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Central aims for first state boys tennis title in 21 years

Grand Forks Central's Logan Sandberg hits a shot against Red River duirng a doubles match earlier this season. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

It took an upset in 1997.

Grand Forks Central, having lost to rival Grand Forks Red River in the regular season and the East Region tournament, pulled off a 3-2 surprise against the Roughriders to win the North Dakota boys tennis team tournament in Minot.

That is the last time the Knights have won the title.

Since then, they've watched Red River win 18 of the past 20 team titles. Fargo South won the other two (2015, 2017).

But Central is hoping that ends today.

And this time, it won't take an upset.

The Knights, who were one set away from winning the team title last fall, enter the state tournament with a perfect 14-0 record. They won the East Region regular season title and won the East Region playoff title last week in Fargo.

Central opens up against Bismarck Century at 10 a.m. in Choice Health and Fitness. Defending state champion Fargo South plays Minot at 10 a.m.

The other first round matchups—Red River vs. Williston and Bismarck Legacy vs. West Fargo Sheyenne—will begin when the opening duals end.

"This is probably the strongest team we've had going into the state tournament going back as far as I can remember," said Central coach Max Weisser, who was on the 1997 title team. "There are a lot of good teams out there, though, so it's going to be tough. All year long, we set our sights on Oct. 4 (East Region) and Oct. 11. It's nice to know that's right around the corner."

Weisser said his team has looked forward to this state tournament since coming so close last year.

"They had a tough time with it," Weisser said of last year's 3-2 loss. "They took it hard, but they knew nobody was graduating and knew we'd have a good chance as long as we put the work in. Guys did that. Some of the hockey players put in time not only in the summer, but in the winter."

For the first time since 1995, Red River will not be the No. 1 seed from the East Region entering state. Red River is seeded second after losing to the Knights in the East Region final.

"It's actually kind of relieving," Roughrider coach Greg LaDouceur said. "It gives our kids a chance to go and play loose. Even though we're not favored to win it, I still think people look at the opportunity to try to beat Red River as an important goal.

"I think (Central) is the clear-cut favorite to take home the title. They're so deep. But that doesn't mean things can't happen. We're hoping we can be in the mix against them, but we've got work to do to get there, as do they."

N.D. state boys tennis

When: Team tournament today; individual tournament Friday-Saturday.

Where: Choice Health and Fitness.

Participants: GF Central is the No. 1 seed from the East; GF Red River is the No. 3 seed from the East.

Top individual seeds: Central's Gary Wu is the top seed from the East in singles. Red River's Kaden Johnson and Jack Lindgren are the No. 2 seed from the East in doubles.

Brad Elliott Schlossman

Schlossman is in his 13th year covering college hockey for the Herald. In 2016 and 2018, he was named the top beat writer in the country by the Associated Press Sports Editors. He also was the NCHC's inaugural Media Excellence Award winner in 2018. Schlossman has voted in the national college hockey poll since 2007 and has served as a member of the Hobey Baker and Patty Kazmaier Award committees.

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