SPORTS COMMENTARY

Tom Batters
Metamora Township High School boys tennis coach Kelly Willard has led the Redbirds to four straight Sectional titles.

Metamora football is the main event around here, no question about it.

When a program succeeds the way Coach Pat Ryan and his predecessors have succeeded decade after decade, then it deserves the media coverage its throngs of fans expect.

I look forward to covering the Redbirds football team in its quest for a second straight state title and third in the last four seasons.

However, I need to fill you in on a little secret:

Metamora is not just a football school.

Two guys by the names of Kelly Willard and Brad Boeker have turned Metamora High School into a tennis “powerhouse.”

Those two names do not have the instant recognition that the name Pat Ryan carries, but Willard and Boeker have matched Ryan’s elite level of success in recent years.

They do not have a state title to show for it, but that’s not a fair comparison (more on that in a minute).

Willard, the varsity boys tennis coach, led the Redbirds to their fourth straight Sectional title in the spring.

Winning a title is one thing. Totally obliterating every single team and player in the field is another.

Willard’s team dominated the Mid-Illini Conference Tournament and the Richwoods Sectional last May.

Senior Stephan Rauh won the singles sectional title. He advanced to the finals without dropping a single game. He defeated Pekin’s Derek Rineberg in the semi-finals, 6-0, 6-0. In the finals, Rauh swept past teammate Kevin Wang, 6-0, 6-2.  

Wang, a freshman, reached the final with a 6-3, 7-5 win over the Sectional’s number No. 2 player, Notre Dame senior Scott Caughey.

Seniors David Stewart and Nate Wilson captured the doubles title, winning 6-2, 6-1. Seniors Ryan Donnelly and Greg Coffman finished fourth.  

For Stewart, it was his third straight Sectional doubles title. It was Metamora’s fifth consecutive Sectional doubles title.

In the team race, Metamora earned 34 points. Pekin was a distant second with 18.  

All six Redbird players advance to the state tournament.

A week earlier, The Redbirds became the first Mid-Illini team to sweep all four divisions of the conference tournament since 2003.

In the regular season, Metamora defeated every conference opponent 9-0.

I could go on and on.

Boeker, the varsity girls tennis coach, led the Redbirds to their third straight Sectional title last fall.

Metamora dethroned perennial power Richwoods on the Knights’ home court.

Taylor Koehrsen defeated Richwoods senior Abby Klaus for the No. 1 singles Sectional title. Some “experts” thought Klaus was the best player in the area at that time.

Sophomore Megan Nguyen (third in singles at the Sectional), and seniors Marissa Ausman and Rachel Ngo (Sectional doubles champions) also advanced to the state tournament.

In 2008, Koehrsen defeated Ngo to win the Sectional championship. The year before, as a freshman, Koehrsen advanced to the state tournament in doubles with her partner, Katie Kilduski.

Unlike most other sports, tennis is not divided into classes at the state tournament.

The smallest schools must duke it out with the mega Chicago schools. The result is often a quick exit for the downstate teams.

That is why it is unfair to judge Willard and Boeker by the number of state titles on their resumes.

I am not implying that the football or softball teams’ state titles were “watered down” because of the class system.

I am only suggesting that the Metamora tennis teams might have a title or two if they did not have to face the Chicago Goliaths every year.

The boys team finished in the top 10 at the state tournament in May. It was the best finish in school history.

Rauh was the only non-Chicago player to finish in the top 16 in singles. Stewart and Wilson placed in the top 16 in doubles after a loss to the No. 2 doubles team in the state.

At State last October, Koehrsen won her first match, 6-0, 6-0, before losing to Emily Reuland of Aurora Rosary. Reuland went on to reach the championship bracket.

Ausman and Ngo won two matches before losing a tough three-set match in the third round.

This fall, Koehrsen and Nguyen are poised to become the two top players in the area. More Sectional trophies and a another trip to the state tournament are likely.

So, if you are interested in seeing one of the top athletic programs in the state, grab a lawn chair and come check out some of the girls matches this fall.

If enough people show up, maybe they can put up a sign along Route 116 that reads: You are now entering Metamora Tennis Country.