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After six years, Red River returns to the top of North Dakota boys tennis

The Roughriders completed a perfect season by beating Minot 4-1 in the team final.

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The Grand Forks Red River boys tennis team celebrates winning the 2022 state team title in Minot.
James Jackson / Minot Daily News
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MINOT — For nearly two decades, the Grand Forks Red River boys tennis team entered the season as massive favorites, ran through competition for a couple of months and completed undefeated seasons with the state title.

This year, it felt like old times.

Red River is back at the top of North Dakota boys tennis after a six-year absence.

The Roughriders beat Minot 4-1 on Thursday in the state final to complete an undefeated season and bring home the team title for the first time since 2016.

"It feels great," senior Carson Skarperud said. "It was our goal. There was a little bit of a curse for a couple years and we broke that curse.

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"It took a few years to get the job done, but we finally got it done."

Red River finished the season a perfect 16-0. In duals, the Roughriders won 115 matches. Their opponents won four.

The dominance was reminiscent to the run from 1998-2016, when the Roughriders won 18 of 19 team titles.

Red River showed off its depth in the postseason. It used No. 1 singles player Espen Schneider and No. 2 singles player Kellen Johnson in their normal spots, but bumped its usual No. 6 player, Skarperud, up to No. 3.

Skarperud went 6-0 in that spot at the East Region and state tournaments. He won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 in the team final.

"Carson is just an athlete," Red River coach Josh Lunak said. "He doesn't play a lot of tennis in the offseason. As we progress throughout the season, he really picks up his level of play. He was really lights out for us today and the past couple weeks."

Skarperud said: "It was definitely a big step up, but I was ready for it. I was excited. I knew I belonged there and just had to play my game."

Skarperud's move to No. 3 singles allowed Red River to put Saylor Kuenzel into doubles, where he teamed with Luc Bydal at No. 1. They lost just once in the postseason.

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No. 2 doubles team Tadhg Murphy and Asher Green went unbeaten Thursday at state and clinched the championship with their victory against Minot.

"Our team, for sure, has a lot of depth," Skarperud said. "We could have played 12 guys and still had the same performance. We had a lot of guys who didn't play in the state tournament who would have been great."

Red River's toughest challenge came in the semifinals against West Fargo Sheyenne. The Roughriders won 4-1, but had a three-set match at No. 2 singles and a tight match at No. 2 doubles.

"Sheyenne pushed us pretty hard in the semis and I knew they would," Lunak said. "There were some moments where it was pretty tight. I liked how we responded against them and I think we carried that momentum into the final against Minot."

Red River controlled the final from the start and finished off the perfect season.

"They saved their best for last," Lunak said. "They've been motivated all year. They've been waiting for today and they came to play."

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Grand Forks Red River's Tadhg Murphy serves while doubles partner Asher Green stands at the net during the North Dakota state boys tennis team championship Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022 in Minot. Murphy and Green won at No. 2 doubles and Red River won the team title.
James Jackson / Minot Daily News

GF Red River 4, Minot 1

Singles
1. Espen Schneider, RR, over Hunter Rice 6-3, 6-2; 2. Kellen Johnson, RR, over Josh Hegstad 6-1, 6-0; 3. Carson Skarperud, RR, Nolan Callahan 6-0, 6-0
Doubles
1. Grayson Schaeffer-Aidan Diehl, M, over Saylor Kuenzel-Luc Bydal 6-2, 1-6, 10-6; 2. Asher Green-Tadhg Murphy, RR, over Brayden McLean-Sam Griffith 6-2, 6-1

Related Topics: GF RED RIVERBOYS TENNIS
Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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