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Season Preview: Boys Tennis

West Fargo's Ben Ballweber returns the ball to Jamestown opponents Danny Paulsrud and Andrew Peterson during a doubles match last season. Ballweber's doubles partner was his brother, Brady. Dave Wallis/The Forum

By Tyler Shoberg

Sometimes, the only way to go is up. And for a sports team on the rebound, that's a good thing.

The West Fargo boys tennis team finished last season at the bottom of the East Region after going 1-6 in the conference and 3-11 overall.

"It was a building year," Packers coach Chad Anderson said.

With the loss of a half dozen seniors from 2008, West Fargo was left mostly with semi-inexperienced underclassmen. It was a tough, emotional, frustrating season - one that could have gone either way, but didn't.

"It's one of those things - yes, we finished last, but with tennis, last could have been in the bottom four or five," Anderson said. "There were quite a few close matches we lost where one more (set) win could have won the match."

Even ending battered and bruised, however, that experience has helped those Packers who will return for another season. In fact, the grinding construction of a down year could shift momentum in their favor.

"This year will be the year," Anderson said.

Though it finished low in the standings, West Fargo returns a plethora of veteran players from last season, which certainly is a plus in the stacked EDC.

The top Packer and No. 1 singles is Ben Ballweber. After that, it's a crapshoot - but not in a bad way.

"There have been improvement changes from last year," Anderson said. "You always seem to have one or two (players) who surprise you a little.

"That helps the competition and, ultimately, makes you a better team."

Whereas the Packers trudged through 2009 with mostly underclassmen, this year's team boasts four seniors: Ben Ballweber, Riley Koehnen, and twins Kevin and Kyle Roberts.

There also is Ben's eighth-grade brother, Brady Ballweber, who competed this summer on the Metro Area Tennis 14-under intermediate team that qualified for the National Championship in Arizona on Oct. 22-24.

That summer development is critical, Anderson said, especially when considering how short the prep season is. The Packers' opener is Friday, when they host Fargo Shanley at 4 p.m. Then it's only a few short weeks until the state tournament Sept. 30-Oct. 2, in Bismarck.

That doesn't leave much time for Anderson to figure out who goes where.

"What's nice about tennis is you can play challenge matches. You know exactly where people stand," he said. "That's what we're doing right now; figuring out where people can go."