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Reloaded Mustangs, new-look Packers set for tennis season

West Fargo Sheyenne tennis players Mimi Gu (left) and Monti Knewtson hug each other after winning the NDHSAA Girls State tennis tournament doubles championship on Saturday, June 2, 2018 in Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service

Having placed either first or second at state in each of the last three seasons, the West Fargo Sheyenne girls tennis team isn't expecting a slow down this spring.

Optimism is once again high at Mustang practices, and for good reason, as they parted with just one key contributor from a season ago, when they got all the way to the state championship match before losing a tight match to Minot.

Junior Monti Knewtson, a 2017 individual state champion, is back, as is freshman Mimi Gu, with whom she won a doubles state title in 2018.

Sheyenne also returns another state veteran in senior Preeti Chemiti, who placed third in the individual tournament a season ago.

After finishing second at state each of the last two seasons, Mustangs players are confident they have enough firepower to get back atop the rankings, as they were in 2016.

"We're really excited for this season," Knewtson said. "I know we don't want to look too far ahead, but I think all of our goals this season is to get that (state) title for our team. We can do it and we have our mind set on that."

West Fargo enters the year under the leadership of first-year coach Megan Sherven, who expects significant improvement from 2018, when the Packers finished 4-16.

One reason for Sherven's optimism is that her top four singles players all have varsity experience. Seniors and 2018 state qualifiers Isabella Nankivel and Grace Faiman will play at Nos. 1 and 2, with eighth grader Olivia Soine set to go at No. 3 and freshman Reet Goyal at No. 4.

Nankivel, Faiman and Soine all earned wins in the Packers' season opener, a 6-3 loss to Grand Forks Central Monday.

"Everyone's improved a lot," Soine said."We have a lot more girls this year with more experience. We have a pretty good top six. So I think we'll be pretty good."

West Fargo

Coach: Megan Sherven (first season)

Last season: 4-16

Who's gone: Jwan Al Selim, Lauren Limke, Frida Olovsson, Sydni Soine and Karley Warner.

Key returners: Grace Faiman, Sr.; Isabella Nankivel, Sr.; Reet Goyal, Fr.; Olivia Soine, eighth grade.

Coach's comments: "We have a very young team and quite a few girls who have never played tennis before. This will be a growing season for the team. However, I do have high hopes for these girls because they are all full of potential and are wanting to get better. We do have a few seniors who made it to state last year and I am looking forward to seeing how their senior year season ends up."

West Fargo Sheyenne

Coach: Chad Anderson (fifth season)

Last season: 21-1, state runner-up

Who's gone: Pooja Chemiti.

Key returners: Monti Knewtson, Jr.; Preeti Chemiti, Sr.; Hailey Raan, Jr.; Mimi Gu, Fr.; Abby College, Sr.; Miranda Sommerfeld, Sr.; Kaitlin Sundlie, Sr.

Coach's comment: "This year should be another good year for the Sheyenne girls tennis team. We have lots of seniors this year who are eager to show what they have to offer. Most of them put in the time this past summer, which should present us with more depth in our lineup. The key question is can we stay healthy throughout the season and come on strong during tournament time?"