Caleb Farnsworth, Tyler Josund and Bryce Pairrett all had a decision to make.

The seniors from Davenport North were all part of the Wildcats' basketball and tennis programs. After helping the tennis program make strides the past three seasons, the group thought about the potential the tennis team could have for the 2017 season.

But that also likely meant they would have to spend more time training and improving their game during the offseason. It also meant they likely would have to quit playing basketball.

While all three athletes admitted they were not huge contributors for the basketball program, leaving a sport they had played since they were kids was not an easy decision, either.

"It was kind of hard but we all talked about it and decided it was best for us," Farnsworth said of the choice to focus on tennis. "We knew that if we worked hard, we could have a really good season."

The fruits of their labor and the validation of the decision have shown up this season, including what happened Saturday. In a preliminary Class 2A substate match, North defeated Dubuque Hempstead 5-2 on the Wildcats' home court to advance to the Round of 16. The Wildcats will travel to face Bettendorf on Saturday morning in the substate semifinal.

With the victory over Hempstead, North improved its dual meet record to 6-4 on the season, guaranteeing no matter what happens against the Bulldogs, North will finish its season with a winning dual record.

"That has not happened since 1998, so I think everyone is really proud of what we accomplished," Pairrett said. "To be a part of that and help change the culture and thoughts about tennis, means something."

Farnsworth and Pairrett helped the Wildcats wrap up the win against Hempstead by claiming their singles matches. Farnsworth won his No. 3 singles match against Jacob Hansel, 7-6 (3), 6-2 while Pairrett defeated Luke Althans, 6-4, 6-1 at No. 5 singles.

Josund fought hard in his No. 1 singles match but fell to Hempstead's Nathan Tauke in three sets, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. Carter Josund (No. 4) and Nate Williams (No. 6) had the other wins for the home team in singles play.

Farnsworth and Pairrett then teamed up to clinch the win for the Wildcats by winning their No. 2 doubles match, beating Harrison Kidvahan and Althans, 6-2, 6-0.

But what the seniors said impressed them the most was the turnout from the North fans to watch the match. The entire hillside overlooking the tennis courts was covered with North supporters during Saturday's match. The trio said the success has also struck a nerve with their peers at school.

"I don't think we've ever had this many fans come out to watch us," Josund said. "It's great to see the support and I think we have more (students) interested in the tennis program because of the success."

Josund said he feels about a million miles away from his freshman season in 2014 when the Wildcats won just one dual meet. In 2015, the Wildcats went 2-7 and finished the 2016 campaign with a record of 3-6.

"Everyone wanting to be better and not being content being at the bottom of the (Mississippi Athletic Conference) is what was driving this," he said. "We were excited for this season but we knew that we had to work (in the off-season) to take that next step."

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Josund said he and Farnsworth started working out at a tennis club in Bettendorf in the off-season and Pairrett soon joined the group. Getting in as much playing time as possible also made the chemistry stronger for the whole group.

"The entire team, everyone supports each other and pushes each other," he said.

North coach Chris Hall, who is in his ninth season with the Wildcats, said the success of this season is a tribute to the work put in and also even left him a little surprised.

"We've had some good teams in the past but these guys have gone above and beyond even my expectations," Hall said. "I thought we were going to have a pretty good team but I really didn't know. (Saturday) is the best we've played all season and they are really confident right now. I am really proud of the whole team but without those three seniors, I am not sure how it might have gone.

"It's the change of culture at North and the attitude. I get emails now all the time about kids who are starting to play tennis."

Hall also gave credit to volunteer assistant coach Marshal Moellers to helping the Wildcats develop. Hall said Moellers, who was a prep player at powerhouse Iowa City West, can show his players what they need to work on.

"(Moellers) can get out there and play with them and give them experience and go over different strategies and scenarios, which something I can't do, so we are fortunate that he has given his time to us," Hall said.

As for the three seniors who will be finishing their careers in the next few weeks, it might be hard to get perspective on what they meant for the Wildcats' program. Perhaps, it might take a few years to look back on what this group did to push the program even farther.

"I don't think it has hit me. As a freshman, I imagined it and hoped (for success) but you can't foresee the future," Josund said of the journey. "I think we have set a standard here and hopefully it continues. All the hard work and time has paid off and I think all of us can be proud of that."

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