ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

BOYS TENNIS: A Red River sweep

After finishing second in the North Dakota state singles tournament as a sophomore, Jake Kuhlman transferred to a tennis academy in Florida later that school year to hone his skills.

Roughrider teammates Daniel Pierce and Kaden Johnson win the doubles title in the North Dakota boys high school tennis tournament Saturday at Choice Fitness Courts in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Roughrider teammates Daniel Pierce and Kaden Johnson win the doubles title in the North Dakota boys high school tennis tournament Saturday at Choice Fitness Courts in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

After finishing second in the North Dakota state singles tournament as a sophomore, Jake Kuhlman transferred to a tennis academy in Florida later that school year to hone his skills.

As it turned out, when Kuhlman returned to Grand Forks Red River High School he was ineligible to play his junior season due to NDHSAA transfer rules.

"It was worth the experience,'' Kuhlman said. "I was happy to get the training to improve my tennis game. But it was sort of sad, not getting the opportunity to win state twice.''

Kuhlman got his state singles title Saturday when he swept West Fargo's Joe Beske 6-2, 6-0 in the state championship. Red River finished with a sweep at state when Daniel Pierce and Kaden Johnson won the doubles title. The Roughriders won the dual state tournament Thursday.

During Kuhlman's absence in the lineup as a junior, he not only missed out on a shot at winning state, but also was on the sideline as Red River's run of 17 consecutive state dual titles ended.

ADVERTISEMENT

"It was disappointing, knowing I wasn't there for the team when we lost to Fargo South in the final last season,'' Kuhlman said. "I played with a chip on my shoulder this season. I wanted to win both the singles and team titles.

"I wanted to think about (what might have been last season) sometimes. But I had to keep looking forward, not backward. I'm a better player because of playing at the academy.''

Kuhlman finished the season 20-0 in singles. His sweep of Beske wasn't unusual; despite suffering a back injury late in the regular season, Kuhlman swept every opponent and won 89 percent of the games he played. He beat Beske for the third time this season, jumping to a 3-0 lead and, after Beske won two games, closed by winning the final nine games.

"The state championship match is a different atmosphere,'' Kuhlman said. "Knowing you're playing for the championship, nerves come into play. I had to stay focused.''

Riders take doubles

Pierce, a senior, was a repeat state champion in doubles teaming with Johnson, a freshman. They beat Bismarck Legacy's Brian Swanberg and Michaels Janes 6-3, 7-6(5) in the final.

"I put pressure on myself, wanting to win again,'' Pierce said. "With the back injury I've had this season, I wasn't sure. But we got it done.''

They won by playing to their strengths. The big-hitting Pierce attacked the net while Johnson was primarily playing the baseline while also occasionally getting to the net.

ADVERTISEMENT

"Our coaches told us to let Daniel get to the balls if he could, to let him finish at the net,'' Johnson said. "He's a senior. He's a great player. He finishes up there.''

Said Pierce: "It's a good balance. Kaden changes pace, gets in some lobs and can really keep it in play.''

Knights place

Grand Forks Central, after finishing third in the state dual tournament, had one place in the individual portion of the state tournament.

In doubles, James Votava and Noah Cieklinski finished sixth.

Jake Kuhlman's Red River teammates cheer him on at the awards ceremony following his state championship single title in the ND state tennis tournament. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Jake Kuhlman's Red River teammates cheer him on at the awards ceremony following his state championship single title in the ND state tennis tournament. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

What To Read Next
Girls basketball
Thompson is now 16-1, while Rugby falls to 15-2.
Featuring prep basketball results from throughout the region, area college basketball scores, boys and girls hockey results, and much more!
The league would launch in summer 2024 and is polling interest in possible host cities.