Unruh bringing wealth of experience to DL girls tennis program

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Brina Smith is one of seven players to depart from last year's team to graduation leaving new head coach Greg Unruh with some key spots to fill in his lineup. Robert Williams / Tribune

Fargo North boys head tennis coach of over 20 years Greg Unruh resigned from the position last week, according to a North High School announcement Friday in a press release.

Unruh was not on the market long, accepting the head girls coaching position at Detroit Lakes this week.

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Greg Unruh

Unruh lives in Detroit Lakes and has been commuting to Fargo the past 11 years teaching and 13 years coaching.


“I wanted to get away from the commuting part but wanted to continue coaching tennis; it was kind of good timing,” he said.

Unruh earned Eastern Dakota Conference coach of the year honors seven times during his tenure at North, along with being named state coach of the year in 2006 and 2012. His teams were state runners-up twice, and had two Mr. Tennis recipients in Max Piepkorn (2006) and Andy Ficek (2012).

"Beyond the individual and team accolades that Greg was a part of, he has always placed a high priority on leading a program that provided a positive experience for student-athletes to learn and develop as players and as people," North activities director Travis Christensen said in the release. "This is undoubtedly what will be his greatest legacy. I wish Greg all the best and thank him for all he has done to positively impact so many of our Spartan student-athletes."

The Spartans, like all successful North Dakota programs, had frequent run-ins with Grand Forks Red River. The Roughriders compiled a streak of 211 straight dual wins and 17 consecutive state titles that ended in 2015.

In a 10-year span, Unruh’s Spartans were Eastern Dakota Conference runners-up six times to Grand Forks, state runners-up twice, falling 3-2 in both finals. Unruh led his team to the finals for the first time in 27 years at North.

Unruh has coached both boys and girls programs and at other locations, Fargo Shanley locally, and in Arizona and Texas.

“This is close to home and my daughter played for the team and had a pretty successful career,” he said.

Unruh’s daughter Dani was a standout for the Lakers and played tennis collegiately at Minnesota State University Moorhead.


Unruh is replacing Tanner Beauchman. He and Unruh have a past connection as well.

“I know Tanner from way back,” Unruh said.

Unruh coached against Beauchman when Tanner was a high school player at Valley City.

“He did a nice job, that’s for sure,” said Unruh. “I’ve always been impressed with Tanner and he was Dani’s coach. As parents, we were happy with the job he did.”

Unruh will have some work to do to keep the recent uptick in Laker wins and participation numbers . The team lost the top seven players to graduation this year.

“It’s going to be a little bit of a rebuilding process,” Unruh said. “There’s a little work to do and that’s fun. As a new coach coming in, it’s probably good that way too - to have a fresh slate.”

Unruh has a simple formula for success and decades of experience to back it up.

“When I was young I was all gung ho on winning and building winning programs,” he said. “But I found the best thing is if your number one goal is to have fun then you’re going to have the numbers and the success is going to come also. Some of my best experiences as a coach were with teams that were very green. Sometimes you have your most fun experiences with those types of teams. Every season is different and I’m looking forward to it.”


Fall sports are still up in the air. The teams are currently missing the usual summer program playing at least a couple nights per week. Tennis typically begins first in the fall season, typically late August. What play will look like this fall is still a big question.

“I think everyone is kind of frustrated because we’re not really hearing a lot from the Minnesota State High School League as to what the plan is,” Unruh said. “It’s hard to say. I hope that we have fall sports but you never know.”

Robert Williams has been a sports editor for Forum Communications in Perham and Detroit Lakes since 2011.
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