2005 Articles

2004-2005 Articles


Coach Willard, Mike Axelson, Mike Neumann, John Armstrong, Martin Hevesy, Chris Neumann, Nick Vaughn, Griffin Carr, Nate Rauh, Tyler Lampe.

Metamora’s boys tennis team entered the 2005 season having established itself as one of the area’s premiere programs.  The previous four squads had compiled an overall dual record of 52-8, had won a Mid-Illini title in 2003, back to back sectional championships in ’03 and ’04, and had qualified 17 players for the state tournament in those four years .  Despite these accomplishments, though, the Redbirds were mostly overlooked prior to the start of the season, mainly due to the extremely high quality of players returning to other teams throughout the Peoria area.  They would not be overlooked for long.

For the seventh year in a row, the Mid-Illini Conference was a three-team race featuring Metamora, Dunlap, and Morton.  In dual play, Dunlap compiled a 15-1 record while Morton finished 11-3 and Metamora 12-4.  Dunlap’s only loss came at the hands of Metamora in a hard-fought 5-4 decision late in the season.  The Redbirds were a match point away from a 5-4 victory at Morton as well but came up just short in their quest to defeat the other two powers within the span of one week. 

Many outstanding results were achieved during the ’05 season, including an all-time best third place finish at the 16-team Bloomington Invitational (behind Edwardsville and Danville), scoring 19 team points at the Tom Pitchford Invitational, defeating Danville in a mini-dual for the second straight year, and winning a 5-4 thriller at Dunlap.  In the two years since Mario Palmieri and Nathan Durst have teamed up to coach at Dunlap, the Eagle girls and boys are a combined 37-3 in Mid-Illini Conference duals, with all three losses coming to the Metamora boys team.

Entering the 2005 sectional as the two-time defending champion, Metamora again played an excellent sectional tournament.  Only a coin flip cost the Redbirds their third straight sectional championship, as two of Metamora’s four entrants finished higher than they were seeded in the event.  Senior Nate Rauh became the first player in the history of the Mid-Illini Conference to win both singles and doubles sectional titles during his career.  He had a tremendous sectional, defeating Bill Grinstead of Richwoods, 6-0, 6-0 in the semi-finals and Chase Klaus of Richwoods in the final, 7-6, 6-1.  Junior Nick Vaughn played the nail-biter of the tournament, defeating last year’s singles champion, Seth Thompson of Notre Dame, 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 in the qualifying round to advance to the state tournament.  Metamora also qualified its top doubles team of seniors John Armstrong and Mike Axelson by virtue of their fourth place sectional finish.

Three new additions to the Redbird schedule were welcomed in 2005, and Metamora defeated them all.  Ottawa (9-0), Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (6-3) and Sterling (5-4) all made the trip to Metamora and provided more excellent competition in a schedule full of big names. 

Tournament play went well again for Metamora in ’05.  The third place finish at Bloomington was led by strong play in singles from Nate Rauh (4th place at #1 singles) and Nick Vaughn (2nd place at #2 singles).  The Pitchford results were greatly aided by 10 points from Nick Vaughn, whose weekend included wins over players from Lyons Township, Oak Park River Forest, and New Trier.  Metamora also finished 2nd at its own Red & White Invitational, led by a first place singles finish from Nate Rauh, who defeated two-time Journal Star Player of the Year Jordan Nestrud of Morton in the championship match. 

Individual honors were received by many Redbirds again in ’05.  Nate Rauh, Nick Vaughn, and John Armstrong were all named to the eight-person All-Conference first team.  It was Nate’s third time and John’s second time being honored with this award.  Mike Axelson and Martin Hevesy were named to the second team.

At the state tournament, Nate Rauh and the doubles duo of Armstrong and Axelson each won three matches.  This allowed the Redbirds to have three players playing on the second day of the state tournament, an all-time record for Metamora.  Each finished in the top 48 in the state of Illinois, narrowly missing all-state recognition.

As a team, Metamora scored 7 points for the second straight year, the highest ever for MTHS.  The Mid-Illini continued to represent itself well, setting a new conference record for total points.  Dunlap scored 9 team points and Morton 12 in a very strong showing for the league.  A total of seven Mid-Illini players made it to the second day of the state tournament, an excellent accomplishment for any conference.

Nate Rauh was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.  Freshman Tyler Lampe received the Most Improved award, while senior Martin Hevesy was named Best Teammate.

Individually, the largest honor of the year was received by Nate Rauh at the state tournament.  Between the doubles state championship match and the singles final, Nate (and Jeff Dawson of Wheaton St. Francis) was presented with the Tom Pitchford Sportsmanship Award, given annually to the player or players best exemplifying what high school tennis is all about, sportsmanship, integrity, and fair play.  The presentation of this award is something Nate, his teammates, parents, friends and this coach will remember for a very long time.  Despite experiencing many moments and opponents over the years that would have tested anyone’s patience, Nate’s positive attitude, fair play and genuineness never wavered, and his leadership by example allowed the entire Metamora tennis team to improve its state-wide reputation in the eyes of other coaches, players, and fans.

As a whole, Metamora’s senior group in 2005 was remarkable.  Nate Rauh, John Armstrong, Mike Axelson, Chris Neumann, and Martin Hevesy leave giant footprints that will positively mark Metamora’s tennis program for years to come.  High school athletics is about so much more than winning or losing.  Yes, they were winners on the court.  That they were also winners off the court, though, is what made them such a remarkable group.  The friendships forged and the memories created are ones that will last a lifetime.  Match details will eventually fade and be forgotten by most, but the four years of memories with this group will be cherished fondly forever.  All five of these individuals have rightly earned my respect and the respect of many others not just as tennis players but as wonderful young men.  I consider it a great privilege to have coached them.  I truly thank them for being outstanding people.  

The tennis bar at Metamora continues to be raised higher and higher.  Spectacular results have been achieved over the past five years.  The individuals on those previous teams showed that a strong work ethic and unwavering dedication can overcome opposing talent that may at first seem insurmountable.  Metamora will return four varsity players in ’06, Nick Vaughn, Griffin Carr, Mike Neumann, and Tyler Lampe.  These four individuals will set out making names and memories for themselves in the 2006 season.  They certainly have had good examples to follow.

Congratulations to all Metamora Redbird tennis players on another exciting, memory-filled season.

Will Koehrsen Wins Tri-County Tournament

Peoria – Germantown Hills resident William Koehrsen, who turned nine years old June 1, won the 2005 ten-and-under championship at the Tri-County Tournament in Peoria.  Koehrsen defeated Derek Rineberg of Pekin in the championship match, 6-4, 6-0.

Although only five individuals entered the ten-and-under competition, all five were good players.  Will advanced to the title match by defeating Grant Reiman of Morton, 6-2, 6-0, in the semi-finals.  Rineberg defeated Reiman’s twin brother, Trent, in the other semi-final.

Germantown Hills resident Kevin Wang was the other ten-year-old in the tournament.  He lost a marathon match to Grant Reiman, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, in the first round.

Will joins Dan Ritschel, Daren Gravlin, and Stephan Rauh as Metamora area players who have won Tri-County championships.  Congratulations!!


Nate Rauh Wins Tom Pitchford Award

State’s Top Sportsmanship Honor Caps Stellar High School Career

Nate is presented with the 2005 Tom Pitchford Award by Matt Gross (Ottawa HS), chairman of the Pitchford Committee.

Nate and Coach Willard with the 2005 Tom Pitchford Sportsmanship Award.  Congratulations Nate!!!

Arlington Heights – Metamora senior Nate Rauh received the largest award of his high school tennis career at the 2005 state tournament, being named one of two winners of the prestigious Tom Pitchford Sportsmanship Award.  Nate shared the stage with co-winner Jeff Dawson of Wheaton St. Francis, who also won the singles state championship.  Nate and Jeff were presented with their plaques in between the doubles and singles state finals at Hersey High School in Arlington Heights.

Tom Pitchford was a moving force in Illinois high school tennis for years, a great inspiration and example for all tennis enthusiasts.  As a tournament director, Tom had few peers.  He thought the bigger the better.  The largest in-season tournament of the year in Illinois, often referred to as mini-state, is named in his honor.  He was a driving force in moving the state tennis tournament to the Chicago suburbs and making it the hugely successful, respected meet it is today.

Nate is certainly a worthy recipient of any sportsmanship award, and for him to receive the state’s highest honor in that area is very appropriate.  Nate’s contributions to the overall image of Metamora tennis cannot be overlooked, as many other Redbird players were positively impacted by his leadership and unwavering sportsmanship that he exhibited on the tennis court.

Two of his biggest tennis highlights of the 2005 season were made even more remarkable because of what happened immediately after they occurred.  Metamora’s exciting 5-4 victory at Dunlap was clinched by Nate’s and Nick Vaughn’s dramatic three-set doubles win; however, Nate’s first words to our team huddle were to request that we make sure we were quiet and respectful in our celebration.  

In the sectional final, Nate defeated the top seed, Chase Klaus of Richwoods, to win the singles crown.  His first words outside of the fence were not those of celebration, though.  Instead, they were to Chase’s family, as Nate wanted to let them know that the match had been such a pleasure because Chase is such a fine young man.  These acts are not typical for teenage boys, but they are for Nate.  It should also not be surprising that he would not want these acts shared with others.  Sorry, Nate!

Nate was not only a great sportsman; he also played some outstanding tennis.  It might be surprising to some to note that Nate ended his high school career with winning combined singles and doubles records against each of the four other best seniors in the Mid-Illini Conference, Jordan Nestrud, Joe Withers, Jeff Bucher, and Brent Belser.  He played his best against the very best, finishing with a varsity singles record of 2-1 against the two-time Journal Star Player of the Year, Jordan Nestrud; he was also 3-0 against the outstanding doubles team of Joe Withers and Jeff Bucher.  Additionally, Nate is the only player in the history of the Mid-Illini Conference to win both a singles and doubles sectional championship.

Nate certainly never received the press of the other talented seniors mentioned above.  Typical of his character, though, is the fact that Nate never wanted any press unless it was for the entire Metamora tennis team.  He was a truly rare team player that comes along only once in a great while.  

No one in Illinois was more deserving of the Tom Pitchford Sportsmanship Award in 2005 than Nate Rauh of Metamora.  It is often said that nice guys finish last.  All evidence to the contrary.

Congratulations, Nate!! 


Stephan Rauh Runner-Up in Tri-County

Peoria – Metamora resident Stephan Rauh, 13, was the runner-up in the 2005 14-and-under Tri-County Tennis Tournament held at Glen Oak Park in Peoria.

Rauh, last year’s 12-and-under champion, was the top seed in the event.  After two fairly routine matches placed him in the semi-finals, the Metamora Grade School eighth grader was paired against fourth-seeded Scott Caughey of Peoria.  After dropping the first set, Rauh rallied and steamrolled his opponent in the last two sets, winning 4-6, 6-0, 6-1.

The championship match was a rematch of last year’s final.  In that contest, Rauh had easily defeated Peter Heidrich of Peoria, 6-2, 6-3.  The score was the same this year, but the victor was reversed.  

With his advancement to the championship match, Rauh became the first Metamora resident in history to play in Tri-County championship matches two consecutive years.  Congratulations!


Metamora Wins Third Straight All-Sports Trophy

Peoria – The 2004-2005 school year was another successful athletic one for Metamora High School, as for the third straight year Metamora earned the Mid-Illini Conference All-Sports Trophy.  The trophy is awarded to the school with the best overall sports programs (determined by conference finishes in all 16 sports) for the school year.

During the 2004-2005 school year, Metamora won championships in boys cross country, girls cross country, football, golf, boys track, and girls track.  Out of the 16 sports offered by the Mid-Illini Conference, Metamora teams finished in the top three in the conference in 15.

Metamora’s point total was the second highest in the history of the league (the 2002-2003 Metamora point total was the highest all-time).  Metamora finished with 10,000 points for the year, easily outdistancing second place Morton’s 8,900.  Dunlap was third with 7,100 and Washington fourth with 6,950.  East Peoria, Limestone, IVC, and Canton finished 5th through 8th, respectively.

Congratulations to all Redbird athletes on another exceptional school year.  Let’s make it four straight in 2005-2006!!


17th Annual Metamora Tennis Open Held

Shoff Becomes Sixth Singles Champ in 17-Year History of Event

Metamora – Kyle Shoff celebrated his birthday weekend with a title that had eluded him for the past several years, winning his first Metamora Tennis Open singles championship.  The St. Louis University tennis player cruised through the singles draw, dropping only two games in his first two matches.  In the final, he played a brilliant match against a senior-to-be at Metamora High School, Nick Vaughn, winning 6-3, 6-3.

Shoff, moments after his title, remarked “I’ve been wanting to win this tournament for a long time and have come so close the last couple of years.  It feels great to finally get my name on that plaque.”  Past singles champions have their names etched on a plaque.  The list includes Dan Ritschel (7 titles), Kelly Willard (5), Nate Rauh (2), Daren Gravlin (1), and Ty Wyffels (1).

Shoff’s run to the title match included wins over MTHS junior Kyle Cunningham, 6-1, 6-0 and eighth grade MGS student Stephan Rauh, 6-0, 6-1.  Vaughn’s march to the finals included a 6-1, 6-0 victory over MTHS senior Griffin Carr and a 6-0, 6-4 win over 14-time finalist Kelly Willard, the Metamora High School boys tennis coach.  In the semi-final win over Willard, Vaughn served nearly perfectly, only being stretched as far as deuce once on his serve.

The surprise semi-finalist of the day in the men’s draw was Stephan Rauh.  The diminutive 13-year old defeated 2002 graduate Tony Winkler and 2003 grad Andy Ngo, both in third set tie-breakers, to advance to a semi-final match with Shoff.  Expect nothing but good things in the future from this young player.

With Stephan Rauh playing in the men’s draw, the boys field was left wide open.  Justin Cregger, a 15-year old MTHS sophomore, took advantage of this by advancing to the final, where he defeated eighth grader David Stewart, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.  The long championship match featured quality rallies and tremendous hustle and desire by both players. 

The doubles tournament was won by Kelly Willard and Andy Ngo.  It was Willard’s sixth doubles title in the 10-year history of the event but his first since 2000.  The duo defeated Stephan Rauh and David Stewart in the championship match, 6-2, 6-1.  By advancing to the doubles final, David Stewart was the only player in the 2005 Metamora Tennis Open to collect two trophies (singles and doubles).

The women’s tournament was cancelled due to a lack of entries.

The weekend was succesful for all involved.  The weather was extremely cooperative and the play was very good.  Congratulations to all of the participants

Top 25 – May 3, 2005

State of Illinois Tennis Rankings

1.  Deerfield (last week #3) Deerfield finished second in the Pitchford Invitational over the weekend despite their second seeded doubles team being upset in the quarterfinals of #1 doubles.  Scott Lieberman advanced to the #1 singles quarters before losing 6-3, 6-0 to PJ Rose of New Trier.
2.  Lake Forest (last week #2) Lake Forest won the Pitchford Invitational over the weekend.  Their current 6-person team must be considered the one to beat despite the school’s best player not playing this year.
3.  Winnetka New Trier (last week #1) New Trier finished third in the Pitchford Invitational over the weekend.  PJ Rose solidified his grip on the #1 seed at the state tournament with his #1 singles championship victory over Connor Roth of Lisle Benet.
4.  Glenbrook North (last week #4) GBN tied for 6th in the Pitchford Invitational.  Despite having no entrant reach the semi-finals of any flight, GBN’s depth allowed the Spartans to earn their high finish.  Freshman Eric Spector lost a round of 16 match 6-4 in the third set to Tyler Sonkin of Wheaton Warrenville South.
5.  Gurnee Warren (last week #9) Warren finished 4th in the Pitchford Invitational.  Freshman Dennis Nevolo impressed many with his 6-1, 6-0 victory over Alex Lambropoulos of Lake Forest.  He then won a first set tie-break over New Trier’s PJ Rose before losing in three highly competitive sets.  Teammate Keith Moran finished 2nd at #2 singles.
6.  Hinsdale Central (last week #5) Hinsdale Central finished 8th in the Pitchford Invitational.  Their top seeded doubles team of Wroble and Banghart was upset by Lake Forest in the #1 doubles semi-finals.  
7.  Highland Park (last week #6) Highland Park finished 5th in the Pitchford Invitational.  The Giants were led by the #1 doubles championship team of Chudacoff and Lewis.
8.  LaGrange Lyons (last week #22) Lyons tied for 6th in the Pitchford Invitational.  The Lions played terrific doubles, finishing 3rd at #1 doubles and winning the #2 doubles championship.
9.  Benet (last week #18) Benet tied for 9th in the Pitchford Invitational.  Connor Roth finished 2nd at #1 singles, while teammate Jack Martin finished 4th at #2 singles.
10.  Belleville West (last week #7)
11.  Glenbrook South (last week #10) Despite four early season losses, look for GBS to be ready for the state tournament in a few weeks.
12.  IMSA (last week #9) IMSA tied for 12th in the Pitchford Invitational.  Led by singles player Allen Ye, IMSA has six solid players that should help them contend for the state’s top ten.
13.  Edwardsville (last week #11) Led by singles standouts Zach Allison and Devory Newsome, Edwardsville will once again be a force at the state tournament.
14.  Dunlap (last week #12) Dunlap tied for 21st in the Pitchford Invitational.  Once top player Joe Withers returns to the line-up, watch for the doubles duo of Withers and Bucher to challenge the state’s best at the state tournament.
15.  Morton (last week #13)
16.  Naperville Central (last week #23) Naperville Central finished 16th in the Pitchford Invitational.
17.  Oak Park River Forest (8) Oak Park River Forest finished 15 in the Pitchford Invitational.
18.  Metamora (last week #17) Metamora finished 20th in the Pitchford Invitational.  Last Thursday, Metamora handed Dunlap (13-1) its first loss of the season.
19.  Naperville Neuqua Valley (last week #21)
20.  Lincolnshire Stevenson (last week #24) Stevenson tied for 12th in the Pitchford Invitational.
21.  Barrington (last week unranked) Barrington finished 11th in the Pitchford Invitational.
22.  Peoria Richwoods (last week #15)
23.  Rockford Guilford (last week #19)
24.  Moline (last week #16) Moline tied for 23rd in the Pitchford Invitational.
25.  Danville (last week #20) Danville tied for 18th in the Pitchford Invitational.
Others:  Homewood-Flossmoor, Wheaton St. Francis, Wheaton Warrenville South, Naperville North, Buffalo Grove, Galesburg, Belleville East, Quincy.

Mid-Illini Conference Boys Tennis 2005 Predictions

Metamora – The 2005 Mid-Illini Conference boys tennis season will feature the best overall talent in the history of the league.  Metamora, Morton, and Dunlap return a staggering 13 state qualifiers from their 2004 squads.  Among these will be Morton’s returning Journal Star Player of the Year Jordan Nestrud and Dunlap’s state quarterfinal doubles team of Joe Withers and Jeff Bucher.  The conference will be dominated by seniors, as ten of the league’s top eleven returnees will be in their final year.  

Predicted Mid-Illini Finish Last Year
1.  DUNLAP     (Mario Palmieri – 2nd year) 12-3 overall    (8-2 in Mid-Illini for third place)

Long GoneNone.Returning for More:  Joe Withers (2-time all-conference, sectional doubles champion (2003), two-time state qualifier, second team all-state (doubles)), Jeff Bucher (all-conference, sectional doubles champion (2003), two-time state qualifier, second team all-state (doubles)), Thiago Wong (state qualifier), Paul O’Connor (state qualifier), Erick Brown, Ryan McMickle.

Projected Top Players:  Seniors Withers and Bucher will lead a very deep, experienced Dunlap team in 2005.  The pair will look to solidify themselves as one of the area’s finest doubles teams in history and will be favored to make another deep run at the state tournament.  The remaining returnees will be joined by freshman Michael Christison in forming one of the area’s deepest squads in memory.

Sectional Outlook:  Dunlap will enter the season as the overwhelming favorite to capture the Metamora Sectional.  Withers and Bucher should win their second doubles crown, and Dunlap could qualify all six of its players for the state’s biggest tournament.  The Eagles won sectional titles in 1999, 2001, and 2002.

Interesting Facts  

  • In the last four seasons, Dunlap is 2-6 against Metamora and 4-4 against Morton.  After Dunlap dominated the conference during its first year in the Mid-Illini (1999), the other conference teams have improved significantly to meet the challenge that adding Dunlap provided.  
  • In the last two seasons, Dunlap’s dual match doubles record against Metamora is 0-12.  This includes an 0-4 mark by the fantastic duo of Withers and Bucher.
  • The Eagles have been selected to participate in the Tom Pitchford Invitational next spring.  Dunlap and Metamora will represent the Peoria area in the 32-team tournament commonly referred to as mini-state.
2.  MORTON     (Joal Stanfield – 1st year) 11-2 overall    (8-2 in Mid-Illini for first place)

Long GoneJeff Erwin (state qualifier).Returning for More:  Jordan Nestrud (2-time all-conference, Mid-Illini singles champion (2004), two-time state qualifier, Peoria Journal Star Player of the Year (2004)), Brent Belser (all-conference, two-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles champion (#2 – 2004)), Eric Ogden (state qualifier), Ty Reiman (state qualifier), Josh Butler (state qualifier), Brett Massey.

Projected Top Players:  Seniors Nestrud and Belser will be two of the area’s premiere singles players in 2005.  Nestrud firmly established himself as the player to beat in the greater Peoria area with his play during 2004.  Ogden, Reiman, and Butler give Morton three very good returning doubles players around which to build a line-up.

Sectional Outlook:  Morton should successfully defend its Bloomington Sectional championship from a year ago, breezing through the field and qualifying all six players for the state tournament for the second year in a row.  The Potters should come close to a perfect score of 36 points against a fairly weak field.

Interesting Facts  

  • Morton has a Mid-Illini record of 76-8 over the past ten conference seasons.  Last year’s two losses to Dunlap represented only the second time in those ten years that a team beat the Potters twice in the same season.
  • The Potters have six Mid-Illini team titles in the last ten years.  Those six titles have all occurred when a Potter was the conference singles champion (Travis Ayres ’95, ’96; Joal Stanfield ’97, ’98; Orlando Simas ’00; Jordan Nestrud ’04).  Other singles champs that have also been on the team champion were Nathan Kunkle (Dunlap ’99) and Ty Wyffels (Metamora ’03).  The only singles champs to play on a team that did not win the title have been Mario Panzic (Washington ’01) and Andrew Martin (Morton ’02).
  • Morton’s last Journal Star Player of the Year (Andrew Martin) won the award as a junior but did not repeat his feat as a senior.  Senior Jordan Nestrud will try to become the award’s first two-time winner in ’05.
3.  WASHINGTON     (Dave Krostal – 5th year) 6-10 overall    (3-7 in Mid-Illini for fifth place)

Long GoneSam Lott, John LaHood, Nate Heinold, Darrin McCoy.Returning for More:  Joe Lehman, Micah DeJarnatt, Lucas Doremus.

Projected Top Players:  Junior Joe Lehman is Washington’s top returnee for the 2005 season.  The Panthers will likely have battles with Limestone and East Peoria for fourth place in the league.

Sectional Outlook:  While the Bloomington Sectional does not appear as strong as in years past, it will still be a long shot for Washington to qualify anyone for the state tournament.


4.  EAST PEORIA     (Shane Smith – 4th year) 1-11 overall    (0-10 in Mid-Illini for sixth place)

Long GoneNone.Returning for More:  Don Mach, Brian Messmore, Paul Schoedel, John Myers, Jeremy Baker, Kyle Kerrigan, Ben Katz.

Projected Top Players:  The good news for East Peoria is that the Raiders return their top seven players from 2004.  The bad news is that EP did not win a dual match in the Mid-Illini Conference last year.  Don Mach and Ben Katz are EP’s top two returnees for ’05.

Sectional Outlook:  Like Washington and Limestone, East Peoria will not have any state qualifiers in 2005.


5.  LIMESTONE     (Chuck Sanders – 11th year) 4-9 overall    (3-7 in Mid-Illini for fourth place)

Long GoneMichael Lucas (state qualifier), Gil Harmon, Aaron Beall, Ryan Linsley, Tim Zimmerman.Returning for More:  Kyle Holmes, Nick Look, Chris Baker.

Projected Top Players:  Senior Kyle Holmes is the only returning Rocket with much varsity success under his belt.  The graduation of four-year number one player Michael Lucas leaves a big hole in the Limestone line-up.  A nice group of sophomore players will have to step up for Limestone to stay ahead of East Peoria in 2005.

Sectional Outlook:  After qualifying a singles player in two of the last three years, Limestone will almost certainly not qualify anyone in 2005.


  METAMORA     (Kelly Willard – 8th year) 12-2 overall    (8-2 in Mid-Illini for second place)

Long GoneKyle Shoff (3-time all-conference, 4-time state qualifier, 2-time Mid-Illini doubles champion (2003, 2004),  sectional doubles champion (2004), honorable mention all-state (doubles – 2002), third team all-state (doubles – 2004)), Patrick Mulcrone, Nate Gray, Ben Winkler. Returning for More:  Nate Rauh (2-time all-conference, state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles champion (#2 – 2003), Mid-Illini doubles champion (2004), third team all-state (doubles)), John Armstrong (all-conference, state qualifier), Mike Axelson (Mid-Illini doubles champion (#2 – 2004), state qualifier), Nick Vaughn (Mid-Illini doubles champion (#2 – 2004), state qualifier), Griffin Carr, Chris Neumann.  

Projected Top Players:  Metamora returns four state qualifiers from its sectional championship 2004 team, led by seniors Nate Rauh, John Armstrong, and Mike Axelson.  Junior Nick Vaughn also qualified for state in 2004.  Competition near the bottom of the Redbird line-up looks to be fierce, as at least five players look to be in contention for the final two spots.

Sectional Outlook:  Metamora is the two-time defending Peoria sectional champion and has qualified five players for the state tournament in each of the last two seasons.  Dunlap and Richwoods will likely be favored to contend for the sectional title in 2005, however, as neither team lost a significant contributor from their respective 2004 team.  Metamora hopes to continue a string of having at least one doubles team qualify for state, a streak which has now reached eight consecutive years.

Interesting Facts  

  • John Armstrong sported a perfect 10-0 singles record in Mid-Illini matches in 2004.  Despite playing #4 singles, he finished third in the conference at #1 singles and second in singles in the Peoria Sectional, earning all-conference status for his consistent play.
  • Metamora’s #3 singles position has been primarily held by a freshman or sophomore in each of Coach Willard’s first seven seasons (Andy Gravlin (’98,’99), Joe Harris (’00,’01), Kyle Shoff (’02), Nate Rauh (’03), Nick Vaughn (’04)).    
  • In the last seven seasons, Metamora has qualified 23 players for the state tournament.  In the previous thirteen year history of the program, the Redbirds had qualified a total of seven players for state.

Pre-Season Top 20

State of Illinois Tennis Rankings

Metamora – The 2005 boys tennis season is rapidly approaching, and the battle for team supremacy should be a good one.  Defending champion Lake Forest graduated its state singles champion, Drew Eberly, but returns its state champion doubles team of Matt Bruch and Alex Lambropoulos.  Other Chicago area powers, most notably New Trier and Glenbrook South,  will try to dethrone Lake Forest in ’05.  Downstate Illinois will also feature several outstanding squads, led by Belleville West. 

1.  Glenbrook South (coached by Larry Faulkner) The Titans enter the ’05 campaign as the team to beat in Illinois.  Returning for Coach Larry Faulkner are 7th-8th place singles finisher Nik Cromydas (sr) and 7th-8th place doubles finishers Rob Alef (sr) and Chris Nowak (jr).  GBS had one significant loss from its ’04 team, 9th-12th place singles finisher Eddie Kang.  They are the defending Mt. Prospect sectional champions and finished 5th as a team at the state tournament in 2004.
2.  Lake Forest (Corky Leighton) The Scouts successfully defended their ’03 state title last year, winning a second consecutive team championship as well as the singles and doubles titles.  Graduated from last year’s championship team is singles champ Drew Eberly.  Back in the fold, however, are all four of Lake Forest’s doubles players, led by defending state champs Matt Bruch (sr) and Alex Lambropoulos (sr).  LF’s second doubles team of Carson Nusslock (jr) and McNeil Parker (jr) finished in the 13th-16th place group at the state tournament last year.  The Scouts won the Gurnee Warren sectional in 2004.
3.  Winnetka New Trier (Tim Kajfez) The Trevians suffered heavy graduation losses from their 2004 second place team, but with an endless talent supply roaming the halls in Winnetka, don’t expect New Trier to fall too far.  NT lost Ryan Preston (2nd in singles), Chris Thomas and Tony Soruco (13th-16th in doubles), and Noah Buntman (17th-24th in doubles).  Returning to lead the way are P.J. Rose (5th in singles) and John Becker (17th-24th in doubles).  The Trevians won the Evanston sectional in 2004.
4.  Belleville West (Andy Brunner) The Maroons return all five of their state qualifiers from last year’s 18th place team in Illinois.  Two terrific sophomores, Nick Birger and Brian Zaron, finished 17th-24th in doubles as freshmen a year ago.  Two seniors, Mark Marifian and Blake McKinney, finished 25th-32nd.  The Maroons also qualified returning senior Brandon Lybarger for state in ’04.  BW won the Belleville East sectional in 2004.
5.  IMSA (Adam Camp) The Titans had their most successful tennis season ever in 2004, finishing in 8th place in Illinois with 19 points.  Four of their six qualifiers from a year ago are back in 2005, led by singles stand-out Allen Ye (9th-12th in 2004).  Also returning is the doubles team of Michael Plachta (sr) and Chirag Shukla (sr), which finished 49th-64th last year, as well as Grant Keaton (sr), who was part of a doubles team that finished 33rd-48th.  Gone are his partner, Amit Nathani, and Sasha Deriy (17th-24th in singles).  IMSA won the Aurora West sectional in 2004.
6.  Deerfield (Mike Friedman) The Warriors finished 6th as a team at state in 2004.  Leading the way was singles player Scott Lieberman (jr), who finished a surprising 4th.  Deerfield had the state’s #1 seed in doubles, but the team of Brad Stein (graduated) and Alex Loukas (jr) lost in the third round to Joe Withers and Jeff Bucher of Dunlap before rallying in the back draw to claim 5th place overall.  Deerfield finished 2nd in the Highland Park sectional in 2004.
7.  Lisle Benet (Mike Hand) The Redwings finished 7th in last year’s state tournament.  Three of their six qualifiers graduated, but both of their singles players return.  Benet will be led in ’05 by sophomore standout Connor Roth, who finished 7th-8th in last year’s singles state tournament.  Junior Chris Savino finished 49th-64th.  Only one doubles player returns for Coach Mike Hand, but he is a good one.  Senior Jack Martin is back; he was half of a 13th-16th place doubles team in ’04.  The Redwings won the Naperville North sectional in 2004.
8.  Gurnee Warren (Greg Cohen) The Blue Devils tied for 18th in last year’s state tournament.  Dennis Polyakov (jr) finished 17th-24th in singles, while his teammate, Keith Moran (jr), finished 65th-96th.  In doubles, Karol Kocemba (sr) teamed with Jeff Nevolo (graduated) to finish 33rd-48th in doubles.  Warren will greet a nationally ranked freshman in 2005, Dennis Nevolo.  However, Dennis Polyakov has moved to Texas, hampering Warren’s quest for a state trophy in 2005.  Warren finished 2nd in its own sectional in 2004.
9.  Highland Park (Steve Rudman) The Giants finished 3rd in last year’s state tournament.  Four of their six qualifiers graduated, including 17th-24th place finisher Jeff Schechtman and 25th-32nd place finisher Ross Pevitz.  The doubles team of Brandon Fisher (graduated) and Nik Ljuboja (jr) finished second in the state, while their second doubles team finished 7th-8th and returns one player (Jeff Chudacoff).  Highland Park won its own sectional in 2004.
10.  Naperville Neuqua Valley (Trudy Bennorth) The Wildcats finished 11th in last year’s state tournament.  They return four of their five qualifiers from a year ago.  Sophomore Lawrence Carpio (25th-32nd) leads the way.  The doubles team of Andrew Davis and Skipper Plowman (33rd-48th) also returns, as well as one half of a 13th-16th place doubles team, Patheek Koneru.  Neuqua Valley won the Plainfield Central sectional in 2004.
11.  Dunlap (Mario Palmieri) The Eagles tied for 28th in last year’s state tournament.  Dunlap returns its entire team in ’05, led by 9th-12th place doubles finishers Joe Withers (sr) and Jeff Bucher (sr).  The duo made waves in last year’s state tournament by defeating the #1 seed in the round of 32.  Dunlap finished 3rd in the Peoria Richwoods sectional in 2004.
12.  Morton (Pete Martin) The Potters tied for 18th in last year’s state tournament.  Morton returns five of its six state qualifiers from its 2004 team that ended Bloomington’s 28-year sectional winning streak.  Morton will be led by senior Jordan Nestrud (25th-32nd last year).  Also returning is one half of a top 32 doubles team (senior Eric Ogden).  Morton won the Bloomington sectional in 2004.
13.  LaGrange Lyons (Bill Wham) The Lions tied for 12th in last year’s state tournament.  Three of their six state qualifiers graduated (Doug Story, Andy Hennebry, Mike Curgino).  Lyons returns Conor Donnelly, who finished 49th-64th in singles.  They also return a 49th-64th place doubles team (Jordan Knue and John Smits).  Lyons won the Hinsdale South sectional in 2004.
14.  Lincolnshire Stevenson (Mark Linnenburger) The Patriots tied for 47th in last year’s state tournament, primarily because their tough sectional only allowed them to qualify one doubles team.  Both state qualifiers graduated, but Stevenson’s cupboard is not bare.  Quality players return for Coach Linnenburger, and a top 25 nationally ranked freshman enters the Patriot program in 2005.  Stevenson finished 3rd in the Highland Park sectional in 2004.
15.  Naperville Central (Charlie Harris) The Redhawks finished 4th in last year’s state tournament.  Their top players, 9th-12th place finisher Brian Cho and the 4th place doubles team of Tiu and Williams, graduated.  However, three other qualifiers return for Coach Harris.  Singles player Whitney Hsieh (33rd-48th) and the doubles team of Mike Laures and Jordan Williams (25th-32nd) are back for Central.  The Redhawks finished 2nd in the Naperville North sectional in 2004.
16.  Rockford Guilford (Dale Larson) The Vikings tied for 14th in last year’s state tournament.  Three state qualifiers return for Dale Larson’s final season, led by the 9th-12th place doubles team of Bobby Howard and Kevin McParlan.  Senior Sean Hayes (49th-64th) also returns for Guilford.  The Vikings won their own sectional in 2004.
17.  Homewood-Flossmoor (Cathy Konecki) The Vikings tied for 31st in last year’s state tournament.  Four of their six state qualifiers return in ’05.  Singles players Jamison Liang and Eric Kitchell are both seniors.  Adam Mesirow (sr) played on a 33rd-48th place doubles team, while sophomore Max Willer played for a 49th-64th place doubles squad.  Also returning is Mark Muskievicz, a threat to finish in the top 16 in singles.  The Vikings won their own sectional in 2004.
18.  Edwardsville (Dave Lipe) The Tigers tied for 12th in last year’s state tournament.  Four players qualified for Coach Lipe’s team, and two return in ’05.  Gone is the 9th-12th place doubles team of Lacy and Snyder.  Back, however, are Devory Newsome (49th-64th) and Zach Allison (33rd-48th).  Edwardsville won its own sectional in 2004.
19.  Metamora (Kelly Willard) The Redbirds tied for 31st in last year’s state tournament.  Four of their five state qualifiers return in ’05, led by 17th-24th place doubles finisher Nate Rauh (sr).  Other state qualifiers returning for the Redbirds include seniors John Armstrong and Mike Axelson and junior Nick Vaughn.  Metamora won the Peoria Richwoods sectional in 2004.
20.  Hinsdale Central (Jay Kramer) The Red Devils tied for 16th in last year’s state tournament, their first finish out of the state’s top 10 in over 40 years.  Two of Central’s five qualifiers return in ’05, led by junior Jon Wroble, a top 12 finisher in doubles last year.  Also returning is singles player Justin Smith.  Hinsdale Central finished 2nd in the Downers Grove South sectional in 2004.
Others:  Glenbrook North, Wheaton St. Francis, Barrington, Galesburg, Danville, Peoria Richwoods.

Schedule is an All-Time Best

Non-Conference Competition to be Fierce

Metamora – Metamora’s tennis team will play the most difficult schedule in school history in 2005.  The Mid-Illini Conference will be better than ever, with Dunlap and Morton possessing teams that will both likely challenge for the top ten in the state.  The non-conference portion of the schedule is also daunting, as Metamora will play multiple teams with outstanding players.  A brief preview of Metamora’s opponents follows.

  • Moline  The Maroons traditionally boast one of Illinois’ finest tennis programs.  Moline will be without the services of long-time coach Tom Derouin in 2005, as the nearly forty-year veteran stepped down from his leadership role at the end of the girls season last fall.  Moline has captured fourteen straight sectional championships and has finished in the state’s top ten nine times during that run.  The Redbirds will play Moline as part of the indoor quad on March 19

  • Danville  Danville, led by the well-respected Ted Houpt, returns a wealth of talent to the courts in 2005.  The Vikings finished 3rd in the state in 2003 and followed up that performance with their fifteenth sectional title in the last twenty years in 2004.  Danville will be led in ’05 by standout doubles player Chad Simpson, a junior who teamed with departed senior Sean Bush to finish in the top eight in Illinois a year ago in doubles.  Metamora will also play Danville as part of the indoor quad on March 19.

  • Gurnee Warren  Warren, directed by one of Illinois’ finest coaches, Greg Cohen, should be near the top of the state tournament standings in 2005.  Despite losing a two-time all-state singles player to a family move (Dennis Polyakov), the cupboard is far from bare in Gurnee.  Joining the team this year is a sensational freshman, Dennis Nevolo, who will attempt to become the first freshman in ten years to win the state singles title.  Keith Moran and Karol Kocemba are other high-quality returnees for Warren.  Metamora will play Warren as part of the indoor quad on March 19.

  • Springfield SHG  The Cyclones of SHG will make their debut on Metamora’s schedule in 2005.  SHG is led by two juniors, Philip Borders and Kevin Walton.  Borders was an all-state singles player in 2004.  Joining the squad in ’05 will also be a very solid freshman player, Blake Strauch.  Metamora will play SHG at home on March 29 prior to an afternoon trip to Peoria Richwoods.

  • Ottawa  Ottawa will play Metamora for the third time in school history and for the first time in Coach Willard’s tenure.  The Pirates have won sectional titles in 39 of the past 47 years, including last season’s triumph.  Coach Matt Gross is one of the state’s most respected young coaches, and his squad will undoubtedly be well-prepared to face Metamora on March 28.  The match will be at Metamora after the Redbirds make a trip to East Peoria in the morning to face the Raiders.

  • Peoria Richwoods  Metamora is the two-time defending champion of the Richwoods sectional, but it wasn’t very long ago that Richwoods was the team to beat in the Peoria area.  Richwoods won an astounding 20 sectional titles in the 21 seasons between 1978 and 1998, but they haven’t won one since.  The Knights look to be returning to their former glory under the direction of fifth-year coach Steve Knight with a terrific young group of players.  Freshman Chase Klaus will lead the way in ’05, and he will be followed closely by sophomores Dylan and Derek Gumm and junior Bill Grinstead.  Metamora has defeated Richwoods 9-0 and 8-1 the last two seasons, but this year’s match should be highly competitive.  Metamora plays at Richwoods on March 29 after a home dual against Springfield SHG.  It will be Metamora’s fourth match in two days and will severely test the Redbirds’ stamina.

  • Peoria Notre Dame  Notre Dame came within an eyelash of dethroning Metamora as sectional champions a year ago, and the Irish have made significant improvements since last year.  Senior Seth Thompson is the defending sectional singles champion, and he may not even be ND’s number one player.  Junior Pat Lawless has improved dramatically since 2004, and he will help Notre Dame have a very good one-two punch at the top of their line-up.  Metamora defeated Notre Dame 7-2 last year.  The Redbirds will play ND as part of a triangular meet on April 23 at Glen Oak Park in Peoria.

  • Normal U-High  For the first time in city history, U-High should have the best tennis team in Bloomington-Normal in 2005.  The Pioneers return all six of their players from their fine team of a year ago, led by junior standout Ben Luehrs.  Metamora defeated U-High 8-1 last year and will play the Pioneers as part of a triangular meet on April 23 at Glen Oak Park in Peoria.

  • Sterling  The Warriors of Sterling will make their debut on Metamora’s schedule in 2005.  Sterling won fourteen sectional titles between 1970 and 1990 but hasn’t won one since.  The Warriors are coached by long-time boss Jim Preston.  Metamora will host Sterling on senior night May 17.

    Schedule for 2005 Includes Big Names

    Redbirds will be Challenged by State Powers

    Peoria – The 2005 Metamora varsity tennis schedule is nearly complete, and the quality of opponents will be very high once again.  Naturally, Metamora will take the courts twice against both Dunlap and Morton, schools which are perennially contenders for conference and sectional championship plaques.  The rest of the schedule, however, includes more top teams than ever before and will severely test the quality of Metamora’s tennis team.

    Metamora will open the ’05 season with its third annual indoor event, featuring state title contender Gurnee Warren as well as top teams Danville and Moline.  The following weekend will feature the third annual Red & White Invitational, which was able to boast four of last year’s eight teams (Metamora, Morton, Rockford Guilford, and Ottawa) as sectional champions in 2004.

    The official dual season will begin on Monday, March 28 as Metamora travels to East Peoria for a 10:00 am start.  Later in the day, the Redbirds will host Ottawa at 3:00.  The next day will feature two matches as well, with a visit by Springfield Sacred Heart Griffin being followed by a 3:30 match at Peoria Richwoods.

    Metamora will again participate in the Tom Pitchford Invitational, which annually invites 32 of the state’s finest programs for a two-day tournament.  The Redbirds will also remain in the highly competitive Bloomington Purple & Gold Invitational earlier in the season.

    May 17 will see the Redbirds play Sterling for the first time in school history.  Metamora will host this match in 2005 and travel to Sterling in 2006.  Pekin has been dropped from the Metamora schedule to make room for the match with Sterling.

    All in all, the schedule Metamora will play in ’05 is very formidable.  Chances will certainly be presented often for Redbird players to prove themselves against some of the best competition the state of Illinois has to offer.

    Nate Rauh Finishes Second in the Tri-County Tournament

    MTHS Senior Winds His Way Through Morton’s Line-Up 

    Peoria – MTHS Senior Nate Rauh finished second in the boys 18 and under division of the Tri-County Tournament this summer.  The number two seed played four quality matches to reach the finals, where he ran into a dominating performance from tournament champion Jordan Nestrud of Morton.

    After defeating former teammate Patrick Mulcrone, 6-1, 6-4 in the first round, Nate’s remaining four opponents were all members of Morton’s tennis team.  In the second round, he cruised past Morton junior Brett Massey, 6-0,6-0.  His quarterfinal win was also fairly quick, as he defeated senior Eric Ogden, 6-2, 6-0. 

    In the semi-finals, Nate was matched against third seeded Brent Belser, a senior to be at Morton.  In a hard-hitting match filled with quality rallies, Nate prevailed 6-4, 6-3 to reach the finals.

    In the championship match, Rauh found himself playing more defensive tennis than he is accustomed to.  Jordan Nestrud, also a senior at Morton, moved Nate from side to side with deep, heavy topspin groundstrokes, eventually wearing down the Metamora senior, 6-2, 6-0, to hand him his only tournament loss of the summer.

    Congratulations on an excellent week!

    Stephan Rauh Wins Tri-County Tournament

    Third-Seeded Rauh Will Be Seventh Grader at MGS

    Peoria – Twelve-year old Stephan Rauh announced his presence on the Peoria area tennis scene this summer by capturing the 12 and under singles championship of the area’s most prestigious tournament, the Tri-County.  The MGS incoming seventh grade student had played only one tournament outside of Metamora in his young tennis career, but he played like a veteran throughout the week, never losing more than three games in a set.

    After cruising through the tournament’s first two rounds, the third seeded Rauh found himself across the net from the tournament’s second seed, Nick Skender.  Rauh’s patience and groundstroke consistency eventually wore down the higher seeded opponent, as Rauh won 6-3, 6-0 to advance to the championship match.

    In the finals, Stephan was paired against top seeded Peter Heidrich, another seasoned tournament player from Peoria.  Despite a significant size disadvantage, Rauh matched Heidrich stroke for stroke, playing a nearly flawless first set to win 6-2.  Heidrich turned up the pressure a bit in the second set, but Rauh was up to the challenge, as he finished off Heidrich 6-3 to win the title.

    The Tri-County championship for the Metamora resident was the first for a Redbird since Daren Gravlin’s 1995 win in the boys division.  Congratulations, Stephan!!

    16th Annual Metamora Tennis Open Held

    Rauhs Involved in Three of Four Titles

    Metamora – It was a family affair on Saturday and Sunday the 12th and 13th of June for the Rauhs at the 16th Annual Metamora Tennis Open.  Five members of the Rauh family participated in the local tennis tournament, and a Rauh was victorious in three of the four events held.

    Nate Rauh, 17, a senior-to-be at Metamora High School, successfully defended his mens open singles title, defeating recent graduate Kyle Shoff, 18, in the finals.  After fighting off a formidable challenge in the quarterfinals from Mike Axelson, Nate played nearly flawless tennis in the semi-finals to defeat Andy Ngo, 6-2, 6-0.  Shoff also rolled to the championship match, defeating 14-time finalist and 5-time champion Kelly Willard in the semi-finals, 6-2, 6-2.

    The title match consisted of fantastic rally after fantastic rally, generally culminating with a winner rather than an unforced error.  Nate’s conditioning, determination, and clean ball striking were just enough to overcome Kyle’s exceptional singles play.  Andy Ngo summed up best the difficulty in battling Nate Rauh in hot, humid conditions:  “I tried as hard as I could and thought I played great, and I won exactly four points in the entire second set.”

    The womens open champion was also a repeat from last year, as Illinois Wesleyan sophomore Michelle Donnelly defeated sibling Brittany Donnelly in the title match, 7-5, 6-1.  Both sisters looked very impressive on their way to the finals, easily dispatching the other four ladies in the draw.  The hard-hitting final was exciting to watch, but Michelle’s first set triumph combined with the oppressive heat allowed the second set to progress fairly quickly.

    The boys championship was captured (or rather dominated) by 12-year old Stephan Rauh.  Stephan dropped only a single game in his two matches, winning the title match over fellow 12-year old David Stewart.  His consistency, tenacity, and his rapidly developing overpowering ground game were too much for his opponents in the boys draw.

    The doubles draw was dominated by Nate Rauh and Kyle Shoff.  The recently named all-state doubles duo lost only two games in the tournament, rolling to the championship over Kelly Willard and Mike Axelson, 6-2, 6-0.  Willard and Axelson had earned their way into the title match with a grueling 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Chad Whittington and Andy Ngo late Saturday afternoon, both players’ fourth match of the day.

    The weekend was a success for everyone involved in the tournament.  No one passed out from the heat.  Everyone played at least two matches, and the quality of play continues to improve for all involved.  Congratulations to all of the participants.

    For Frosh/Soph Redbirds, It’s Back to Back

    Neumann, Vanne and Christ are Mid-Illini Champions

    Morton – The 2004 Metamora boys frosh/soph tennis team closed out its Mid-Illini season with the overall conference championship at the Mid-Illini tournament held May 8 at Morton.  

    The squad, led by Coach Boeker, won the Mid-Illini tournament with 18 total points, easily outdistancing second place Morton’s 11.  The Mid-Illini title was the second consecutive crown for the frosh-soph.

    Griffin Carr and Mike Neumann were the singles stars for Metamora, as Carr reached the championship match at #1 singles while Neumann captured the #2 title.  Carr lost a tight 8-6 match to Morton’s Brett Massey in the #1 final, while Neumann cruised to an 8-2 victory in the #2 finals.

    Metamora’s #1 doubles team of Chad Redenius and Matt Schrader finished fourth on the day, winning a thrilling 9-8 first round match before falling in the semi-finals and 3rd place match.  The #2 Redbird doubles squad, Dane Christ and Pierce Vanne, found the going much easier, as the pair cruised to the #2 title.

    Coach Boeker’s squad recently completed the first undefeated boys tennis season in school history, finishing with a sparkling 13-0 record.  Congratulations to the entire team on a job well done!


    Metamora Wins Second Consecutive Sectional Title

    Shoff, Rauh Claim First Doubles Crown in School History

    Peoria – The Metamora varsity tennis team successfully defended its 2003 sectional title Saturday, narrowly finishing ahead of Peoria Notre Dame to capture the 2004 sectional plaque.  Metamora’s 25 team points were just enough, as the Irish of Notre Dame piled up 24; third place Dunlap totaled 20.

    Senior Kyle Shoff and junior Nate Rauh won the school’s first ever sectional doubles title via a thrilling 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Dunlap’s defending sectional title team, Joe Withers and Jeff Bucher.  After falling behind quickly 5-0 in the first set, the Redbird duo regrouped.  Shoff and Rauh jumped to a similar 5-0 lead in the second set on their way to an easy 6-1 win.  In the decisive third set, Metamora broke Dunlap’s serve at 2-2 and held on for the 6-4 win.  Shoff served the final game, holding at love for the sectional championship.

    Junior Mike Axelson and sophomore Nick Vaughn played brilliantly Saturday as well.  In the semi-finals, the pair presented a formidable challenge to Withers and Bucher.  The 6-3, 6-1 score is deceptive in relation to how close the match actually seemed.  The third place match saw Vaughn and Axelson defeat Thiago Wong and Paul O’Connor of Dunlap for the third time this season, 6-3, 6-4.  Mike Axelson served the final game, also holding at love, to clinch the sectional team championship for the Redbirds.

    In the singles draw, top seed John Armstrong fought his way to the finals, defeating Eric Brown of Dunlap and Josh Moten of Notre Dame in the quarterfinals and semi-finals, respectively.  The match against Moten was very tense, as Armstrong had to win to give Metamora any hope of the team title.  In the finals, Notre Dame’s Seth Thompson narrowly defeated the Metamora junior, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

    Metamora’s other singles entrant, sophomore Griffin Carr, fought hard but fell against Dunlap’s Ryan McMickle, 6-2, 6-4.  McMickle fell in the next round in three sets to fifth-seeded Patrick Howard of Peoria Central.

    The Redbirds advanced five players to the state tournament for the second consecutive year.  As a whole, the Mid-Illini Conference advanced 16 players, easily eclipsing the old record of 12.

    Sectional titles do not come easily, and, for most schools, do not come frequently.  Metamora’s second consecutive triumph represents another fantastic achievement for the boys tennis program.  Congratulations!!!

    Metamora Wins Second Consecutive Mid-Illini All Sports Trophy

    Metamora –  The 2003-2004 school year is rapidly drawing to a close, and the Metamora sports teams have finished another successful year.  The Mid-Illini Conference all-sports trophy will remain at MTHS for another year, as the 16 varsity sports at Metamora have clinched the trophy regardless of how the softball and baseball campaigns finish.

    Metamora’s record point total set in 2002-2003 will not be surpassed, as the Redbirds won conference titles in an amazing 9 out of 16 varsity sports last year (boys football, boys tennis, boys cross country, boys track, girls cross country, girls track, girls basketball, volleyball, and softball).

    However, this year’s edition of Metamora athletics also has achieved greatness in several areas.  Metamora will finish the year with conference crowns in 5 sports (boys cross country, girls cross country, girls basketball, girls track, and softball) as well as second place  in 6 other sports.  That leaves only 5 out of 16 sports in which Metamora did not finish in the top two in the league this year.

    Girls sports truly shined for MTHS in 2003-2004.  Metamora set school records for wins in volleyball (33-4), basketball (25-2), and softball (currently 28-3 and counting), as well as finishing 5th at the state girls cross country meet, an all-time best for any Peoria area AA school.  The girls track team was also considered possibly the finest in the 22-year history of the Mid-Illini Conference.  Two of Metamora’s all-time great female athletes, Tara Toepke and Bethany McCoy, led the charges for these five sports.

    Congratulations to all Metamora athletes on a tremendous school year.

    Redbirds Open 2004 Season

    Indoor Quad Against State Powers Yields Impressive Results

    Peoria – The 2004 season kicked off on Saturday, as Metamora hosted its second annual indoor invitational.  The ’04 field was very strong, as Gurnee Warren joined returnees Moline and Danville in battling the Redbirds.

    Metamora began the day in style, sweeping all three singles matches from Moline while dropping a total of only nine games.  Senior Kyle Shoff defeated a much improved John Biegert at #1 singles, 6-1, 6-2.  Junior Nate Rauh easily won by a score of 6-1, 6-1, and junior John Armstrong finished off his opponent, 6-1, 6-3.  The Redbirds almost scored an impressive win at #1 doubles, falling just short against Moline’s #1 doubles duo, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

    Metamora then battled state title contender Gurnee Warren in the second match of the day.  Warren boasts two outstanding sophomore singles players, Dennis Polyakov and Keith Moran, and Shoff and Rauh were unable to overcome their superior play.  Polyakov finished in the state’s top 24 last year as a freshman, and, although Shoff fought valiantly, he was unable to defeat the diminutive sophomore, falling 6-2, 7-5.  John Armstrong swept through the first set of his match 6-1, but Warren’s Mike Park regrouped to post a three-set victory.  Metamora’s #1 doubles team of Nick Vaughn and Mike Axelson played another brilliant match, twice coming within 2 points of victory.  In the end, however, Warren’s Jeff Nevolo and Karol Kocemba outlasted Metamora’s pair, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(5).

    The final match of the day pitted Metamora against Danville.  The Vikings finished 3rd in last year’s state tournament and returned 3 of their top 6 players for 2004.  Several Redbirds were suffering from fatigue after long matches with Moline and Warren, but Metamora was able to hold off Danville for the team victory, 3-2.  Kyle Shoff, drained from two excellent matches earlier in the day, played just well enough to win against a much improved Brian LeCleir, 6-2, 6-7, 10-8.  Nate Rauh’s and John Armstrong’s performances were similar to Shoff’s; both played below their high standards but well enough to get the job done.  Vaughn and Axelson were defeated easily as both were suffering from the previous two matches, each of which took nearly 3 hours to complete.  The #2 doubles duo of Pat Mulcrone and Griffin Carr earned their first set of the day but fell in three sets.

    All in all, the day was an outstanding success.  Metamora was able to defeat Moline and Danville and play competitively with Warren, all three of which have outstanding tennis programs year in and year out.  Hopefully, this early season tournament will serve as a motivator for the rest of the season.  The Redbirds will hit the courts again this Saturday for the Third Annual Red & White Invitational.

    Mid-Illini Conference Boys Tennis 2004 Predictions

    Metamora – The 2004 Mid-Illini Conference boys tennis season will again feature outstanding individual and team play at the top of the league.  Morton and Dunlap appear to have very talented groups of individuals assembled on their respective squads.  Metamora will have to replace four superb graduates if it hopes to repeat as league and sectional champion.  A preview of each squad follows.  (Metamora has been unranked)

    Predicted Mid-Illini Finish Last Year
    1.  MORTON     (Pete Martin – 8th year) 12-1 overall    (9-1 in Mid-Illini for second place)

    Long GoneAndrew Martin (3-time all-conference, 2002 Journal Star Player of the Year, 3-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles champion (2002), Mid-Illini doubles champion (2002), Mid-Illini singles runner-up (2001, 2003), Ryan Bruso (state qualifier), Bryan Horvath.Returning for More:  Jordan Nestrud (all-conference, state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles runner-up (#2 – 2003)), Brent Belser (state qualifier, Mid-Illini doubles runner-up (#2 – 2003)), Jeff Erwin (Mid-Illini  doubles runner-up (2003)), Eric Ogden, Josh Butler, Brett Massey, Ty Reiman, Brock Westbrook.

    Projected Top Players:  Jordan Nestrud and Brent Belser, two juniors, will likely be Morton’s top two players next spring.  Following closely behind will be Jeff Erwin (sr), Eric Ogden (jr), Ty Reiman (soph), Josh Butler (jr), and Brett Massey (soph).  The Potters return their top doubles team from a year ago, Nestrud and Belser, but look for Morton to present some different combinations in doubles than they did in 2003.

    Sectional Outlook:  If Morton continues to be placed in the Bloomington sectional, look for the Potters to claim the school’s first sectional plaque in over 3 decades.  Jordan Nestrud should qualify for the state tournament in singles, and the Potters could take both doubles teams to suburban Chicago as well.

    Interesting Facts  

    • In the last three seasons, Dunlap has two Mid-Illini crowns and Metamora one.  However, the best conference record during that time has belonged to Morton (26-4); Metamora is next at 24-6; Dunlap checks in at 22-8.
    • Morton’s top two players will have to improve their records against Metamora in 2004.  Jordan Nestrud has an all-time mark of 1-4 (0-3 singles, 1-1 doubles) against Redbird players in varsity matches; Brent Belser’s cumulative record against Metamora stands at 1-9 (1-3 singles, 0-6 doubles).
    • The Potters have been selected to participate in the Tom Pitchford Invitational next spring, the third Mid-Illini school to ever receive that honor.  Morton and Metamora will represent the Peoria area in the 32-team tournament commonly referred to as mini-state.
    2.  DUNLAP     (Mario Palmieri – 1st year) 9-5 overall    (6-4 in Mid-Illini for third place)

    Long GoneChester Dien (all-conference, 2-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles champion (#4 – 2002), Mid-Illini doubles champion (#2 – 2002)), Joel Macholan.Returning for More:  Joey Withers (all-conference, sectional doubles champion (2003), state qualifier), Jeff Bucher (sectional doubles champion (2003), 2-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles champion (#5 – 2002)), Thiago Wong, Chris Stuart.

    Projected Top Players:  Juniors Joey Withers and Jeff Bucher will try to build on their sectional doubles championship from 2003 by leading the Eagles in ’04.  Senior Chris Stuart and junior Thiago Wong give Dunlap a rock solid top four players that should be able to compete with anyone.  If first-year coach Mario Palmieri can assemble two more varsity-caliber players, Dunlap should be a major contender for conference and sectional championships in 2004.

    Sectional Outlook:  Assuming Dunlap is placed in the Peoria sectional, the Eagles should be the overwhelming favorite to capture the school’s fourth sectional plaque in the last six years and advance the majority of its team to the state tournament.  The doubles duo of Withers and Bucher should defend their doubles crown without breaking a sweat.

    Interesting Facts  

    • Mario Palmieri will be Dunlap’s third coach in school history.  Previous bosses Carla Ivers (10 years) and Courtney Barr (3 years) both had remarkable success at the smallest tennis-playing school in the Mid-Illini Conference.
    • Last year marked the first time in Dunlap’s 5-year Mid-Illini membership that the Eagles lost a conference dual match by a score of more than 5-4.  Losses of 8-1 and 7-2 to Metamora and 7-2 both times to Morton were the Eagles’ worst defeats so far.
    • Dunlap’s 5-1 loss to Galesburg last season marked the only time in the last 97 matches that Dunlap, Metamora, or Morton has lost a match not involving each other. 
    3.  WASHINGTON     (Dave Krostal – 4th year) 7-8 overall    (3-7 in Mid-Illini for fourth place)

    Long GoneJohn Koth, Bill Malott, Cody Doremus, Austin Scott.Returning for More:  Sam Lott, Joe Lehman, John LaHood.

    Projected Top Players:  Senior Sam Lott will lead the Panthers in ’04.  He showed promise last season, winning sets against both Joey Withers and Jordan Nestrud.  Sophomore Joe Lehman and junior John LaHood will need to play big near the top of the line-up if Washington is to experience team success.  The bottom half of the line-up will be critical if Coach Krostal wants to move up in the Mid-Illini standings.

    Sectional Outlook:  Washington was moved to the Bloomington sectional last spring.  While the Panthers will not likely challenge for the team title in Bloomington or Peoria, Sam Lott has the potential to be a surprise state qualifier in either sectional.


    4.  LIMESTONE     (Chuck Sanders – 10th year) 5-9 overall    (2-8 in Mid-Illini for fifth place)

    Long GoneBrian Jordan, Roland Tung.Returning for More:  Michael Lucas, Kyle Holmes, Adam Niedermeier, Gil Harmon.

    Projected Top Players:  Senior Michael Lucas will be Limestone’s top gun in 2004, as he returns for his fourth season of varsity play.  Junior Kyle Holmes and seniors Adam Niedermeier and Gil Harmon should provide balance in the middle of the Rocket line-up.

    Sectional Outlook:  Michael Lucas will shoot to be Limestone’s second singles state qualifier in the last three years.  His chances of getting through the Peoria sectional appear to be pretty good.


    5.  EAST PEORIA     (Shane Smith – 3rd year) 2-12 overall    (1-9 in Mid-Illini for sixth place)

    Long GoneDan Bourscheidt, Wes Harrison, Logan Harmon, Nate Warren, Aaron Wood.Returning for More:  Don Mach, Jeff Hemsley, Robert Wallace.

    Projected Top Players:  East Peoria enters the 2004 season with no players returning with significant experience.  The Red Raiders will have a large hill to climb to be competitive in the Mid-Illini Conference.

    Sectional Outlook:  It looks as if the sectional will end on Friday afternoon for East Peoria in ’04.


      METAMORA     (Kelly Willard – 7th year) 13-1 overall    (9-1 in Mid-Illini for first place)

    Long GoneTy Wyffels (2-time all-conference, 3-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini singles champion (2003), Mid-Illini doubles champion (#3 – 2002), 2-time sectional singles champion (2002, 2003)), Joe Harris (all-conference, 2-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini doubles champion (2003), honorable mention all-state (2002)), Andy Ngo (Mid-Illini doubles champion (#2 – 2003), state qualifier), Andrew Laird (Mid-Illini doubles champion (#2 – 2003, #3 – 2002)), state qualifier).Returning for More:  Kyle Shoff (2-time all-conference, 3-time state qualifier, Mid-Illini doubles champion (2003), Mid-Illini singles runner-up (#4 – 2002), honorable mention all-state (2002)), Nate Rauh (all-conference, Mid-Illini singles champion (#2 – 2003)), John Armstrong, Pat Mulcrone, Mike Axelson, Nate Gray, Ben Winkler.

    Projected Top Players:  Senior Kyle Shoff and junior Nate Rauh look to be Metamora’s top two players in ’04, as the Redbirds will try to replace an outstanding senior group.  Shoff brings a 46-2 career singles record into his senior year.  The remaining returnees have little varsity experience and will be joined by sophomore Nick Vaughn in battling for playing time as well as three or four other juniors and sophomores.

    Sectional Outlook:  Metamora is the defending Peoria sectional champion.  It looks as if Dunlap and Richwoods will be the primary competition in the sectional in 2004, with Dunlap holding a decided edge.  The Redbirds hope to continue a string of 7 consecutive years with state qualifiers.

    Interesting Facts  

    • Kyle Shoff has never lost a high school singles match to anyone currently in high school.  He was the only player at any singles position to go 10-0 in Mid-Illini play last year.
    • Metamora’s #3 singles position has been primarily held by a freshman or sophomore in each of Coach Willard’s first six seasons (Andy Gravlin (’98,’99), Joe Harris (’00,’01), Kyle Shoff (’02), Nate Rauh (’03)).
    • Metamora has handed Morton its only two home conference losses since 1994 (5-4 win in 2002 and 7-2 win in 2003), but the Redbirds have yet to defeat the Potters on Metamora’s tennis courts constructed in 2000.