Grand Forks Central and Grand Forks Red River sent their doubles teams onto the Riverside Courts on Tuesday to begin their all-city matchup.
That's how all North Dakota prep tennis matches start, and for this year's Knights team, that's a good thing.
Central won three tight doubles matches to kick off the meet, then cruised to an 8-1 victory over Red River in a regular-season matchup.
Central's No. 1 doubles team of Gabby Spicer and Madi Stauss won a tight three-set match over Red River's Claire Huebner and Maddy Sandberg 6-2, 2-6, 6-2. At No. 2 doubles, Magdalene Spicer and Gianna Blue won a close 7-5, 6-3 match. And at No. 3 doubles, Sydnee Lemieux and Jennifer Wang pulled out a 6-3, 7-5 win.
That gave the Knights a commanding 3-0 lead early in the meet.
"When they come out and everyone is hitting good shots and the girls are supporting each other, I think that's really big," Central coach Matt Fuka said. "Obviously, winning the matches is important and makes it a lot easier, but overall, if they just play well -- whether they lose in a tight one or win -- having that good energy from the beginning is important."
Central improved to 6-1 on the season, while Red River dropped to 4-3.
"They competed well right from the start," Red River coach Josh Lunak said of the Knights. "We had a pretty slow start in doubles. We got down on all three courts. We were able to rebound and make some of the doubles matches competitive, but to be down 3-0 going into singles is a little difficult. We were just a little flat and probably had some nerves to start it off."
Fuka said his third doubles team of Lemieux and Wang set a tone.
"They have the most energy on the team," he said. "They get the girls going, saying 'let's go' or 'come on' or 'nice shot.' They've been really big."
The Knights also won a few tight matches in singles.
Stauss topped Sandberg in a third-set tiebreak at No. 2 singles, while Blue won a second-set tiebreaker to close out a match at No. 4 singles.
Hannah Litzinger won Red River's lone match at No. 6 singles.
"We're hard workers," Lunak said. "I like our athleticism. We don't have players that have had private lessons or who tour around the U.S. playing matches, but we have girls who really like to compete and that makes it fun to coach."
In 2019, Central beat Red River for the first time in 19 years in their head-to-head dual. Last season was wiped out due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This season, Fargo Davies is the major favorite in the East Region. Davies is a perfect 7-0 this season.
Central (6-1), Fargo North (6-1), West Fargo Sheyenne (5-2), Red River (4-3) and Valley City (4-3) are bunched up behind Davies.
"I haven't thought too much about how the (East Region) tournament is going to look," Fuka said. "But winning today is really huge. Getting the No. 2 seed would help us in the EDC tournament. We'll see how it goes from there."
Red River, meanwhile, is shooting to finish in the top four in the East Region to reach the state tournament, which will be held in Grand Forks on June 3.
"Our goal is to make the state tournament," Lunak said. "It's doable. But we have to keep improving."
GF Central 8, GF Red River 1
1. Gabby Spicer (GFC) over Claire Huebner 6-2, 6-4; 2. Madi Stauss (GFC) over Maddy Sandberg 7-5, 6-7 (10), 10-4; 3. Magdalene Spicer (GFC) over Farrah Spicer 6-4, 6-2; 4. Gianna Blue (GFC) over Addison Lommen 6-3, 7-6 (2); 5. Sydnee Lemieux (GFC) over Sarah Hong 6-4, 6-4; 6. Hannah Litzinger (RR) over Lauren Tran 6-0, 7-6 (3)
1. G. Spicer-Stauss (GFC) over Huebner-Sandberg 6-2, 2-6, 6-2; 2. M. Spicer-Blue (GFC) over Spicer-Litzinger 7-5, 6-3; 3. Lemieux-Jennifer Wang (GFC) over Kate Hinschberger-Emma Moe 6-3, 7-5