Before the Valley City High School tennis team took the court in Monday's Eastern Dakota Conference tournament play-in match with Wahpeton Monday, the players on the team had a meeting by themselves.
It was a meeting that senior Ricky Paulson admitted got him a little emotional, as he thought about what could be the seniors' last match. But by the end, the Hi-Liners were all business.
"We knew what we had to get done," Paulson said.
Get it done, they did, as the Hi-Liners swept Wahpeton 5-0 to advance to the EDC regional team tournament Thursday in Grand Forks.
Valley City coach Matt Nielson said it was the first time in his coaching career that one of his teams has shut out an opponent.
"Going into the match, we put out the line-up that gave us a shot to win at every position," Nielson said. "It was amazing that everyone played their best tennis today and we won at every position. I was confident in our team, but knew that if Wahpeton came ready to play and we didn't play up to our potential, we could have lost."
But even early, the Hi-Liners were poised to at least clinch a win.
On the singles courts, Ricky Paulson, playing at No. 2, and Cody Schmidt, playing No. 3, both played efficiently in the last home matches of their senior seasons.
Schmidt forced his opponent, Jonathan Albers, to make the mistakes in a 6-1, 6-1 win. Albers routinely set Schmidt up for solid shots, which resulted in a quick match.
"Cody, when he has his mind right, can play the game of tennis like a champion," Nielson said. "Not only was he the huge favorite, but he also had his mind right. The opponent didn't stand a chance. Cody went out there and took care of business."
Only a few minutes later, Paulson finished off Kylar Jawaski in a 6-0, 6-1 win under similar circumstances.
Nielson said he expected the match to be closer after Jawaski's win over Dalton Ondracek earlier in the year.
"Ricky played patient and under control the entire match," he said. "He played the type of tennis required to win. Nothing special – just place the good shot, come to the net, and force Kylar to come up with a great shot. More often than not, Ricky forced Kylar into an error or Ricky would get the volley winner."
It gave Valley City a quick 2-0 lead in a match that needed three wins, which it got from Ondracek and Iain Horner, who beat Michael Lehmann and Tanner Tougas 7-5, 6-3 in the No. 2 doubles match.
The Hi-Liners also had a victory in the No. 1 doubles match, in which Wyatt Reinhart and Brandon Miller beat Jonathan Bartels and Jacob Fehr 6-4, 7-5.
Nielson said he was playing his No. 4 and No. 6 player against Wahpeton's No. 2 and No. 4, calling the match "the biggest upset victory of the season for us."
Wyatt and Brandon have never played the game at the net as aggressive as they did today and they also went for the good, smart shot instead of trying to hit winners," he said. "They kept the ball in play and took advantage when the situation presented itself."
The Hi-Liners ended the day with a win at No. 1 singles, where Dustin Miller beat Colby Youngquist 6-4, 6-7(9), 6-4. Miller had previously lost to Youngquist in three sets earlier in the year.