5 in a row!

Tom Batters
Will Koehrsen

During the No. 1 singles final match at the Mid-Illini Conference tournament May 16, Metamora freshman Will Koehrsen sprinted along the baseline and whipped a forehand shot that landed about an inch inside the line for a winning point.

Metamora coach Kelly Willard turned to WMBD sports anchor Kurt Pegler, who was filming the match, and said, “That should be all the footage you need, huh?”

Pegler, however, stuck around for the rest of the match between Koehrsen and Morton freshman Grant Reiman, and who could blame him?

Koehrsen beat Reiman 6-4, 6-2 and led the Redbirds to their fifth straight M-I title.

A freshman playing for a conference title might normally be dubbed a “prospect,” or a “future contender,” but Koehrsen proved that his future is now.

He unleashed a full arsenal of forehands, backhands, drop shots and blistering serves on his way to the title.

But, Willard said, the more impressive aspect of Koehrsen’s game is his mental toughness.

“Will has what you can’t teach. He has that killer instinct and competitive drive, much like his sister (three-time Sectional champ Taylor Koehrsen) had,” he said. “He knows how to close out a match, even against more experienced players.”

Koehrsen beat Richwoods sophomore Chandler Clayton Saturday to win the singles Sectional title (Clayton retired in the second set due to an injury) and lead the Redbirds to their fifth straight Sectional team championship.

The victory avenged an earlier loss to Clayton.

“He’s a great player. We have a good rivalry (they’ve been playing against each other since Koehrsen was nine years old),” Koehrsen said. “I’m excited about it, but I’m more excited about our team winning the title.”

Five straight

It was the fifth straight Sectional team championship for Metamora, but this one was done with six players who never even competed in a Sectional before.

Junior Quinn Vaughn and freshman Mitchell Nguyen won the doubles title. Freshman Tyler Ngo and sophomore Christoph Goettler finished second to also qualify for the state tournament.

Senior Petr Vesely finished fourth in singles and also qualified for the state tournament.

“Did I expect to come out here and score 34 points? No. (Richwoods was second with 19 points). But, this team has continued to surprise me,” Willard said. “When this year started, I really didn’t know if we would have a Sectional-winning type of team, but these players worked hard all year, and they earned this.”

Dynamite doubles

Nguyen was relatively new to doubles at the start of the season, so, when he was paired with Vaughn on the No. 1 doubles team, there was a slight learning curve.

“I had to nurture the freshman a little,” Vaughn said, smiling. “But, that kid has loads of talent. He really took off and got so much better as the year went on.”

Willard said Vaughn, with his powerful serve and aggressive net play, and Nguyen, who is a “ground stroke machine,” compliment each other very well.

The other doubles team (Ngo and Goettler) also gelled late in the season, Willard said.

“Those two were fiery today. They did not want to lose,” he said. “Tyler wasn’t even in the doubles lineup at the beginning of the season, but he worked and worked, and got much better. Christoph is one of our unsung heroes. He’s played great all year.”

Shining moment

Vesely, a senior foreign exchange student fro the Czech Republic, won the No. 2 singles title at the Mid-Illini Tournament with tough victories over Erik Smith of Pekin and Trent Reiman of Morton.

“Petr had his shining moment at the Mid-Illini Tournament,” Willard said. “It’s been a real pleasure having him on our team this year.”

Off to State

All six Metamora players will compete at the state tournament, which is Thursday through Saturday in Arlington Heights.