Panthers seeking more success
Jeff Renner is expecting more success from the Park Rapids boys tennis team this season.
Last year, the Panthers finished 2-13 in dual meets. Of the 13 losses, four were by 7-0 margins, five were by 6-1 margins and three were by 5-2 margins. The Panthers, who had only four players returning with varsity experience, 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. Park Rapids entered the Section 8A tournament as the No. 8 seed and was eliminated with a 7-0 loss to No. 1 Thief River Falls.
Park Rapids will once again feature a young lineup this spring. However, with eight players returning with varsity experience, Renner is counting on more success at all seven positions.
"We're still a pretty young team, but the kids show a lot of potential," said Renner. "Things are looking good so far."
Being counted on to lead the Panthers this season are the eight returning varsity players: seniors Mitch Fossen and Scott Smith; junior Chris Shaw; sophomores Calvin Bateman, Steve Osterman and Iain Wallace; and freshmen Jeff Dickinson and Jaden Olson.
Fossen and Smith will return at No. 1 doubles after going 3-5 and finishing third at that position at the Mid-State Conference meet last season. That duo was the No. 10 seed in doubles for the Section 8A tournament. Fossen also went 2-5 in singles and had a 3-7 overall record in doubles while Smith went 3-6 at No. 2 singles.
Shaw will start the season at No. 1 singles after going 2-6 at No. 2 singles, 0-5 at No. 3 singles and 0-4 at No. 1 doubles last season. Shaw finished fifth at No. 2 singles at the conference meet and was the No. 15 seed in singles for the section tournament.
Dickinson finished 0-10 at No. 3 singles and 0-7 at the top doubles spots last season. Dickinson finished fifth at No. 3 singles at the conference tournament and was the No. 15 seed in doubles for the section meet.
Bateman and Osterman teamed up to finish fifth at the conference meet at No. 2 doubles. Bateman went 0-1 at No. 4 singles and 2-14 in doubles while Osterman had a 0-3 record at No. 4 singles and 2-12 record at No. 2 doubles.
Wallace and Olson finished fifth at No. 3 doubles at the conference meet. Wallace compiled a 2-15 record at No. 3 doubles while Olson went 0-1 at No. 4 singles and 1-12 at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles.
Looking to fill in for last year's senior duo of Alex Renner (who went 11-7 at No. 1 singles, shared the conference title at that spot and finished fourth at the section tourney in singles) and Matt Sullivan (who went 2-5 at No. 4 singles and teamed with Dickinson in doubles at the section meet) will be senior Coby Fite; junior Josh Johnson; and freshmen Alex Boyd, Tristan Hendrickson, Brandon Johnson, Jackson Kimball, Nicholas Lopez and Andrew Zinke.
That group is looking to help the Panthers improve on their dual record, move up from last year's fifth-place finish with 13 points at the conference meet and earn a higher seed for the section tournament.
"All I ask is for the kids to play to their potential and give 100 percent effort at practice and in matches," said Renner, who sees Staples-Motley as the favorite to defend the conference title and Thief River Falls to repeat as section champs. "I'd like us to be a .500 team this year. We have a lot of young players, but I think we're going to be competitive."