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Scott Smith capped off his senior season by being named the Panthers' Most Valuable Player and earning Mid-State Conference honors.

Panthers improved in dual meets

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Jeff Renner was looking for the Park Rapids boys tennis team to make improvement this season.

Having more success at the lower positions enabled the Panthers to fulfill that goal.

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After going 2-13 in dual meets last season, the Panthers doubled that victory total as four 4-3 wins led to a 4-11 overall record.

The Panthers got off to a slow start with 7-0 losses to Long Prairie-Grey Eagle, Bemidji, Grand Rapids and East Grand Forks and a seventh-place finish at the eight-team Park Rapids Invitational. Foley won the team title with 29 points while the Panthers compiled 7 points in that tournament.

A 4-3 win over Wadena-Deer Creek was followed with two more 7-0 losses to Crookston and Detroit Lakes.

The Panthers continued to show improvement with a 5-2 loss to Detroit Lakes and a pair of 4-3 victories over Perham.

After a 7-0 loss to Staples-Motley, the Panthers placed fifth at the Mid-State Conference tournament with 16 points. Long Prairie-Grey Eagle claimed the conference title with 37 points in its first season as a Mid-State Conference team. Staples-Motley took second with 31 points while Detroit Lakes (30) and Perham (19) followed. W-DC finished sixth with 12 points.

Park Rapids closed out the regular season with a 4-3 win over W-DC, a 7-0 loss to Crookston and a 6-1 loss to East Grand Forks.

The Panthers, who finished 2-4 in conference matches last season, improved to 4-4 against Mid-State opponents this season.

For the Section 8A tournament, the Panthers received the No. 6 seed and opened with a 7-0 loss to No. 3 Staples-Motley.

For the season, the Panthers went 5-15 at No. 1 singles, 1-19 at No. 2 singles, 3-17 at No. 3 singles, 8-12 at No. 4 singles, 4-16 at No. 1 doubles, 4-17 at No. 2 doubles and 4-16 at No. 3 doubles. Last year the Panthers went 11-7 at No. 1 singles, 5-12 at No. 2 singles, 1-16 at No. 3 singles, 3-14 at No. 4 singles, 3-14 at No. 1 doubles, 2-15 at No. 2 doubles and 2-16 at No. 3 doubles.

"I felt things went as well as expected," said Park Rapids head coach Jeff Renner. "I felt we held our own. We beat the teams (W-DC and Perham) I was hoping to beat and I thought we had a chance to beat Detroit Lakes and we were close once. I saw a lot of improvement this year. Overall I was happy with the season."

Leading the Panthers this season were seniors Scott Smith, Mitch Fossen and Coby Fite; juniors Chris Shaw and Josh Johnson; sophomores Calvin Bateman and Iain Wallace; and freshmen Jeff Dickinson, Jackson Kimball, Nick Lopez, Jaden Olson, Andrew Zinke and Alex Boyd.

At the Mid-State Conference tournament, Smith finished third at No. 1 singles, Shaw finished fifth at No. 2 singles, Fossen finished sixth at No. 3 singles, Lopez was the runner-up at No. 4 singles, Bateman and Dickinson took sixth at No. 1 doubles, Johnson and Wallace finished fourth at No. 2 doubles, and Kimball and Olson took fifth at No. 3 doubles.

For the section tournament, Lopez was the No. 13 seed while Bateman was the No. 14 seed in singles while Smith and Fossen received the No. 7 seed and Johnson and Shaw were the No. 13 seed in doubles. All four section entrants lost their first-round match.

Smith was named the Panthers' Most Valuable Player and earned all-conference honors after going 5-3 at No. 1 singles and 2-9 at No. 1 doubles this season.

Fossen was an all-conference honorable mention selection and received the team's Hardest Worker honor after going 3-5 at No. 3 singles and 1-9 at No. 1 doubles.

Shaw ended the season with a 1-16 record at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and a 0-2 record at No. 2 doubles.

Johnson compiled a 0-3 record in singles and a 3-14 record in doubles, including a 3-12 mark at No. 2 doubles. Johnson received the team's Spirit Award.

Bateman had a 1-9 record in singles and a 2-7 record in doubles. Bateman received the team's Most Improved Player honor.

Wallace went 0-5 in singles and 4-14 in doubles, including a 3-7 record at No. 3 doubles.

Lopez received the Panthers' Most Promising Player honor after going 6-11 in singles, including a 6-5 record at No. 4 singles, and 0-3 in doubles.

Dickinson compiled a 0-7 record in singles and a 4-9 record in doubles.

Kimball went 0-2 in singles and 4-12 at No. 3 doubles.

Olson had a 3-14 record in doubles.

Fite went 1-3 in doubles, Zinke went 1-1 at No. 4 singles, and Boyd went 0-1 at No. 2 doubles.

Even though three key players graduate, Renner is counting on the Panthers to keep improving and have even more success next spring.

"I see a lot of potential from these kids," said Renner. "The kids said they're going to play a lot of tennis this summer. If they do, we're going to have a better season next year."

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