Panthers seek to compete on court
Returning nine players with varsity experience has new head coach Mike Baumgartner counting on the Park Rapids boys tennis team to put a competitive group on the courts this spring.
The Panthers went 0-13 in dual meets and placed fourth at the Mid-State Conference tournament a year ago. Of those 13 losses, six were by 7-0 scores while five others were by 6-1 scores.
Having a veteran cast back should make the Panthers more competitive this spring.
Leading the Panthers this season are seniors Calvin Bateman and Iain Wallace and juniors Alex Boyd, Jeff Dickinson, Tristan Hendrickson, Jackson Kimball, Nick Lopez, Jaden Olson and Andrew Zinke.
Bateman received all-conference honors after placing second at No. 1 doubles at the Mid-State meet and earned the No. 6 seed in doubles for the Section 8A tournament. Bateman went 0-2 at No. 1 singles, 0-4 at No. 2 singles, 0-2 at No. 3 singles and 3-4 at No. 1 doubles last season.
Wallace went 0-1 at No. 1 singles, 0-5 at No. 1 singles, 0-5 at No. 4 singles, 0-1 at No. 1 doubles and 0-2 at No. 2 doubles last season. Wallace finished fourth at the conference tournament at No. 2 singles and was the No. 12 seed in singles for the section meet.
Dickinson and Lopez won the conference title at No. 2 doubles to earn all-conference honorable mention honors. That duo received the No. 8 seed in doubles for the section meet and ended the year with a 6-3 record as doubles partners. Dickinson went 0-5 at No. 3 singles, 0-1 at No. 4 singles, 0-2 at No. 1 doubles and 5-2 at No. 2 doubles while Lopez went 0-2 at No. 1 singles, 0-4 at No. 2 singles, 0-1 at No. 3 singles and 5-2 at No. 2 doubles.
Kimball and Olson teamed up to finish second at No. 3 doubles at the Mid-State meet and went 0-1 at No. 1 doubles, 2-4 at No. 2 doubles and 2-5 at No. 3 doubles as doubles partner. Kimball also went 0-1 at No. 2 singles while Olson went 0-1 at No. 3 singles.
Hendrickson placed fourth at No. 4 singles at the conference tournament and compiled a 0-1 record at No. 3 singles, a 0-3 record at No. 4 singles and a 1-2 record at No. 3 doubles.
Also back with some varsity experience are Boyd (0-4 at No. 4 singles, 0-2 at No. 2 doubles and 0-2 at No. 3 doubles) and Zinke (0-2 at No. 3 doubles).
Looking to replace last year’s senior duo of Chris Shaw (an all-conference player who went 0-4 at No. 1 singles and 4-7 at No. 1 doubles) and Josh Johnson (who went 0-6 at No. 1 singles, 0-1 at No. 4 singles, 1-6 at No. 1 doubles and 0-1 at No. 3 doubles) will be sophomores Jacob Bridgman, Bobby Bruce, Marcus McKeever and Riley Wilcox; freshmen Nolan Booge, Zach Nelson and Nick Porozinski; and eighth graders Evan Booge, Kyle Piepkorn and Peter Vanbatavia.
Section 8A will have a new look with Crookston, East Grand Forks and defending champion Thief River Falls returning with the Panthers. Fergus Falls, last year’s Section 6A champion, rounds out the five-team section. Perham/Wadena-Deer Creek has dropped boys tennis. Thief River Falls has won the last 10 section titles and finished sixth at last year’s state Class A tournament. Fergus Falls finished fourth at state.
“We’re deep with 19 kids with good attitudes who like to play tennis,” said Baumgartner, who has served as the boys junior high coach since 2001. “We’re going to work on fundamentals and hopefully improve and be competitive.”