Veteran lineup returns: Boys tennis team expects to contend in conference, notch winning record

The return of seven players from last year's Section 8A tournament team has Barb Thomason expecting a successful season from the Park Rapids boys tennis team this spring.

The return of seven players from last year's Section 8A tournament team has Barb Thomason expecting a successful season from the Park Rapids boys tennis team this spring.

Last season the Panthers went 6-7 in dual meets, ending with a 6-1 loss to Thief River Falls in the section semifinals. Park Rapids also claimed runner-up honors at the Mid-State Conference tournament.

Leading the Panthers this spring will be the nine players who saw varsity action last season: senior Mark Smith; juniors Ryan Kent, Kirt Leadbetter and Ted Tiffany; sophomores Max Brown, Kyle Dickinson, James Kujawa and Steve Smith; and freshman Alex Renner.

Mark Smith returns at the No. 1 singles spot after going 3-15 at that position last season. Smith placed fourth at the conference meet and lost his first match in singles at the section meet.

Kent and Renner held the No. 2 and No. 3 singles spots last spring. Kent went 2-8 at No. 2 singles and 4-3 at No. 3 singles while Renner had a 2-7 record at No. 2 singles and a 5-4 mark at No. 3 singles. At the Mid-State meet, Renner placed third at No. 2 singles while Kent was the runner-up at No. 3 singles. Renner lost his first singles match at the section meet while Kent went 1-1 in doubles at the section tournament.


Steve Smith posted an 8-5 record at No. 4 singles last season. Smith was the conference champion at that spot and also had a 3-0 record at No. 3 doubles. Smith will move to doubles this season.

Dickinson had a 1-4 record at No. 4 singles before joining Brown as the No. 3 doubles team. That duo had an 8-1 record, highlighted by winning the conference title at No. 3 doubles.

Tiffany ended the season playing No. 2 doubles with Brady Pederson. That duo went 4-6 at that spot, placing third at the conference meet. Tiffany also compiled a 6-3 record at No. 3 doubles, going 3-0 with Steve Smith, 3-2 with Dickinson and 0-1 with Brown.

Leadbetter had a 5-3 record with Pederson at No. 2 doubles before missing the end of the season with an injury.

Kujawa teamed with Brown at No. 3 doubles in one match.

Looking to fill the voids left by the graduation of Pederson and the No. 1 doubles team of Joe Penning and Ben Waller will be junior Michael Atneosen; sophomores Bruno Ramos and Robert Swanstrom; freshmen Jacob Froelich, Daniel Hovelsrud, Taylor Kimball, Kevin Merfeld and Luke Swenson; and eighth grader Scott Smith.

"The boys have been working hard despite the weather," said Thomason. "Players will be facing competition for their spots as we have players returning with experience."

Staples-Motley returns to defend its conference title while Mid-State Conference rivals Detroit Lakes and Wadena-Deer Creek will join Section 8A this season. Crookston, East Grand Forks, Perham and Thief River Falls join Park Rapids to comprise the seven-team section field. Thief River Falls is the defending section champion.


"We have players with experience at their positions," said Thomason. "I think we are going to be very competitive this year."

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