As one of the smallest teams in the Mississippi 8 Conference, wins have sometimes been hard to come by for the North Branch boys tennis team.
“We’ve always been looking to try and grow the program and get more boys out there, and we’ve been pretty successful at that the last couple of years,” head coach Joel Santjer said.
This year, the increased numbers have helped the Vikings pick up two early wins against three losses, including a win over M8 rival Cambridge-Isanti at the Bluejackets’ own tournament April 8. The Vikings also beat Benson to place second overall that day.
“Our boys are starting to compete a lot more, and we’ll win some more matches that we might not have in the past,” Santjer said.
There are three seniors on the 2017 roster. Bryant Meyer and Trenton Corbett are playing in the top singles slots.
“They’ve been putting in the work, so it’s nice to see them turn it around,” Santjer said. “My senior leaders are the ones I always look toward.”
A third senior, Tyler Reis, is on the team for the first time and is playing at No. 4 singles.
Juniors Hunter Newman and Yoobin Kim will bring their experience as well.
There are nine players in grades 8-10 who will have the opportunity to prove themselves and earn varsity positions, particularly in the doubles ladder.
“We’ve got some returning kids who are really starting to come into their own,” Santjer said. “We’re hoping to see those freshmen and sophomores pull some wins out.”
The powerhouses in the M8 have lately been Monticello, Big Lake and Chisago Lakes. The Vikings have not been afraid to play nonconference games against larger schools like Blaine and Anoka, either.
The Section 7AA team and individual tournaments will be spread out over the course of two weeks at the end of May. Besides regular match play, the Vikings are looking forward to a four-team tournament at Coon Rapids May 6. In addition to the hosts, the Vikings will meet Cambridge-Isanti and Osseo that day.
“We’re looking forward to a great year; the team’s coming together really well,” Santjer said.
The Vikings played Blaine and Princeton before this edition went to press and will host Rogers April 20.