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West Fargo's North Knewtson (right) gets handed the ball by his partner Nick Sikorski during their East Region Tournament doubles match Thursday against Fargo Davies at Island Park in Fargo. Tyler Shobeg / West Fargo Pioneer

WF tennis just short at EDC

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On a beautiful and uncharacteristically calm Thursday, a relatively young West Fargo boys tennis team battled other conference opponents with one goal in mind: qualifying as a team for the North Dakota state tournament.

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In the end, however, it was not meant to be. In similar fashion to last year, the No. 5 Packers found themselves in a do-or-die situation at the East Region Tournament in Fargo, and wound up getting the short stick. They fell to No. 3 Grand Forks Central 3-2 in the state qualifier; a result that, maybe unfairly, came down on the shoulders of seventh grader North Knewtson.

But that was at the end of the team tournament on Day 1, after West Fargo already had faced two other schools.

The Packers started by tackling Fargo Davies, a team for which they were edged 5-4 during the regular season. This time, however, results were a tad more lopsided as the Eagles took the sweep 5-0.

Not to say the matches were completely favoring Davies. Most were forced to three sets, and even the two-set wins weren't total routs.

In the No. 1 singles flight, Brady Ballweber forced a tiebreaker in his opening set after battling back from a 5-2 deficit to Justin Beach. The freshman Ballweber eventually lost 7-4 in the extra time, but took a commanding 6-4 win in the second set. Beach ultimately finished on top with a 6-4 third set, taking the win with back-to-back set wins after a 4-4 tie.

Knewtson was moved from his No. 3 singles spot to the No. 2 doubles, and paired with Nick Sikorski. The duo were up by a wide berth in the first set, but saw that lead crumble as Dane Poppe and Sean Thompson grabbed the win 7-5. The second set was no different, and both sides struggled to maintain control before the Eagles eventually won 6-4.

"We had lots of good matches, but were just not able to raise our play to a higher level like Davies did," West Fargo coach Chad Anderson said.

In the consolation round, the Packers took on Valley City, a team for which they'd swept in the regular season. With confidence high, Anderson moved Knewtson back to his No. 3 singles spot. The Packers proceeded to duplicate their previous meeting with the Hi-Liners, and beat them 5-0.

Then they faced the Knights, a team they'd played only once in late August and were beat 9-0.

West Fargo's doubles teams fell in short order, giving Central an early 2-0 advantage. But Ballweber managed to defeat senior Nick Moe 6-4, 6-2 in No. 1 singles, and freshman Keyan Farahmand beat Brenden Sailor 6-3, 6-3 to tie things up.

Now, all eyes were on the No. 3 singles match, as Knewtson took on freshman Dallas Chambers in a winner-take-all situation.

Knewtson took a commanding win in the first set, sweeping his older opponent 6-0. The tides reversed in the second set, however, as Chambers won 6-1. That's when things hit an equilibrium, and in true postseason fashion, both players shone the brightest when it mattered most.

Chambers forced a tiebreakers when he fended off Knewtson's serves to make it 6-6, but not after several long volleys. In the end, the elder player came out on top 7-5, as the Knights swarmed their victorious teammate for congratulations.

In similar fashion, all the Packers went to the court to congratulate Knewtson on a job well done, as they realized it was a large burden for a seventh grader to bear in his first-ever postseason appearance, Ballweber said.

While the team couldn't make it to the state tournament, an individual will still represent West Fargo.

"My goal is to make it to state and play for a title," Ballweber said after the team tournament Thursday.

And that's exactly what he did, as he finished in sixth place to earn a state berth. Ballweber will face Jaden Wirrenga of Bismarck in Friday's first round in Grand Forks.

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