Potters netters turn page

Bryan Veginski

The Mid-Illini is a conference in transition in boys tennis in 2015.

Exhibit A is Morton.

The Potters lost two iconic downstate Illinois players and their 10-year head coach after winning their 10th sectional championship in the last 11 seasons.

But there is enough familiarity that Morton still will be a factor on the area scene despite playing all of their competitions away from home.

“The guys are working hard,” MHS head coach Pete Martin said Friday. “They’ve been awesome as far as welcoming me.”

Martin takes over head-coaching duties from Joal Stanfield, a former player of his who died in August at age 35.

At the end of this season, Martin will close out a highly-successful coaching career. After his first stint directing the Morton boys program, he guided the Potters girls.

Senior Chandler Stimpert returns for a fourth varsity season. He is a three-time all-league selection, including a first-team appearance in 2014.

“He’s the rock of our line-up,” It’s nice to have Chandler,” said Martin. “He worked hard in the offseason.”

A two-time state qualifier, Stimpert will make the jump to the No. 1 singles slot. He was the Pekin Sectional singles champion as a junior.

Stimpert also likely will team with senior Josh Phillips in the doubles format.

Behind Stimpert in the singles order is junior Troy Hohulin, who achieved second-team all-M-I honors last year.

Hohulin could team up with senior Mason Plotner in doubles.

Phillips and Plotner were the probable Nos. 3 and 4 singles players, respectively.

Plotner was paired with Stimpert last year at the conference tournament and they took second place in the No. 2 doubles bracket.

Sophomores Adam Dryden and Andrew Farmer were set to get the first crack at the fifth and sixth singles positions. They also were a possible doubles tandem.

Senior Walker Smith, juniors Eric Schick and Brycen Fischer, sophomore Cameron Hart and freshmen Andrew Phillips and  Sam Taluc also are on the Morton 12-player roster.

The Potters face Limestone Thursday to open conference play after going 1-3 March 21 at the Troy Triad Invitational.

Twins Grant and Trent Reiman graduated after earning four state final berths and four first-team all-league awards apiece.

Among their 20 career victories at state were seven in 2014, which gave them a fifth-place doubles finish, the best ever for a M-I entrant.

Morton was the league runner-up a year ago with 13 points.

After sharing second place with Limestone and Dunlap with a 4-2 dual mark, the boys broke out of the pack with the best performance of the trio at the conference tournament.

The Potters are not the only team with personnel losses. Ten of the 16 first- or second-team all-M-I choices departed, making it the hardest hit of the spring sports.

Metamora, which has won seven of the last eight titles, saw four-time first-team all-league picks Will Koehrsen and Mitchell Nguyen exit.

Limestone, with its best campaign in more than a decade, had its three best performers exhaust their eligibility.

Martin views Dunlap as the odds-on favorite, with Metamora and Pekin also lining up for spots among the leaders.

“My goal is to finish in the top four,” Martin said. “That would be really good for this year.”

The addition of an April 23 non-conference dual at Lincoln is the main addition to the schedule.

Morton will make the 20-minute one-way bus trip to Eureka College to practice now that the athletics facilities at the high school are being renovated.

Inexperience may play a factor this season, but Martin said he expects no problems from the challenges athletes face from not having a home court.

“Our goal is to be a whole lot better at the end of the year than we are now,” Martin said.

And for non-seniors, their patience will be rewarded with the chance in 2016 to play at a top-notch eight-court setup.