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Grand Forks Central wins first state boys tennis title since 1997

Grand Forks Central's James Votava sprints to the net to return a drop shot as his doubles partner, Hunter Bjorge, watches Thursday night during the 2018 NDHSAA Boys State Team Tennis Tournament at Grand Forks' Choice Health & Fitness. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald1 / 3
Knight tennis player Gary Wu sprints across the court at Choice Health & Fitness Thursday night during the 2018 NDHSAA Boys State Team Tennis Tournament championship round against Bismarck Legacy. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald2 / 3
Grand Forks Central's Gary Wu celebrates a hard-fought point against Bismarck Legacy tennis player Michael Janes in the championship round of Thursday's NDHSAA Boys State Team Tennis Tournament at Choice Health & Fitness. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald3 / 3

Grand Forks Central fell one set short of ending a 20-year drought without a North Dakota boys state team tennis title last fall.

On Thursday night, with nearly the exact same team, the Knights officially ended it.

With six members of the 1997 championship team watching, Central easily handled Bismarck Legacy in the final, winning the first three matches on the court and cruising to a 4-1 victory at Choice Health and Fitness.

It marked Central’s first state championship since 1997, when the Knights stunned previously unbeaten Grand Forks Red River in the championship.

This time, there was no upset.

Central completed its a 17-0 season by cruising through the state tournament. The Knights didn’t lose a match in a quarterfinal win over Bismarck Century and a semifinal win over defending state champ Fargo South.

In the championship against Bismarck Legacy, which was hoping to become the first West Region team to win state since Bismarck St. Mary’s in 1993, the Knights secured the title in less than an hour.

“It was just a great year,” said Central coach Max Weisser, who was on the 1997 team. “After last year, the way we lost, in a real tight one, it was really nice to see how much work the guys put in during the offseason. They just got ready and really made sure they were going to come out on the winning side today.

“You could see it in the summertime. You could see it at practice every day. Every day was a push to get better. It really was.”

Kyle Stauss started the final with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Nick Mathern at No. 3 singles.

Hunter Bjorge and James Votava then beat Paxton Miller and Jay Moylan 6-0, 6-4 in No. 2 doubles.

Logan Sandberg clinched the victory with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Sean Joyce at No. 2 singles.

For good measure, Braden Panzer and Cole Spicer beat Parker Krom and Corby Svihovec 6-2, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles.

Michael Janes notched Legacy’s only win over Gary Wu at No. 1 singles, 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-4.

It was nearly an hour after Central clinched the title that the Knights were finally able to celebrate.

“Last year just left a sour taste in our mouths,” Wu said. “We really wanted it last year. I think we wanted it even more this year and we worked really hard to get it. It’s pretty unreal. It’s something we’ll look back on and remember all the good times we had.”

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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