Red River gets past Fargo South to win East Region boys tennis title
Fargo Davies and West Fargo Sheyenne capture the last two spots at state, while two-time defending champion Grand Forks Central is ousted.
GRAND FORKS — Josh Lunak knew there could be some unpredictability in the East Region boys team tennis tournament.
"I knew going into this tournament there were five teams trying to get the four spots available (to go to state)," the Red River coach said. "I knew it was going to be a tight battle with those five teams."
For Lunak's Roughriders, it was not.
The undefeated Roughriders rolled to the East Region's playoff title without dropping a match Thursday in Choice Health and Fitness.
Red River beat Valley City 5-0 in the quarterfinals before topping Fargo Davies 5-0 in the semifinals and Fargo South 5-0 in the championship.
Red River improved to 13-0 on the season. In duals, the Roughriders have won 102 matches this season. Their opponents have won two.
"We had a pretty good day," said Lunak, whose team will be the East's No. 1 seed at state next week in Minot. "We were pushed by some teams and we were able to win those tight matches. We didn't lose any matches on the day, but we still have things to work on and get better at before next weekend."
Beyond Red River, things got interesting.
Fargo South, which entered as the No. 3 seed, knocked off second-seeded West Fargo Sheyenne in the semifinals to reach the team final unexpectedly. Sheyenne had beaten South 6-3 in the regular season.
"The team played fantastic," Bruins coach Kyle Christianson said. "They played really well. We had different lineups for every match and everyone really came out to play. We had a tough match against Red River, but I'm really proud of the boys and hopefully we can get another crack at them next week."
Sheyenne survived a down-to-the-wire state qualifying dual to advance to state. Two-time defending state champion Grand Forks Central did not.
The Mustangs used a 1-6, 7-6 (3), 6-3 victory by Mason Christensen and Momin Durrani at No. 1 doubles to beat the Knights 3-2 and nab the last state-tournament spot.
No. 5 seed Fargo Davies beat Fargo Shanley 4-1 earlier in the other state-qualifier.
Red River cemented itself as the big favorite to return to the top of the state — a place the Roughriders haven't been since 2016, when they won their 17th title in 18 years.
The Roughriders used the same lineup throughout the East Region tournament. Espen Schneider, Kellen Johnson and Carson Skarperud dominated the three singles spots. None of them dropped a set and none had a match closer than 6-2, 6-2.
At No. 1 doubles, Sayler Kuenzel and Luc Bydal won all three of their matches in straight sets. The No. 2 doubles team of Asher Green and Tadhg Murphy won a pair of three-set matches in the semifinals and championship.
"There are some things we want to clean up the next couple days in individuals and next week in practice," Lunak said. "We're expecting teams to push us even harder in the final week."
The East Region individual tournament is scheduled for Friday and Saturday at Choice Health and Fitness. The top eight singles finishers and the top eight doubles teams advance to state.
GF Red River 5, Fargo South 0
1. Espen Schneider over Aaron Wilkenson 6-1, 6-1; 2. Kellen Johnson over Chase Bry 6-2, 6-2; 3. Carson Skarperud over Nick Dawson 6-1, 6-1
1. Sayler Kuenzel-Luc Bydal over Aiden Bourke-Michael Grensteiner 7-6 (4), 6-2; 2. Asher Green-Tadhg Murphy over Anthony Erickson-Camden Myers 5-7, 7-5, 6-4