Dallastown coach Mark Koons
Dallastown coach Mark Koons

From 2002 to 2007, Dallastown was the gold standard for boys' tennis in the YAIAA. The Wildcats won the Division I title for six straight seasons, including a state championship in 2004.

Coach Mark Koons shared his thoughts on the run and what made it special in a question-and-answer session:

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When you won the first YAIAA title, did you have any thoughts the program could continue on the run it did? We did. When we won that first one, we had some kids on the middle school that were better than on the high school team, so we had an idea of what was coming up.

How were you able to gauge that talent coming up? Did those younger guys play against the high schoolers? We have open court sessions and camps over the summer.

Dallastown’s Billy Heird won the YAIAA Class AAA crown in 2005 and 2006.
Dallastown's Billy Heird won the YAIAA Class AAA crown in 2005 and 2006. (Daily Record/Sunday News - file)
We even had some camps with the elementary kids to at least get them involved.

You look forward to seeing how each individual player progresses and matures. We've had a lot of good players at Dallastown, but we never had a run where we had so many good players at once. When we won states, we had guys who were (Nos.) 4 and 5 that would have been (Nos.) 1 and 2 other years.

What were some of your favorite matches from that time? Two definite ones. The first was when we got second at states. We kind of had a real competitive run in districts. We beat Manheim Township, and we had never really knew what to expect. We had a 2-2 match against Altoona in '03. Andrew Holmes was the last player and came back to put us in state finals.

The next one was in '04 when we won it. We were expected to win it, so that relieved the pressure.

The next one was '06. Matt Waggenspack pulled out a huge third-set tiebreaker in the state quarters. That was a huge pressure for high school tennis.

In your opinion, what stands out from the overall run? What stands out is the quality of people we had on the team. We had top-notch students; some lawyers out of that crew and some very successful people.

Dallastown’s Phil Bayliss returns a volley during a match against York Suburban’s Matt Whittaker in 2004.
Dallastown's Phil Bayliss returns a volley during a match against York Suburban's Matt Whittaker in 2004. (Daily Record/Sunday News - file)
What also stands out is their ability to sacrifice for what was best for the team. I think the reason we had that success was their willingness to work in the offseason. The tennis season itself is very short, and those guys were willing to put in the time in the offseason. That's why they were so successful.

We had two phenomenal players in Andrew Holmes and Billy Heird. When you have kids that lead by example everything else falls into place.

Which season was the toughest and why? I'd say that '04 season. We had such strong chemistry in '03, and two players from '02 moved away. We had two new players move in, and there was a lot of pressure. I think a lot of people felt that pressure because the whole state expected us to win it. There was a lot of relief when we won it.

Do you think that run changed you as a coach in any way? I'm not one to try to recreate the wheel. Everything I've learned from other coaches even in other sports like Jay Rexroth in basketball. I don't think there's ever a year where I do anything the same way. I try to change it up for the kids so it's not boring for them. I'm always trying to try new things.

One of the biggest parts of my job is to try to get these kids motivated to train in the offseason.

Does it help to get them going in the offseason when you have guys that can play at a high level among themselves? It kind of does. They know if they're not up to the task there's other guys who want to take their spot on the team. That's one of the thing that motivates our kids.

Do you think the kind of team success from that six-year run can be duplicated? I think it's hard for a team in this area to do it just because we're at such a disadvantage with depth vs. the schools in District 1 and District 7. Those schools are just so much bigger, and Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are sort of tennis meccas compared to York County. It was just a perfect storm for us with the guys who came up at once; within two graduating classes of each other. I can't say it will never be done again, but it will be hard.

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Claim to fame

The Wildcats ruled the top of Division I from 2002 to 2007, including a state championship in 2004.
Dallastown’s Joe Yeckley returns a shot from Central York’s Keith McCaffrey in their YAIAA Class AAA Championship game in 2000. McCaffrey went
Dallastown's Joe Yeckley returns a shot from Central York's Keith McCaffrey in their YAIAA Class AAA Championship game in 2000. McCaffrey went on to win the match 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. (Daily Record/Sunday News - file)
 Dallastown also claimed the league championship from 1996 to 1999.

Records

The 1999 team won the YAIAA's first district team title with a 4-0 win over Elizabethtown in Class AAA. In 2004, Dallastown captured the league's first state title with a 3-1 victory over Upper St. Clair.

All-stars

Player of the year: Gavin Smith (2007), Billy Heird (2006, 2005), Andrew Holmes (2003, 2002), Jim Anderson (1996)

Singles first team: Smith (2006, 2005), Phil Bayliss (2003, 2002), Heird (2003), Kei Muta (2003), Brian Bowser (1999, 1998, 1997), Josh Kauffman (1999), Steve Seitz (1998, 1997), Joe Yeckley (1999, 1998), Jim Anderson (1997)

Doubles first team: Smith/Connor Slates (2007, 2006), Heird/Matt Waggenspack (2006, 2005), Bayliss/ Heird (2003), Holmes/Muta (2003), Holmes/Bayliss (2002), Seitz/Bowser (1998), Anderson/Seitz (1997)

Honorable mention: Jimmy Plessinger (1999), Alex Swartz (1997), Josh White (1997)

Coach of the year: Mark Koons (2007, 2006, 2005, 2003, 2002, 1998, 1997, 1996)

Notables

In 1996, Jim Anderson won the YAIAA championship, defeating Brian Nachtigall of West York, 6-4, 6-1, for Dallastown's first singles crown since 1986. Anderson, off to a shaky start, was one point away from falling behind, 5-2, in the first set, when Nachtigall double-faulted twice to bring the game back to deuce. Anderson took advantage, fending off several more game points and clinching the game with a perfect lob. The junior then brought his game under control and won seven straight games to win the first set and go up 3-0 in the second before losing a game. Anderson then won the last three games to take the title.

Wildcat players dominated the YAIAA championships in this decade, winning the Class AAA crown from 2001 to 2008 (Andrew Holmes, 2001-02; Phil Bayliss (2003-04); Billy Heird (2005-06); Gavin Smith (2007-08)

Dallastown didn't lose a league match from 1995 until March 2000, when cross-town rival Red Lion posted a 5-2 victory for its first win against the Wildcats in six seasons.

Phil Bayliss gave up his senior season of high school tennis to play higher-quality opponents in United States Tennis Association junior tournaments.

From the archives

"Wildcats capture state tennis title"
Published May 23, 2004

Dallastown tennis coach Mark Koons said the moment carried both excitement and relief.

His team beat Upper St. Clair 3-1 to take the PIAA Class AAA team tennis title Saturday at the West Branch Tennis Club in South Williamsport, realizing a year-long goal.

"We were just kind of biding our time all season waiting for this day," Koons said. "It probably hasn't left our mind since last year. ( Dallastown finished second in the tournament in 2003.) It feels great, but it's also kind of a relief in a way. It was our goal all year."

Dallastown's District 3 champion singles player Phil Bayliss brought home the third and deciding point when he defeated Upper St. Clair's Todd Becker, 6-1, 6-4, at No. 2 singles.

But the highlight of the match, according to Koons, might have been the win at No. 1 doubles where Ryan Fickes and Markus Zellinger beat Upper St. Clair's Jeff Richel and Alex Su, 6-1, 6-2.

"They just played out of their minds," the coach said.

"Wildcats in driver's seat"
Published April 17, 2002

Andrew Holmes was hanging around the Dallastown Area High School tennis courts about two weeks ago, content with the victory he had secured that cold, blustery spring afternoon. Yet, there was something else on his mind: a looming matchup with York Suburban.

"We know Suburban is a good team," Holmes said at the time. "It's definitely a goal for us to win the county championship. We're really working toward improving to the point where we can compete with them. But there's some good teams out there, so we have to be prepared for every match."

Eleven days and 50 degrees later, Holmes and his Dallastown teammates had their chance at taking down the Trojans. The winner would be on the fast track for the YAIAA Division I championship.

When the teams battled Tuesday, the Wildcats were ready for the occasion. Dallastown came out of the four-hour marathon match with a 5-2 victory.

It looked as if Dallastown (12-0, 4-0 Division I) might clinch the win by the time singles competition had concluded. Victories by York Suburban's Ethan Weinstein and Matt Smith at second and third singles, however, kept the outcome in doubt until the completion of the two doubles matches.

A 6-4, 6-1 doubles win by Holmes and freshman Phil Bayliss over Suburban's Smith and Ben Sherman proved to be the deciding battle. Dallastown's No. 2 doubles team of Rob Haas and Tom Burkholder topped Suburban's Weinstein and Jason Brien, 6-1, 6-3.

Wildcats coach Mark Koons said his team had to weather a rocky start to the match, as nearly all of Dallastown's singles players were down after the first few games.

"The first 30, 40 minutes of the match did not look good for us," said Koons. "I don't know if it was the heat, or our guys were a little tense."

"Wildcats make history with title"
Published May 21, 1999

After the Dallastown boys tennis team's victory over Red Lion in mid-April, coach Mark Koons and his team knew what their goal was - to get back to the District 3 team championship. This time, to win it.

That goal was unspoken among the team, but everybody had it in the back of their heads through the rest of the season.

"We really didn't talk about it," Koons said. "If somebody said something about districts, somebody would shoot them a look. We knew not to talk about it."

The Wildcats' mum attitude came because they didn't want to jinx themselves. Dallastown went to districts the past three years, advancing to the finals in 1996 and 1997. Each time, the Wildcats fell short.

"I think a part of why we didn't talk about it was because in '96 we might have looked ahead a little too much," Koons said.

Apparently, the approach worked Wednesday. The Wildcats won the District 3 Class AAA team tennis title with a 4-0 win over Elizabethtown at Hempfield. With the win, the Wildcats became the first YAIAA team to win a district team title.

The win marked the pinnacle of a historically successful program at Dallastown.

"Dallastown has always had a strong program in the county," Koons said. "We went through some . . . 'down years' when we came in second or third place. But since then we've had a resurgence in the mid-'90s. Winning districts now is very gratifying. This is a long time coming for us and all the players here before."

- Matt Goul and Lyzz Jones