South claims state tennis championship
GRAND FORKS—Fargo South was one set away from losing in the first round of the North Dakota state boys tennis tournament Thursday morning.
Longtime coach Vic Youngs started to think about what could be next.
"In the back of my mind, I'm trying to stay positive," South coach Vic Youngs said. "But the other part of my mind is going, 'What lineup are we going to play against Shanley in the consolation finals?' Because Shanley, I'm not sure how well we match up with them now.
"But it didn't happen."
No, the day ended quite differently.
Fargo South pulled out the first-round match against Minot, upset No. 1 seed and defending state champion Grand Forks Red River in the semifinals and upset No. 2-seeded Grand Forks Central in a dramatic state championship that came down to a final set.
Senior Kain Carlson and sophomore Austin Zurn rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory in the decisive match at No. 2 doubles to lift the Bruins to their second state championship in three years and their 11th overall.
It was perhaps the most improbable title for the Bruins. South finished third behind Red River and Central in the Eastern Dakota Conference during the regular season and at the region tournament a week earlier.
It used wins at No. 1 singles by the state's top player, Davis Lawley, and victories at both No. 1 doubles (Geoffrey Youngs and Max Olson) and No. 2 doubles to edge the Knights.
"It's pretty amazing," Youngs said. "We had to have the right lineups against Minot, Red River and Central. Everything just had to line up perfectly. We used the same lineup last week in EDC against Central. They beat us 4-1 and the two doubles matches weren't terribly close.
"But they were ready to roll today. We kept talking in doubles about 'controlling the net, controlling the net.' They were super aggressive. I love it."
Carlson and Zurn were aware that the state championship came down to their match as a large crowd had surrounded the court, but they consistently won all the big points. They won three deuce points in the final set, including match point.
"It was nerve wracking," said Lawley, who watched the the final match from up top. "I think I was louder than the guys on the court. It was exciting. The atmosphere, I've said this a lot, at Choice is awesome."
For Central, it was a bitter conclusion to an impressive season.
The Knights didn't have a single senior on the varsity roster, but finished runner-up in the EDC regular season, postseason and at state.
"It was a great year," said Central coach Max Weisser, who received wins from Logan Sandberg at No. 2 singles and Kyle Stauss at No. 3 singles. "Tough one today. Really good South team, though. I'm really looking forward to the future. We've kind of got a bad taste in our mouths from this one right now, but hopefully the kids will get over it. We still have individuals tomorrow." Youngs won his fourth state title as head coach. The others came in 1990, 1995 and 2015.
"It never gets old," Youngs said. "It's unbelievable. It's a game. It's a really fun game. I'm so glad we have 34 kids who decide to spend nine weeks playing, and I hope we get a bunch more inspired to play."