richwoods for the first time ever and won 9-0. Victories of 8-1 and 7-2 over Dunlap were sweet, as the Eagles had never lost a Mid-Illini match worse than 5-4 until this year. The best win of the year, though, was Metamora’s 7-2 achievement at Morton in the last Mid-Illini contest of the year. This single match will be remembered for a very long time for its excitement, length, and result.
Individually, the season was terrific. All six of the Redbird players now find their names in the school record books, some dozens of times. Ty Wyffels set a record for singles wins in a season, Joe Harris and Kyle Shoff set the all-time record for doubles wins in a season, and Nate Rauh is the all-time leader in singles wins by a sophomore. The list of new records goes on and on and is too lengthy to list here.
At the state tournament, Wyffels and the doubles team of Harris and Shoff narrowly missed being seeded in the top 32. Joe and Kyle won 3 matches (1 in the main draw, 2 in the back draw) to place themselves in the top 48 in the state. The duo won 7 matches at the state’s best tournament over the past two years, an accomplishment very infrequently matched by an area doubles team. Ty won one match in the back draw, and the doubles team of Laird and Ngo also won a thrilling match in the back draw.
As a team, Metamora compiled 6 points to finish tied for 38th. Realistically, though, many teams finishing ahead of Metamora relied on one or two players to pile up lots of points at the state tournament, skewing the team results. As a group of six players, Metamora could certainly say it was one of the 20 strongest teams in Illinois in 2003.
The Mid-Illini Conference was once again very, very good, sporting the top three teams in the Peoria metro area. Morton finished 9-1 in the league and came within 1 point of upsetting Bloomington for the sectional title. The Potters qualified four players for the state tournament. Dunlap finished 6-4 in the Mid-Illini, losing twice each to Metamora and Morton. The Eagles qualified three players for the state tournament. Those three teams now have a 96-1 record over the past three seasons in matches not involving each other.
Ty Wyffels was named the team’s Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year. Andy Ngo received the Most Dedicated Player award, and Nate Rauh was dubbed Most Improved Player. To cap off the season, Ty Wyffels, Kyle Shoff, Joe Harris, and Nate Rauh were elected to the eight-person All Conference team as well.
Metamora’s senior group, Wyffels, Harris, Ngo, and Laird, was truly a quartet that comes around only once in a great while. Not only are their names etched forever in the record books as outstanding tennis players who accomplished great things at Metamora High School, but they are also great friends, wonderful team players, and the easiest group to coach imaginable. They have shown over their four years that truly hard work and dedication to a single cause can yield quite impressive results, ones that will be cherished for a lifetime. We talk quite often about how what you are doing today is creating your memories that you will hold forever. What great memories they will be.
2002 SEASON RECAP
After a very successful, record-setting 2001 season, Metamora put together a remarkable follow-up campaign in 2002. The ’01 team could only claim “best ever” status for a single year, as the ’02 group dominated its competition in a manner unlike any other in the first 17 years of Redbird tennis. Despite losing its top two players from the previous year, the Redbirds entered the ’02 season with a wealth of experience, including lettermen Ty Wyffels, Joe Harris, Kyle Shoff, Andy Ngo, and Tony Winkler. Junior Andy Laird and freshman Nate Rauh also contributed mightily to the successful season, giving the line-up great depth in addition to the strength at the top.
Once again, the Redbirds had highlights too numerous to list. The most significant achievement was recording wins over Morton and Dunlap in the same season for the first time. Metamora reeled off 8 consecutive wins to begin the season and ended with a sparkling school-record 14 wins against only 2 defeats. Tournament play was also good to Metamora, as the Redbirds finished 3rd in the newly formed Red & White Invitational, 1st in the Peoria Invite, 5th in the rugged Bloomington Invite, and 2nd at the Metamora Sectional. In the sectional, Metamora scored 28 points, just 1 point shy of Dunlap and the school’s first sectional title. Certainly, this will be a point of emphasis over the next 12 months.
Twelve of the fourteen victories were shutouts in 2002, bettering the old record of five and establishing a mark which will be difficult to ever duplicate. Included among the victories were a 9-0 win against Peoria Notre Dame and an 8-0 win over Pekin, the latter being Metamora’s first ever match against the Dragons.
Individually, the season was remarkable as well. Five players recorded 35 or more wins; two short seasons ago, the school record for wins in a season was 35. This year, Kyle Shoff established a new mark with 42 and Tony Winkler was right behind with 40. Joe Harris checked in with 38, Ty Wyffels had 36, and Andy Ngo 35. Ty Wyffels was the singles champion at the Peoria Invite, and Joe Harris and Kyle Shoff beat teammates Tony Winkler and Andy Ngo for the doubles crown. Ty also won the school’s first sectional singles championship, defeating Tony Winkler in the all-Metamora final. Joe Harris and Kyle Shoff finished fourth at the sectional in doubles, giving the Redbirds a record four state qualifiers in ’02.
At the state tournament, the doubles team of Harris and Shoff had the best results, using four victories to place themselves in the top 32 in the state to earn honorable mention All-State status. As a team, Metamora finished 38th at the state meet, one of very few schools with less than 1500 students in the top 50.
The Mid-Illini Conference was once again ridiculously good as a whole. Dunlap and Morton recorded 8-2 league marks to tie Metamora for the regular season title; Dunlap finished 15-2 overall while Morton was 11-2. The Eagles won the Metamora Sectional and advanced five players to state, finishing 20th as a team. Their top doubles team of Jared Kunkle and Greg Davis gave the Mid-Illini its first top eight finish in history with a 7th-8th showing. Despite this excellent doubles team, Morton fielded a duo which defeated Dunlap’s team twice on the way to a Mid-Illini doubles title and state berth. Limestone also had its first qualifier in school history, with Mike Nelson finishing fourth at the sectional in singles. To put into perspective the domination of Dunlap, Morton, and Metamora, consider that, in the past two years, those three teams have combined for a record of 66-0 in matches not involving each other.
Ty Wyffels was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. Andy Ngo received the Most Dedicated Player award, and Andy Laird was dubbed Most Improved Player. To cap off the season, Wyffels and Kyle Shoff were elected to the seven-person All Conference team as well.
Metamora’s lone senior, Tony Winkler, finished his career with a wonderful singles record of 41-12 and a doubles mark of 49-21, and his absence will certainly be felt next year. However, the returning nucleus of talent as well as an emerging group of freshmen and sophomores should propel the 2003 Redbirds to accomplishments only dreamed of in past seasons.
2001 SEASON RECAP
The Redbirds fielded perhaps their finest tennis team in school history in 2001. After a youthful, inexperienced 2000 season, Metamora entered the 2001 campaign with a much greater amount of poise as well as a higher level of expectations. Six lettermen returned from the previous year (Andy Gravlin, Chad Whittington, Tony Winkler, Tim Tisseret, Ty Wyffels, and Joe Harris), and the line-up was also bolstered by the emergence of freshman Kyle Shoff and sophomore Andy Ngo.
The entire season was a highlight for the Redbirds. Metamora fared very well in tournament play, finishing 2nd in the Peoria Central Invitational, 2nd in the Morton Invitational, and an all-time best 5th in the rugged 16-team Bloomington Invitational. At Bloomington, the Birds finished ahead of the likes of Danville, Springfield, Morton, Galesburg, and Normal Community as well as many others.
Metamora finished with an overall dual record of 13-3 in 2001, establishing a new school record for victories in the process. Included among the wins were decisions against two new opponents, Lincoln and DeKalb, and a first ever victory at conference and sectional champion Dunlap. The 5-4 win at Dunlap broke a string of four consecutive 9-0 losses at the hands of the Eagles and was the most outstanding moment to date in the history of Redbird tennis. Metamora reversed two other losses from the 2000 season, defeating Normal U-High and Peoria Woodruff, both by the count of 8-1.
The Mid-Illini Conference was again outstanding as a whole. Morton lost a dual match for the first time in two years, falling to Dunlap once after beating them earlier in the season. The Potters finished 12-1 and advanced four players to the state tournament. Dunlap sneaked away with the conference title despite losing to both Morton and Metamora once during the season. They lost no others, however, as they compiled a 13-2 record and a sectional championship while also sending four players to the state tournament. Washington had its first tennis bright spot in many years in the name of foreign exchange student Mario Panzic, who won every match he played en route to conference and sectional titles before losing in the second round of the state tournament. The other two Mid-Illini schools, East Peoria and Limestone, were both competitive, as they showed by defeating Peoria Woodruff and Peoria Notre Dame out of the Mid-State Six Conference.
Individually, the season was a success as well. Andy Gravlin was named to the All-Conference team for the third consecutive year. He also made his third trip to the state tournament as a participant, qualifying for the first time as a singles player. Andy won twice and lost twice at state, thereby finishing in the 49th through 64th place group, an outstanding accomplishment in a very good tennis state. He ended his Redbird career as the all-time leader in doubles victories and stands in second place on the all-time list of cumulative singles and doubles wins. For the second year in a row, he was also named the team’s Most Valuable Player. The 2001 season was the eighth and final year of having a Gravlin on the varsity roster.
Ty Wyffels and Kyle Shoff also advanced to the state tournament as a doubles team by virtue of their fourth place finish at the Peoria Sectional. The duo lost both of their matches at the state’s best tournament but returned with the experience of having played there and the desire to perform better in future visits. In addition to having a fine doubles season, Shoff finished with a 16-0 record as a singles player, an outstanding beginning to what promises to become a memorable high school career.
Metamora’s other doubles team, Chad Whittington and Tony Winkler, fell just short of a state berth with a 6-3, 7-5 loss to Dunlap in the state qualifying round. The other singles player for Metamora, Joe Harris, has a very good sophomore year highlighted by a 6-1, 6-1 thrashing of Dunlap’s Chester Dien in their second encounter. Undoubtedly, his sights are set on qualifying for the big dance next year.
Ty Wyffels was named the team’s Most Dedicated Player, and Andy Ngo was dubbed the Most Improved Player. Realistically, these awards could have gone to several Redbirds, as the work ethic and desire to improve reached levels heretofore unseen at Metamora High School. The two departing seniors, Andy Gravlin and Chad Whittington, will be sorely missed in the seasons to come, but the returning nucleus of talent should help propel Metamora to even greater accomplishments in the near future.
2000 SEASON RECAP
Metamora entered the 2000 season with only two returning players who had ever won a varsity match (Andy Gravlin and Chad Whittington). The squad had zero seniors and just four juniors. The Redbirds played a singles line-up consisting usually of two juniors, two sophomores, and two freshmen, the last of which had never played an official competitive tennis match until the season began.
In the Mid-Illini Conference, Morton and Dunlap had two of the best teams in the histories of their schools. The Potters were 14-0 and won every tournament in which they competed during the season prior to the state series. Included among their wins was a victory over Richwoods, believed to be a first for Morton. Dunlap was nearly as good, losing 5-4 twice to Morton, finishing second at the Galesburg Sectional and advancing four players to the state tournament. East Peoria also had a strong squad, returning their top four players from the previous year and a JV team which had finished 13-3 in 1999.
Despite Metamora’s inexperience and the rugged competition in the league, the Redbirds put together a remarkably successful season. The varsity squad finished 9-6 (6-4 in the conference), with four of the losses to Morton and Dunlap. The only other schools to top Metamora were Peoria Woodruff (which won the Mid-State Six Conference and Peoria Sectional) and Normal U-High, the latter a tight 5-4 decision.
Among the top achievements for the year was defeating East Peoria twice, both times by a final count of 5-4. Remaining in the upper echelon of the league was a goal entering the season, and these two wins allowed this goal to be realized. The Redbirds were also fairly successful in tournament play, finishing 3rd at the Peoria Central Invitational, 3rd at the Morton Invitational and 3rd at the Mid-Illini Conference Tournament.
Andy Gravlin was named to the Mid-Illini All-Conference team for the second consecutive year, an honor bolstered by his second place finish in singles at the Mid-Illini Tournament. The 2000 season was capped off with a trip to the Northwest Chicago suburbs for a three-night stay which will be forever remembered fondly by those who made the trip. Gravlin and Chad Whittington qualified for the state tournament in doubles out of the Peoria Sectional by virtue of their fourth place finish, marking the fourth consecutive year a Metamora doubles team advanced to state. The duo won once and lost twice, thereby finishing in the 65th through 96th place group.
Andy Gravlin was named the team’s Most Valuable Player, Tim Tisseret its “Most Dedicated,” and Joe Harris was dubbed “Most Improved.” Significant progress was made from the onset of practice in March until the end of the official season in May. This progress was but a fraction of that which would be achieved over the summer, fall and winter prior to the 2001 season, a season which will certainly bring with it higher goals and aspirations.
1999 SEASON RECAP
The 1999 season was a very successful one for Metamora tennis. The Redbirds lost to only two schools (Dunlap and Morton) on their way to an 11-4 overall record. The best win of the year came against Peoria Woodruff, 5-4, in the last match ever played at the old tennis courts. Woodruff had five Mid-State Six all conference players, but Metamora was up to the challenge in a very tight contest.
The Redbirds finished second at the Mid-Illini tournament (behind Dunlap and ahead of Morton), with Andy Gravlin third and Chris Marchand fourth in singles, and the doubles team of Blake Stewart and Jason Vanecko third in doubles. Stewart and Vanecko defeated Jared Kunkle and Shane Fisher of Dunlap for third place, a duo which would wind up in the top 48 at the state tournament.
Metamora also had a great deal of tournament success. A result of 7th place at the very strong 16-team Bloomington Invitational was exceptional, and that was followed by a third place finish at the Morton Invitational and the 2nd place result at the conference tournament.
The season was capped off with a strong second place showing at the Bloomington Sectional, the second consecutive season Metamora challenged Bloomington High School for the sectional plaque. The doubles team of Chris Marchand and Jason Vanecko lost in the sectional final 8-6 in the third set, marking the best sectional finish ever by a Metamora doubles team and nearly ending a 25-year reign of Bloomington doubles teams as sectional champions. Metamora’s other doubles team, Blake Stewart and Andy Gravlin, finished fourth at the sectional, making the semi-finals an all Metamora-Bloomington affair.
Marchand and Vanecko advanced to the state tournament in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago, falling in the back draw in three sets to a very good team from Belleville East. The experiences and memories from the trip, however, will last a lifetime.
Dunlap joined the Mid-Illini Conference in 1999 and, coincidentally, fielded perhaps the finest team to ever play in the Peoria area. The Eagles were undefeated in dual matches, winning only once by as close as 7-2. They were 6th in the state tournament, behind five wealthy suburban Chicago schools with 2000+ students. Dunlap won the Peoria Sectional and Morton was third, giving the Mid-Illini Conference an excellent showing in addition to Metamora’s second place in Bloomington. The league’s increased strength in 1999 served to continually challenge those at or near the top to improve, so that all successive seasons would be even better for the Mid-Illini as a whole.
Jason Vanecko was named the team’s Most Valuable Player and Most Dedicated Player, while Chad Whittington won the Most Improved award. The ’99 squad consisted of six seniors (Marchand, Vanecko, Stewart, Steve Peterson, John Kirschbaum, and Jeremy Sutter) whose departures would be greatly felt in 2000. To this point, the 1999 Metamora tennis team could make a pretty good argument for being the best in school history. The departing seniors hoped, though, that this would be a distinction which they would not hold for long.
1998 SEASON RECAP
The 1998 season was one of transition for Metamora tennis. The Redbirds took the courts with a new varsity coach (Kelly Willard), after seven-year head coach Ron Kiesewetter hung up the racket. Metamora also looked to replace the class of 1997, an exceptional group which compiled a two-year varsity record of 22-6.
Metamora returned a fair amount of experience in 1998, with Scott Shoff, Chris Marchand, Blake Stewart, and Dallas Engel all having had at least a taste of varsity action. However, the top three from 1997 were seniors, leaving the very challenging task of creating an all new top half of the line-up. Pre-season expectations of the Redbirds were shaky, but not for long.
Morton was the only Mid-Illini team to challenge Metamora during the regular season, defeating the Redbirds 5-4 and 6-3, winning the first match via a thrilling third set in the ninth match of the dual. The conference tournament was anti-climactic, with Metamora and Morton taking every semi-final spot in both singles and doubles while scoring 54 of the 58 total points for the day. Blake Stewart was third in singles, while teammate Jason Vanecko was fourth, including a first-round upset of #2 seed Wes Dyke of East Peoria. In doubles, Josh Finnell and Scott Shoff were second, and the duo of Chris Marchand and Dallas Engel finished third.
Perhaps Metamora’s crowning achievement of the season was challenging perennial power Bloomington for the sectional crown. All six Redbirds earned seeds for the sectional tournament, with Chris Marchand finishing 4th in singles and the team of freshman Andy Gravlin and Blake Stewart ending 4th in doubles. Stewart and Gravlin advanced to the state tournament, becoming the first Redbird non-seniors since Dan Ritschel to qualify for the state’s best tournament.
Metamora succeeded in 1998 due to the depth of its line-up. The Redbirds did not have an overwhelming top of the line-up but rather won matches due to their overall strength from #1 through #6. As evidence of this overall strength, Metamora was undefeated in 1998 at #3 doubles, finishing a perfect 14-0.
With six juniors and a freshman on the roster, things appeared to be quite bright for the 1999 season. The ’98 seniors succeeded in continuing the tradition established in the past few years, finishing with the school’s fourth consecutive winning record. This would also be the last Mid-Illini season prior to the addition of Dunlap into the league, a change which would forever alter the competitiveness and excellence of the conference.