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Central snaps Red River's boys tennis streak

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Grand Forks Central's Logan Sandberg hits a shot against Red River duirng a doubles match Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 5
Red River's Kaden Johnson hits a shot with doubles partner Jack Lindgren on Friday at Riverside Park. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 5
Grand Forks Central's Gary Wu reacts to a shot during a doubles match against Red River on Friday. At left is Logan Sandberg. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 5
Red River's Jack Lindgren returns a serve during a doubles match with Grand Forks Central on Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald5 / 5

This win was a long time coming for Grand Forks Central.

The Knights snapped 20 seasons of frustration Friday by handing Grand Forks Red River an 8-1 boys high school tennis setback at Riverside Park.

That ended a run of 32 consecutive Central dual losses to the tradition-rich Roughrider program. The last time Central defeated Red River was 3-2 in the 1997 state championship. Current Central coach Max Weisser was a seventh-grader playing at No. 1 doubles in that dual.

None of the current Knights players had been born when Central last beat the Riders. But they were aware of the streak.

"Our coach tells us about it,'' senior James Votava said. "We hear it from people in the tennis community. You get tired of hearing it. But it motivates us."

Said Weisser: "Being on the losing side of this for so long got tough. But it's a credit to the kids. They got sick of it, too. They've worked hard to get better.

"We played well, definitely the best we've played all year.''

Votava scored the clinching fifth point with a 6-2, 6-1 win. That came after Weisser told him that Braden Panzer had just won for GFC's fourth point.

"It's just one more match,'' Votava said. "But it's definitely a big deal for me. I'll remember it for awhile.

"I have memories of other losses to those guys—way too many of them.''

In addition to Votava at No. 4 singles and Panzer at No. 3, Central received singles wins from Gary Wu (No. 1), Logan Sandberg (No. 2), Cole Spicer (No. 5) and Kyle Stauss (No. 6) and the Panzer-Spicer (No. 2) and Votava-Hunter Bjorge (No. 3) doubles teams.

Those are familiar names from a year ago, when Central was runner-up at the state dual tournament without a senior on its team.

"On paper, they were supposed to win this one,'' said Red River coach Greg LaDouceur, whose team received its win from the Kaden Johnson-Jack Lindgren No. 1 doubles team. "Look at what they had coming back. The talk around tennis in the state is that Central is the team to beat.

"Kudos to them. They played well. For whatever reason, I think we played nervous. Credit Central for that. They were aggressive.''

Weisser agreed that the Knights are one of the state's favorites. And, for the first time since 1997, Central is No. 1 in Grand Forks boys tennis.

"It's a big win in that it's been so long coming,'' Weisser said. "And Red River has had some really good teams in that run. This will be a confidence boost for us.''

Central improved to 7-0 overall and 5-0 in the Eastern Dakota Conference. Red River dropped to 6-1 and 4-1.