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Panthers look to be competitive on court

Steve Smith is one of eight seniors being counted on to lead the Park Rapids boys tennis team this season.

Jeff Renner is looking for the Park Rapids boys tennis team to have a similar season to last spring.

A year ago, the Panthers tied for the Mid-State Conference title and finished 6-9 in dual meets.

The return of six starters gives Renner the foundation for putting another competitive unit out on the courts.

Leading the Panthers this spring will be the six returning letterwinners: seniors Max Brown, Kyle Dickinson, James Kujawa and Steve Smith; junior Alex Renner; and sophomore Scott Smith.

Steve Smith had a 5-7 record at No. 3 singles and also played some doubles. Smith was the No. 8 seed in singles at the Section 8A meet.

Dickinson and Kujawa went 7-12 at No. 2 doubles last season and finished third at that position at the conference meet.

Brown played No. 3 doubles and compiled a 12-5 record, highlighted by a first-place finish at that position at the conference tournament.

Renner had a 12-5 record at No. 2 singles and went 3-0 at No. 1 doubles. Renner was the conference runner-up at No. 2 singles and finished third in doubles at the section meet.

Scott Smith compiled a 7-5 record at No. 4 singles and was the conference champion at No. 4 singles. Smith was the No. 10 seed in singles for the section meet.

Also returning with some varsity experience is senior Bob Swanstrom. Rounding out the varsity roster this season are seniors Jonah Pearson, Armando Padilla and Mark Bravo; juniors Kevin Merfeld and Matt Sullivan; sophomores Matt Atneosen and Mitch Fossen; and freshmen Josh Johnson and Chris Shaw.

That group will be looking to fill the spots vacated by last year's senior class of Mike Atneosen, Ryan Kent, Kirt Leadbetter and Ted Tiffany. Kent was the conference runner-up at No. 1 singles and placed third in doubles at the section meet. Leadbetter and Tiffany tallied an 11-5 record at No. 1 doubles. Atneosen had a 12-5 record at No. 3 doubles.

Going into this season, Renner will play No. 1 singles, Steve Smith will play No. 2 singles and Scott Smith will play No. 3 singles. Dickinson, Kujawa and Brown will lead the doubles teams. The other starting spots are up for grabs.

"We have some potential," said Jeff Renner. "I think we're going to be competitive with most teams."