Girls tennis: Fiemeyer looks back on first year as WDC's head coach and toward a promising future
The Wadena-Deer Creek girls tennis team took on a new coach this fall. Jil Fiemeyer wrapped up her first season at the helm. She spoke about coaching her daughters, this season's milestone moments and the outlook for the future.
WADENA – The Wadena-Deer Creek girls tennis season began a little differently this year.
The Wolverines had a new leader at the helm. Jil Fiemeyer, a 1992 graduate from Wadena, took over as head coach to start the 2022 season. She was part of the only WDC girls tennis team to make it to state.
Fiemeyer’s tennis experience led a hard-working group of girls this year and hopefully for years to come.
The Wolverines had plenty of ups and downs this fall. They finished with an overall record of 10-11. WDC’s No. 1 singles Libby Hartman lost in her third-place match at the Section 8A individual tournament. Katie and Anna Fiemeyer, the Wolverines’ No. 1 doubles team, finished third at sections.
Before the season, Fiemeyer was familiar with the girls and the situation she stepped into in replacing former head coach Jordan Cresap.
“Coming into the year, I knew most of the players because my daughters have played on the team,” she said. “I knew what they were capable of. I got out there and learned firsthand that they were a hard-working group. The team works really hard and are a solid bunch of girls. I took over a really good program and a fantastic group of young ladies.”
A couple of those hard-working girls were Katie and Anna Fiemeyer, coach Fiemeyer’s daughters.
“I think any parent who is a coach will say that trying to find that balance can be tough some days,” coach Fiemeyer said. “Some days, I wish I was just mom, and there were days I wish I were just their coach… The inside edge of being both meant I could just look at them and see what was wrong. They know I set really high expectations as my daughters, and they rise to those expectations.”
Those expectations were definitely met. Katie and Anna finished the season with the most wins by a doubles team in the regular season with 27. The duo was also undefeated in conference play during the regular season.
“They stepped up,” Fiemeyer said. “They won both of the tournaments the team competed in, the Highway 10 tourney and the Crookston tournament. I separated them a couple times during the season, but together they were a winning duo. Katie was 29-3, and Anna was 30-2. They exceeded my expectations, especially during the Crookston tourney–playing some really good 2A teams. They also won a lot of their matches in two sets when they were three-set winners last year. Those three-setters stressed me out and made me anxious as a mom, but they really stepped up their game this season.”
It wasn’t just Katie and Anna who stepped it up during the season.
Hartman went from the No. 3 singles player to the Wolverines’ top dog. Not only was Hartman a hard-working junior, but she was also one of three captains Fiemeyer leaned on to help lead the team. Hartman finished with an overall record of 15-17.
“That is a huge jump,” Fiemeier said on going from third to first singles. “She stepped it up this season. She didn’t always like her outcome, but she worked really hard. She was one of my young people who was one of the most coachable girls. I could go out there and tell her this is what I’ve seen or what you need to work on, and she loved that tough love. She was willing to tell me what she needed from her coach.”
One of the other captains on the team was the lone senior, Kayla Meeks, who ended her season with an overall record of 21-10.
“She was a solid, consistent No. 2 in doubles. People could mix and match with her, and that didn’t matter. She was so adaptable and showed her leadership in that way. She was always that stable leader.”
Cadie Leeseberg took a giant leap in her game from last season. She finished with an overall record of 22-9.
“She went to a camp, like most of the girls over the summer, and really stepped it up,” Fiemeyer said. “Her serving improved so well. She was a fundamental, dedicated player and kept growing. Her twin sister (Chloe) also plays on the team, and they have really risen up to play second and third doubles.”
One of the other girls that Fiemeyer is excited about in the future is freshman Kaylee Endres. After Kelanie Oldakowski’s ACL injury, Endres stepped up into a prominent singles role.
“Kaylee had to step, and she learned to work really hard,” Fiemeyer said. “She could stay in any match. She was seeded 12th at sections and upset the fifth seed. She needed someone to help with the big-picture stuff. She’s a super coachable girl who really has grown throughout the season. I was incredibly impressed with how she peaked in the end.”
After Oldakowski’s season-ending injury, she took on the role of team manager.
Fiemeyer praised her for being the “epitome of what a good teammate is.”
“She had the most team spirit and was always there to cheer her teammates up,” she said. “She has the resiliency of a queen. She did not let that injury slow her down at all. She kept everyone’s spirits boosted. She helped out with the manager stuff and all that. She was a gift when she could’ve been really negative.”
WDC won its first round of the team section of the tournament with a 7-0 win against Roseau before falling to the eventual Section 8A champions, Staples-Motley, in the next match.
Park Region All-Conference honors went to Hartman and Katie Fiemeyer. All-Conference Honorable Mention honors went to Anna Fiemeyer, Meeks, Cadie Leeseberg and Endres.
Fiemeyer is excited to get her first offseason started. She wants the girls to focus on staying healthy and improving their game.
“I think athletes across the board are built during the offseason,” She said. “These girls need to continue to work on their cardio health and nutrition. They just need to stay in shape. Whether that is playing other sports or getting into the gym, they simply need to do whatever it is to keep their health up.”
“Most of the girls have discussed going to tennis camp this summer. They also like to compete in summer tournaments. It’s those summer tournaments where you play all kinds of different levels of competition, and there isn’t that pressure of that point being on you. They played girls who have been winning state tournaments for years. The expectation isn’t necessarily that you are going to win that match but what you can get out of that match that will make you a better player.”
Fiemeyer loves the competitor-against-competitor culture that her team has developed.
“They just had a great time playing the sport they love,” she said. “At the end of the day, you have to be able to look back and say, ‘That was fun.’”