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Tom Mix, Published September 15 2012

Area tennis teams compete at West Fargo Invitational

WEST FARGO – Football might be king on Friday nights, but on Saturday, boys tennis overtook the metro area.

All 16 teams in North Dakota competed in the 11th annual West Fargo Invitational, which is a flight-formatted tournament for singles and doubles.

It is the largest tournament of the season and is played at nine different sites in West Fargo, Fargo and Moorhead. It allows teams, players and coaches an opportunity to see where they stack up leading into conference tournaments.

Fargo North and Grand Forks Red River entered the invitational tied atop the Eastern Dakota Conference standings with 6-0 conference marks.

The Spartans feature a veteran lineup led by seniors Andy Ficek, Austen Strom and Ethan Woods.

Ficek plays both No. 1 singles and doubles for North and has gotten a little more comfortable in his second season playing in the top spot.

“The first year was pretty tough, but I’m starting to get used to the competition,” Ficek said. “You have to trust your strokes. A big focus for us has been staying relaxed and having fun.”

Ficek went 2-2 at the invitational, winning his opening match 6-0, 6-0 and following that up with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Grand Forks Central’s Brendan Sailor. Ficek dropped his semifinals match to Minot’s Hunter Oothoudt, who took first place in the No. 1 singles flight.

The staying-loose approach has worked well for Strom, who has only lost three matches this season. Two of those came Saturday, but Strom opened the day with two victories before losing 6-4, 6-2 to No. 3-seeded David Youngs of Fargo South in the semifinals.

“I have been keeping the ball in play and having a good time out there,” Strom said. “We have been playing good as a team. We have been practicing hard and so far it has paid off.”

The Spartans took third place in the team points competition at the invite, scoring 16. Red River took first place with 36 followed by Minot with 23.

The Spartans dropped their first match of the season on Friday, losing a 4-1 decision to Minot in a crossover triangular. They defeated both Williston and Bismarck Century 3-2.

North’s experienced roster has helped it remain neck and neck with the Roughriders, who are 14-time defending state champions.

“We are sitting pretty well at 8-1 right now,” North head coach Greg Unruh said. “It is good to have the seniors out there, especially in crunch time.”

The Spartans travel to play the Roughriders at 4 p.m. on Tuesday in Grand Forks.

“That is going to be biggest match for us,” Ficek said. “Everyone is going to be pumped for that one. Just knowing we are the underdogs is going to make everyone work harder.”

West Fargo features youthful lineup

There wasn’t a lot of turnover on West Fargo’s roster this fall, but the Packers are still young.

West Fargo’s top three singles spots are comprised of two sophomores and an eighth grader.

Sophomores Grady Ballweber and Keyan Farahmand play No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, for the Packers (5-7, 3-3 EDC). Eighth-grader North Knewtson occupies the No. 3 slot in the lineup.

Knewtson was seeded No. 1 in his bracket and went 3-1 at the invitational. He defeated Andrew Thompson of Grand Forks Central 6-4, 6-4 for third place.

“I think we are built a little better for a 3-2 lineup than a 6-3, but we got some really good players this year,” West Fargo head coach Chad Anderson said. “Even though we haven’t gotten to the start I thought we would at the beginning of the season, we have a bright future ahead of us … We are getting there. With the younger lineup we have, you are going to have some ups and downs.”

Team Scores

Grand Forks Red River 35, Minot 23, Fargo North 16, Grand Forks Central 11, Bismarck Century 10, West Fargo 9, Mandan 8, Bismarck 8, Fargo Shanley 6, Fargo Davies 5, Fargo South 4, Dickinson 0, Williston 0, Jamestown 0, Valley City 0, Wahpeton 0.

No. 1 singles

Championship: Oothoudt, MIN, def. Anderson, GFRR, 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, (11-9).

Third place: Ulness, BH, def. Ficek, FN, 6-1, 6-3.

Fifth place: Beck, BC, def. Osmand, FD, 4-6, 6-3, (11-9).

No. 2 singles

Championship: Wischer, GFRR, def. Youngs, FS, 6-2, 6-1.

Third place: Folson, GFC, def. Strom, FN, 6-3, 6-4.

Fifth place: Klein, MIN, def. Spooner, BH, 8-6.

No. 3 singles

Championship: Godon, GFRR, def. Swanberg, BC, 6-4, 6-1.

Third place: Knewtson, WF, def. Thompson, GFC, 6-4, 6-4.

Fifth place: Foster, MIN, def. Gupta, FD, 8-0.

No. 4 singles

Championship: Chambers, GFC, def. Massey, MIN, 6-0, 6-3.

Third place: Pierce, GFRR, def. Sikorski, WF, 6-3, 6-0.

Fifth place: Mostad, FN, def. O’Donnell, S, 8-4.

No. 5 singles

Championship: Gardner, MIN, Jacobson, FN, 6-4, 7-5.

Third place: Ramage, GFRR, def. Holland, WF, 6-2, 6-1.

Fifth place: Manske, GFC, def. Thoreson, FD, 8-0.

No. 6 singles

Championship: Hu, GFRR, def. Thomas, MIN, 6-2, 6-4.

Third place: Scherling, FN, def. Kooyer, WF, 5-7, 6-2, (10-4).

Fifth place: Hermann, FD, def. Paryzek, WIL, 8-4.

No. 1 doubles

Championship: Caoili/J. Kuhlman, GFRR, def. Poppe/Thompson, FD, 6-3, 6-2.

Third place: Wirrenga/Meuchel, BH, def. Vogel/Poter, MAN, 7-6, (7-5), 6-4

Fifth place: Janes/Mastel, BC, def. Vendsel/Wilson, MIN, 6-0, 6-4.

No. 2 doubles

Championship: M. Kuhlman/Pierce, GFRR, def. Berger/Wenstrom, MAN, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).

Third place: Ehli/Anderson, BC, def. Krecklau/Keys, BH, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3.

Fifth place: Schott/Storandt, S, def. Walker/Wangen, WF, 6-3, 6-2.

No. 3 doubles

Championship: Hanson/O’Donnell, S, def. Kern/Dilbeck, FN, 7-6 (9-7) 6-1.

Third place: Nygaard/Fornshell, MIN, def. Tweet/Wieland, MAN, 1-6, 6-1, (10-8).

Fifth place: Leingang/Foss, BC, def. Ramage/Wolf, GFRR, 6-2, 3-6, (11-9).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562