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'I feel like a player and a coach:' Perham's Peterson embraces new role as he pushes for state bid

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Perham's Josh Peterson returns a shot in his No. 1 singles match against Nate Cihak on May 5, 2022 at Perham High School. Peterson is eyeing a state bid for the first time in six years while embracing a new leadership role.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus
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PERHAM – Senior Josh Peterson was about to serve in the final set of his 6-0, 6-0 win last Thursday against Detroit Lakes' Nate Cihak at No. 1 singles.

It's often that tennis teams will play the junior varsity matches once a varsity match concludes on a court. As Peterson was closing out a dominating win, one of his younger teammates walked across the back of the court in the middle of the match.

Peterson turned around, smiled and helped him get to where he needed to go before taking his next serve. Being a leader is customary for seniors, but Peterson is asked to take it to another level.

"I think it's different being a leader on this team because I'm teaching some of them how to play tennis," Peterson said. "A lot of these guys have never picked up a racket before. We have two foreigns that are new to this. I've been leading by teaching them the fundamentals. I feel like a player and a coach."

Peterson was all smiles before, during and after Perham's 5-2 loss against Detroit Lakes on Thursday. He understands that team wins could come few and far between with a roster still learning the ropes.

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"As a team, we are very young and very inexperienced," Peterson said. "We have a lot of first and second-year players. We're looking for them to gain some experience this year and see what the end of the season looks like."

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Perham's Josh Peterson, right, and Detroit Lakes' Nate Cihak chat after their No. 1 singles match on May 5, 2022 at Perham High School.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

While the Yellowjackets still have some growing up to do, Peterson is eyeing his first trip to the state tournament in tennis. After a heartbreaking exit in the individual section semifinals, he's more motivated than ever to accomplish a goal he set out for himself six years ago.

"I'd like to see my first state berth," Peterson said. "I got fourth (at sections) last year. I lost in three sets in the semifinals. I was bummed about that. I'm in the mix for the top of the section, so hopefully, I'll get to state."

"I was right there, and I couldn't get over the hump. I'm really looking forward to the section championships this year. There's definitely some pressure. It's been my goal for six years to play at state. I haven't accomplished it yet. So yes, there is a lot of pressure to do it my senior year."

At No. 1 singles, the competition is hit or miss from week to week at Peterson's level. However, he looks at each opportunity as a chance to stay sharp.

"You know who the top players are, so when you get guys who aren't as good, you work on the things you need to work on," Peterson said. "I'm always doing things to get myself ready to play those top players. When you get to play them, it's about having fun playing tennis."

When it comes time for the individual section tournament, what might give Peterson a leg up compared to years past is his new leadership responsibilities.

"I think this year has made me look at the game from a different perspective," Peterson said. "I see how the mechanics of the game are used in a different way. I basically go back to the fundamentals of tennis all over again, and I don't think I would do that if I wasn't in the role I'm in now."

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Perham bounces back with a win at Osakis

The Yellowjackets rebounded from its home loss against the Lakers with a win on the road at Osakis.

Jack Birkeland, Michael Schwantz and Mason Happel won at Nos. 2, 3 and 4 singles. Reece Willprecht and Brekken Wokasch beat eke Fiskness and Michael Laumeyer at No. 2 doubles 6-0, 6-1, while Michael Anderson and Hugues Homes won at No. 3 doubles.

Isaac Maddock, one of the best players in the state, took down Peterson at No. 1 singles, while the team of Connor Gulbrandon and Marcus Wolf beat Hudson Hackel and Avery Halvorson.

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Perham's Jack Birkeland hits a forehand shot in a 6-4, 6-2 singles win over Jordan Fields on May 5, 2022 at Perham High School. The Yellowjackets lost to the Lakers 5-2.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

On Thursday, the Lakers cruised in doubles to beat the Yellowjackets 5-2.

Detroit Lakes' No. 1 team of Connor Zamzo and Gavin Smith beat Hackel and Halvorson 6-1, 6-1. Gabriel Reller and Breck Winter beat Soren Anderson and Happel 6-0, 6-4, while Elijah Blow and Cooper Moore took down Anderson and Willprecht 6-0, 6-3 at No. 3 doubles.

Reed Henderson beat Schwantz 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Cole Deraney took care of business at No. 4 singles with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Wokasch.

Peterson swept Nate Cihak 6-0, 6-0 before Birkeland pulled out a 6-4, 6-2 win over Jordan fields for the Yellowjackets' lone wins.

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Perham's Hudson Hackel, right, and Avery Halvorson talk strategy during in between sets on May, 5, 2022 in a No. 1 singles loss against Connor Zamzo and Gavin Smith.
Jared Rubado / Perham Focus

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DETROIT LAKES 5, PERHAM 2

SINGLES- No. 1- Josh Peterson (P) def. Nate Cihak 6-0, 6-0, No. 2- Reed Henderson (D) def. Michael Schwantz 6-4, 6-2; No. 3- Jack Birkeland (P) def. Jordan Fields 6-4, 6-2; No. 4- Cole Deraney (D) def. Brekken Wokasch 6-3, 6-1

DOUBLES- No. 1- Connor Zamzo-Gavin Smith (D) def. Hudson Hackel-Avery Halvorson 6-1, 6-1; No. 2- Gabriel Reller-Breck Winter (D) def. Soren Anderson-Mason Happel 6-0, 6-4; No. 3- Elijah Blow-Cooper Moore (D) def. Michael Anderson-Reece Willprecht 6-0, 6-3

PERHAM 5, OSAKIS 2

SINGLES- No. 1 Isaac Maddock (O) def. Josh PEterson 6-0, 6-2, No.2- Michael Schwantz (P) def. Bryce Moen 3-6, 6-0, 6-0; No. 3- Jack Birkeland (P) def. Tyler Stier 7-6 (6), 6-3; No. 4- Mason Happel (P) def. Micah Moore 6-0 6-0

DOUBLES- No. 1- Connor Gulbrason-Markus Wolf (O) def. Hudson Hackel-Avery Halvorson 6-4, 6-3; No. 2- Reece Willprecht-Brekken Wokasch (P) def. Zeke Fiskness-Michael Laumeyer 6-0, 6-1; No. 3- Michael Anderson-Hugues Homes (P) win by forfeit

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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