Grand Forks Central opened the boys tennis season winning all five of its duals by a combined score of 40-4.
It was smooth sailing for the defending state champions for a while, but that ended Tuesday afternoon.
When Knights coach Max Weisser looked around Register Courts at the first four matches going against rival Grand Forks Red River, he saw signs of potential trouble everywhere.
His No. 1 doubles team lost the first set and had two match points against them in the second. His No. 2 doubles team was down 5-2 in the decisive third set. His No. 3 doubles team was locked in a tight battle. And Red River snuck out a win at No. 6 singles.
"We don't really know what's going on, because we haven't really been tested yet," Weisser said. "But I just loved the resilience of the guys."
Central's Logan Sandberg saved the two match points on his serve, and the Knights stormed back to win at No. 1 doubles in the third set. Central's Evan Panzer and Ryder McDonald reeled off the last five games at No. 2 doubles to win in three sets. And Central's Brad Flaten and A.J. Spicer snuck out a close one at No. 3 doubles, 7-6 (6), 6-4.
The Knights carried that momentum through to the singles matches and beat Red River 8-1 in a regular-season showdown between the East Region's only two undefeated teams.
"I was impressed with our fight," Weisser said. "You've got to give Red River credit. They gave us all we could handle in doubles. We haven't really had to be resilient yet this year. Our guys had to bring it when it got tight.
"In singles, the scores look really good for us, but I think we took the wind out of (Red River's) sails with those comebacks in doubles. Sometimes at this level, that's how it goes. I was proud with how our guys played in singles, but I think a part of that was the wind was taken out of their sails."
Red River coach Josh Luank agreed.
"It was a tight battle with the doubles," Lunak said. "I think the kicker was that we basically had them at 1 and 2 doubles. Losing the tight matches took the momentum away and we ended up being really flat come singles and they took advantage of it. They were really solid in singles and we weren't up to the challenge."
The Knights won No. 1-5 singles in straight sets. Red River's Espen Schneider pushed Sandberg, the defending state singles champion, at No. 1 singles. But Sandberg closed it out 6-2, 7-5. Cole Wilberg, Panzer, McDonald and Flaten also won in singles.
Central improved to 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the East Region. Red River fell to 6-1 and 5-1.
Both coaches were able to learn things about their teams in the battle between two of the state's best.
"There's fight when our back's up against the wall," Weisser said. "We just haven't had to deal with that. It's always fun playing these guys because we know we're going to get the best out of them and they're going to get the best out of us. We're probably going to see these guys at least once more. I'm thinking twice more. At the end of the day, this one, although it feels great, really doesn't mean a whole lot, because I have a feeling we're going to be seeing them twice more."
Lunak said he would welcome meetings in the postseason.
"We'd love to see them again in EDC," Lunak said. "But we've got some work to do to get there."
GF Central 8, GF Red River 1
1. Logan Sandberg, GFC, over Espen Schneider 6-2, 7-5; 2. Cole Wilber, GFC, over Saylor Kuenzel 6-1, 6-1; 3. Evan Panzer, GFC, over Kellen Johnson 7-6 (4), 6-1; 4. Ryder McDonald, GFC, over Luc Bydal 6-2, 6-3; 5. Brad Flaten, GFC, over Carson Skarperud 6-2, 6-1; 6. Asher Green, RR, Tyson Sporbert 6-2, 7-6 (4)
1. Sandberg-Wilber, GFC, Schneider-Kuenzel 2-6, 7-5, 7-5; 2. Panzer-McDonald, GFC, over Bydal-Skarperud 6-2, 3-6, 7-5; 3. Flaten-A.J. Spicer, GFC, over Johnson-Mason Barrett 7-6 (6), 6-4