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Packer tennis team rebuilding

Ben Ballweber of West Fargo High School returns the ball to Jamestown opponents Danny Paulsrud and Andrew Peterson during a doubles match Friday. Ballweber's doubles partner was his brother Brady. The two of them won the match. Dave Wallis/The Forum

It's been 31 years since the Packer boys tennis team made the state tournament in 1978, and signs indicate that dry spell may continue through this season.

Last season's team seemed full of promise with the return of a six seniors at the start of the season, but the year ended at EDC, coming down to the Packers' final doubles contest.

This year's team may be too young and inexperienced to contend for a state tournament berth. Regardless of how the season plays out, with only one senior this year (reserve Brett Garske), the Packers will be loaded with experience the next few years.

"We're a really young team. We're taking our bumps and bruises right now," said Packers coach Chad Anderson.

Anderson is referring to his team's 1-2 start so far this season. The Packers lost 8-1 to both Fargo Shanley and Grand Forks Central before beating Jamestown by the same score last week.

One bright spot for the Packers this season is the play of Blake Nelson at No. 4 singles. The freshman is undefeated at 3-0, claiming the only victories for the Packers against the Deacons and Knights.

Number one through six singles this year will feature brothers Ben (a junior) and Brady Ballweber (a seventh grader) in the top two spots, followed by sophomore Jordan Dagerness, Nelson, freshman Tom Meyer and junior Kevin Roberts at No. 3-6.

Doubles will feature the Ballwebers at No. 1 with junior Kyle Roberts (Kevin's brother) and Dagerness in the middle spot and Meyer and Nelson at No. 3.

"The talent level is there. They're young, but I think they're just going to keep on getting better," said Anderson. "This year is going to be a tough year, because so many other teams have lots and lots of seniors. They are upperclassmen heavy, and we are not."

Although the team appears to be in a rebuilding stage, the program has come a long way in the decade since Anderson took over as coach. In 2000 the Packers had 12 players go out for the sport. Anderson has 36 players on three teams this year. West Fargo is fielding a middle school team for the first time this season as well.

"I think overall we'll do pretty good this year, but there's no telling how far we'll go," said Ben Ballweber. "We just have to get past this year and see what we can do in the future."