FAIRMONT — The Fairmont women’s tennis team won the Big South Conference All-Time Championship, claimed the program’s first sectional crown in 27 years, clinched fourth place in the Class A State Tournament and compiled a 19-4 record in dual competition in 2021.
Impressive accomplishments by any measure, especially in the first full season as a college head coach.
But Laura Olsen, who is entering her third official year in charge of the Cardinals (Fairmont missed the Minnesota State High School League playoffs due to Martin County’s high Covid-19 numbers in the fall of 2020), and the Assistant coach Tim Slama will be the last to take credit for a historic campaign last fall.
“It was an incredible season last fall and we will miss the seniors of last year, but we are excited to build a team for the future now,” said Olsen, whose lineup will open the season at the same location it ended in 2021 — the state tournament’s home at the Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
Fairmont will connect on its first serves against Spring Lake Park in a double meet at 10:40 a.m. Friday before facing Osseo in a contest at 12:30 p.m. at the Reed-Sweatt facility.
“I always like to start the season with a quick turnaround,” Olsen said in reference to just four days of training before his side face off in a non-league triangle. “It gives us a chance to evacuate some of the nerves in our system early on and helps us assess where we are and what we need to work on.
“I think our summer program really helps our players get ready to play real games in opening week as well. They’re on the court several hours a week, and that helps them get in shape.
The Cardinals travel to Mound-Westonka on Monday before opening their home schedule at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday by hosting Maple River at Cardinal Courts in Fairmont.
So what will Olsen, Slama and the Cardinal netters do for an encore performance in 2022?
“I think we will be competitive with a number of players returning from last year’s state qualifying squad, in addition to a number of junior college players who have progressed over the summer.” , Olsen said. “Once fall practices started, some of our girls knew it was time to step up and go, and that’s going to make it harder for Tim and my job to determine a college education. “
Senior tri-captain Johanna Petschke returns after combining her skills on the court with senior Anika Haugen in the third double at last fall’s State Race, with junior Abi Peyman – who played singles n No. 4 – and junior Hope Klanderud – who played at No. 2 doubles.
“Abi and Hope are likely going to face off for the top spot in singles, but it will be a big jump for both of them, so we will have to have realistic expectations and goals at this position in the roster,” Olsen said. “Hope is our utility player of the tennis world in that we can use her as either a singles player or a doubles player.”
Three senior captains Lilly Laven and Solveig Senf, who proved strong junior varsity players last fall, will also be in the varsity mix this season.
Rookie Madi Peyman and junior Elly Stegge hit the ball well early in practice and will also be battling it out for college playing time.
Eighth grade Emelia Klanderud and the junior tandem of Jaydon Moses and Ellie Plumhoff will compete for matches, along with the senior trio of Paige Linse, Jenna Spencer and Hadley Artz, and junior Brynn Gustafson this fall.
“Jenna has been very consistent so far and could definitely apply for college, but it will be a neck and neck competition between all the girls,” Olsen said. “As this is her first outing (for tennis), Hadley seems to be picking up the game quickly due to her athleticism.”
Olsen predicts St. James Area — which was both the conference and Fairmont Section runners-up in 2021 — and St. Peter will be two of the top contenders during the regular season and playoffs in 2022.
“St. James is still a top tennis program, while St. Peter played last fall with a number of young girls who have potential. Olsen said.
After setting the bar high last fall, does Olsen have a motivating credo for the coming season?
“No, I’m making it simple. My coaching philosophy remains the same: do your best and don’t worry about what you can’t control, and focus on what you can control. There are too many variables in tennis and in life in general to dwell on them too much. Olsen said. “We are not just trying to develop quality tennis players, but we also want to develop quality people.
“I told the girls it would be fun to go back to the state, but we just have to take it one shot at a time.”