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BOYS TENNIS: Bemidji keeps focus on improvement while remaining unbeaten

The Bemidji High School boys tennis team hasn’t done much losing this season. To start with, the Lumberjacks are now 15-0 after defeating Detroit Lakes 7-0 and East Grand Forks 6-1 in a triangular held at the BHS courts on Tuesday.

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Bemidji High School tennis coach Kyle Fodness, right, gives encouragement to a doubles team during a match against East Grand Forks on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at the BHS tennis courts.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – The Bemidji High School boys tennis team hasn’t done much losing this season.

To start with, the Lumberjacks are now 15-0 after defeating Detroit Lakes 7-0 and East Grand Forks 6-1 in a triangular held at the BHS courts on Tuesday.

But that doesn’t mean that the Jacks can’t keep improving. Being perfect as a team doesn’t mean Bemidji has won every individual match or set.

As an example, Max Harris and Jacob Fuhrman were locked in a battle with their opponents from EGF at No. 1 doubles. After winning the first set 6-3, Harris and Fuhrman faced a fiercer fight in the second set, ultimately losing 7-6 after a 7-4 tiebreaker went the way of the Green Wave.

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Bemidji senior Matthieu Benhamou returns a volley in a singles match against East Grand Forks on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at the BHS tennis courts.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

East Grand Forks won the tight third-set tiebreaker by a 10-8 score, proving that even after a dominant performance, BHS can always sharpen its skills.

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“During the matches, we find little things that we can adjust and change,” Harris said. “Those things, we look at (them) in practice and really just work on them the days that we do practice.”

Their head coach, Kyle Fodness, thinks tennis naturally lends itself to self-improvement – it’s simply up to the players to embrace it.

“Tennis is kind of like golf, where even though you're playing an opponent, you just want to be better at executing certain shots, or your serve or your volleys,” Fodness said. “You always want your game to be cleaner. It's such a skill sport that you always want your skills to be sharper, just because that's the fun of it.”

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Bemidji junior Casey Rupp returns a volley in a singles match against East Grand Forks on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at the BHS tennis courts.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji also knows that with the playoffs approaching, it needs to round its repertoire into form to compete with the best teams in the state.

“The nice thing is (it’s) a veteran group that's kind of been there before in playoffs and in other sports,” Fodness said. “They have no illusions about the fact that there are teams out there in the state that are better than us right now. There are some good teams out there, teams that are ahead of us ability-wise. I don't have to tell them that, they know that.”

On Tuesday, the Lumberjacks finished off both of their opponents with swift efficiency. Matthieu Benhamou and Noah Johnson earned two wins at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively, while Reed Johnson, Seth Lindgren, John McNallan and Casey Rupp each recorded one singles win.

In doubles, the pairing of Aidan Larson and Jack McNallan finished with two wins, while duos Reed Johnson and Lindgren, John McNallan and Rupp, and Harris and Fuhrman finished with one apiece.

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Bemidji senior John McNallan hits a serve in a singles match against East Grand Forks on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at the BHS tennis courts.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Alongside their quest for development, the Jacks are focusing on enjoying what’s left of their season. With the Section 8AA Team Tournament just over a week away, their time is running short.

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“Everybody's so positive and has fun playing,” Harris said. “They’ll yell over when we’re on the courts, ‘Keep going!’ Everybody does it around the court. So it's just fun to listen to.”

Because tennis, after all, is supposed to be fun – especially when you’re undefeated.

“The way we've liked to treat it is, ‘Let's play every match like it's a playoff match,’” Fodness said. “And that's the fun way to do it anyway, because everybody loves to be in the playoffs.”

Bemidji returns to the courts for a triangular against Hibbing and Duluth East starting at noon on Wednesday, May 11, in Hibbing.

Bemidji 7, Detroit Lakes 0

Singles

No. 1: Benhamou (BHS) def. Cihak, 6-0, 6-2

No. 2: N. Johnson (BHS) def. Henderson, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4)

No. 3: R. Johnson (BHS) def. Deraney, 6-0, 6-4

No. 4: Lindgren (BHS) def. Moore, 6-2, 6-0

Doubles

No. 1: Jo. McNallan/Rupp (BHS) def. Zamzo/Fields, 7-5, 6-0

No. 2: Harris/Fuhrman (BHS) def. Smith/Reller, 6-0, 6-2

No. 3: Larson/Ja. McNallan (BHS) def. Blow/Winter, 6-0, 6-1

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Bemidji freshman Reed Johnson and senior Seth Lindgren encourage each other in a doubles match against East Grand Forks on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, at the BHS tennis courts.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji 6, East Grand Forks 1

Singles

No. 1: Benhamou (BHS) def. McMahon, 6-3, 6-1

No. 2: N. Johnson (BHS) def.Steenerson, 6-0, 6-0

No. 3: Jo. McNallan (BHS) def. K. Campos, 6-0, 6-1

No. 4: Rupp (BHS) def. Haaven-Farstad, 6-1, 6-0

Doubles

No. 1: Aaker/Knutson (EGF) def. Harris/Fuhrman, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 10-8

No. 2: Larson/Ja. McNallan (BHS) def. Tollefson/Loer, 6-1, 6-3

No. 3: Lindgren/R. Johnson (BHS) def. T. Campos/D’Heilly, 6-0, 6-1

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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