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Central wins East Region boys tennis title for first time in over three decades

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FARGO — Grand Forks Central tennis player Gary Wu couldn't stop putting his hands on his head and yelling how Thursday was impossible for him to process. He couldn't process Central's boys tennis team winning the East Region championship for the first time since 1987. All the Knights had to do to get there was beat a team in the championship match that had won every East Region title since 1995 in Grand Forks Red River.

The Knights did just that, 4-1.

"It's unreal," Wu said. "I'm still not processing it. It's been a crazy three weeks."

Coming into the season, Central had not beaten Red River in a dual since the 1997 state championship match, the last time the Knights won a state title. That streak of 32 straight losses ended in September.

"First time was a little bit easier I guess," Wu said. "It wasn't as close as today. Today was really close. It was really intense. I feel like we were a little bit more relaxed last time. It was sort of unreal that time too, but ... I'm sorry. I can't really process it right now."

Wu clinched the title with a 7-5, 7-5 win at No. 1 singles, trailing 5-2 in the second set. James Votava had already won No. 3 singles 6-3, 6-2 and Braden Panzer and Cole Spicer had locked up No. 1 doubles with a 6-2, 6-3 win. Logan Sandberg added another win at No. 2 doubles in three sets to round out the scoring and knock off the defending region champs.

"They're a confident group of kids," Red River coach Greg LaDouceur said. "They work hard, they play hard, they believe in themselves. There's not that mystique anymore about Red River tennis with them. We used to have that mental edge on them, but they're athletic kids and they know how to compete and rise to the top. Hopefully we get one more crack at them."

Central cruised by Valley City and West Fargo Sheyenne with 5-0 wins in both matches, while Red River topped Fargo North 4-1 and came down to the final match with Fargo South to get a 3-2 win.

"It feels good, but it really doesn't mean anything yet," Central coach Max Weisser said. "Our ultimate goal like we've talked about the whole year is making sure we're playing our best tennis Oct. 4 and continuing to Oct. 11. Although it feels nice, especially beating a team from the other side of town, but our ultimate goal is next Thursday."

That state tournament starts Thursday, Oct. 11. Central was one set away from winning the state championship last season, but Fargo South came back to win the final two sets and clinch the title. Weisser played on that Central team that won a state title in 1997.

"It was tough," Weisser said. "Those matches can go either way, especially with how it came down to it. It was one set, 2-2 in matches. Nerves come into play. I told the guys we need to learn from that. We need to take that experience seriously."

The Knights learned.

"We work so hard, starting from the winter," Wu said. "We didn't feel too good after losing in the state finals last year to Fargo South. We worked our butts off the whole winter and summer and that's where we're at right now."