One final ground stroke sailed long late Tuesday night, and it was over.

Grand Forks Central beat rival Grand Forks Red River 5-4 in a down-to-the-wire dual between the two best teams in the East Region, perhaps the two best in the state.

But there was no celebration.

No cheering.

No teammates rushing the court to celebrate a dramatic victory.

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It was just an eerie silence in Choice Health and Fitness, the result of a boys tennis meet that lasted far longer than expected and a sign of the times, playing sports amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

The rivalry dual between the East Region's only unbeaten teams began at 3:30 p.m. at Riverside Courts. But because of tight, highly contested matches, it extended beyond daylight.

It was tied 4-4 with players on both teams and their family members crowded around the final, decisive match of the night, a No. 5 singles matchup between Central's Cole Wilber and Red River's Sam Murphy.

After Wilber won the first set, it became too dark to continue, so the match was moved indoors to Choice Health and Fitness. Because of COVID-19 precautions, the teams were not allowed to join Wilber and Murphy at Choice.

So, instead of a big crowd watching a thrilling end to this rivalry dual between two top teams, it was just Red River head coach Josh Lunak and assistant coach Zac Lunak standing on one side of the court with masks, Central head coach Max Weisser and assistant Nick Graves doing the same on the other side.

Central assistant coach Matt Fuka streamed the match on Instagram Live from the viewing area, while Knight and Roughrider players watched on their cell phones in the parking lot.

"Goofiest way it ever had to end," Weisser said. "Just with COVID, no fans being allowed, 4-4 in matches. . ."

Ultimately, Wilber finished off the win 6-3, 6-4 and the Knights improved to 6-0.

"I was just really impressed," Weisser said of Wilber's match. "He played a very, very intelligent match. He knows consistency is his game. He got up 2-0, then it was 2-2, and he didn't abandon that game plan that, 'I'm going to play who I am and play to my strengths.' I couldn't be more proud of him."

Central also received wins from Logan Sandberg at No. 1 singles, Ryder McDonald at No. 4 singles, Braden Panzer and McDonald at No. 1 doubles and Sandberg and Wilber at No. 2 doubles.

"This is one that could have gone either way," Weisser said. "At No. 3 doubles, there were multiple match points for both teams. At No. 4 singles, it went three sets. Both guys were gassed. It could have gone either way. It was just a hard-fought match for both teams. It really was."

Red River, which won its first five duals by the score of 9-0 or 8-1, dropped to 5-1 under Lunak, the first-year head coach.

The Roughriders received wins from Saylor Kuenzel at No. 2 singles, Ryan Muizelaar at No. 3 singles, Kellen Johnson at No. 6 singles and Murphy and Johnson at No. 3 doubles.

"It was kind of a roller coaster," Lunak said of the meet. "Right away, we got down 2-0 in the doubles, then 3-1. Then, we picked it back up and got up 4-3. We were winning. So, it was up and down. You never know what to expect, but looking at the matchup on paper, it looked like it was going to be a 5-4 battle."

Red River and Central will both be favored in their final three East Region duals.

Then, the possibility exists for them to meet again in the postseason, where the format changes to three singles and two doubles matches.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we see them at least one more time," Weisser said. "It's going to be highly contested if we play again. You can probably flip a coin next time if we play again. Whoever is going to be playing their best on that day is going to get through it."

GF Central 5, GF Red River 4


1. Logan Sandberg, GFC, over Espen Schneider 6-2, 6-2; 2. Saylor Kuenzel, RR, over Braden Panzer 6-3, 3-6, 6-1; 3. Ryan Muizelaar, RR, over Evan Panzer 6-4, 6-0; 4. Ryder McDonald, GFC, over Karsen Johnson 6-7, 6-4, 6-2; 5. Cole Wilber, GFC, over Sam Murphy 6-3, 6-4; 6. Kellen Johnson, RR, over Brad Flaten 6-4, 6-1


1. B. Panzer-McDonald, GFC, over Muizelaar-Karsen Johnson 7-6, 7-6; 2. Sandberg-Wilber, GFC, over Jett Weis-Kuenzel 6-1, 6-2; 3. Murphy-Kellen Johnson, RR, over E. Panzer-Chase Spicer 7-6, 2-6, 7-6