Panthers improved in dual meets
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.
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."