PJStar Articles 99

1999 Peoria Journal Star Articles

The Journal Star – Peoria, IL

May 7, 1999

Metamora Coach Takes Doubles Potential Into Account

Back-and-Forth Days Prove Worthwhile for Soon-to-be ISU Alum


MORTON — It’s been an interesting spring for Kelly Willard.

The Metamora boys tennis coach has spent it as a student teacher — at Morton, the only team that’s beaten the Redbirds in Mid-Illini Conference play in the four seasons prior to this one.

On Saturday, Metamora finished third in the eight-team Morton Invitational behind co-champions Woodruff and, of course, Morton.

Willard has reminders of his tennis connections close at hand during his Morton school day.  One of the Morton players, Matt Kopp, is in one of Willard’s classes.

But the second-year coach will end his split shift next year, when he is scheduled to teach mathematics and accounting full time at Metamora.

The accounting classes are a natural.  Willard was a certified public accountant for five years after he graduated in 1992 from the University of Illinois.

The Metamora graduate is set next week to get his second bachelor’s degree, this one from Illinois State.  But instead of being at the graduation ceremony, he’ll be at Illinois Central College for the Mid-Illini tournament.

The 10-player team Willard will take to East Peoria consists of six seniors and one junior, so he realizes this is a year to perform.  He’s looking at his doubles teams to accomplish that.

“We have lined up competitively with both Dunlap and Morton in doubles, and for us that’s pretty good,” said Willard, whose 6-4 team lost twice to each of those schools.  “We’re going to take our four best players and send them in doubles to the sectional in the hopes of sending them to state.”

Senior Blake Stewart and sophomore Andy Gravlin qualified for state last year.  Stewart also finished third in singles at the last Mid-Illini tournament.

Seniors Chris Marchand and Jason Vanecko often rotate in position with Stewart and Gravlin.  Marchand and Vanecko competed in singles Saturday.  Vanecko finished fourth in singles last year at the M-I tourney.

Also playing doubles for Metamora are seniors Steve Peterson and John Kirschbaum, who lost to Joe Espinosa and Brett Miller of Woodruff, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) in the No. 2 doubles title match Saturday.

“Like most other years, we knew that playing Morton was going to be the deciding factor as to whether we had a fantastic year or be as expected,” Willard said.

“I’ve been real happy with our doubles teams.  But our main goal is to get several people to state, and I still think that’s very realistic.”

But besides losing six seniors after this year, Metamora also is losing its home tennis courts.  They’re going to be paved over for a parking lot.

Six new courts are scheduled to be built later this year at the school.  In the meantime, the nearest available courts are at ICC.

“We won’t have a place to practice this summer (at home),” Willard said.

But then again, he’s used to shuttling around.