Oct. 20—MINNEAPOLIS — When
New London-Spicer girls tennis
head coach Nancy Rost met her Wildcats for the first time, her message was simple.
Rost wanted her Wildcats to have a fun experience playing tennis. As someone who loves the game of tennis and being a part of a team, she hoped for the same for her group of girls.
Rost was once a decorated tennis player. She won five high-school individual state titles in South Dakota as a singles player before competing for the University of Minnesota women’s tennis program in the 1980s. She was later inducted into the South Dakota Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008.
Now, in the midst of her first season as NLS’ head coach after replacing long-time head coach Chad Schmiesing, Rost has helped lead the Wildcats to the Class A state tournament.
NLS begins its state tournament run against three-seeded Pine City at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Reed-Sweatt Family Tennis Center in Minneapolis.
“We’re absolutely thrilled that we’re going to state as a team,” Rost said.
Madisyn Claseman, a senior, added, “Our team has worked really hard for it. We’ve definitely all improved this year and I’m really proud of all of them.”
When Rost first arrived, she had big goals in mind for the Wildcats. She wanted her group of girls to do well throughout the season and had high hopes for them in making it to the state tournament.
“One girl (Amyra Gamez) said, ‘yeah’ (about going to state),” Rost said. “I think the other girls didn’t really think about it because there were all these changes — new coach, lost their seniors.”
NLS, which was the No. 2 seed in Section 6A, beat seven-seeded Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa, three-seeded Minnewaska and top-seeded Osakis to earn its first section title since 2020. There was no state tournament that season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we had our final match that decided it for us that we were going to state, it was just a really cute moment,” Claseman said. “Everyone was crying and everyone’s really excited for it (state).”
Now that her Wildcats have made it to state, Rost has another simple message for them.
“Don’t be satisfied,” Rost said. “It’s exciting. For some of us, it was unexpected.
“But it’s a wonderful thing to happen, especially for the seniors.”
The Wildcats are led by their No. 1 doubles pairing in Claseman and one of her four senior counterparts in Delaney Hanson.
Claseman and Hanson, who did not start the season as a pairing, each have 25-1 overall records this season. The duo’s one loss came against Litchfield’s Isla Dille and Olivia Olson in the Section 6A doubles finals.
Claseman and Hanson’s second-place finish has earned them a spot in the doubles competition of the Class A individual state tournament, which begins at 10 a.m. Thursday. The pair faces top-seeded Nana and Fatemeh Vang from Blake.
“We work really well together because (Madisyn) can really get me open at the net and help me there,” Hanson said. “I feel like I also do a good job of keeping her up and trying to make sure it all goes well.”
“It’s really exciting, Claseman said. “I think we both have a lot of love for the sport.”
Also making it to state as an individual for NLS is Gamez in the singles competition. Singles play begins at 8 a.m. Thursday and she faces four-seeded Casey Cronin of Holy Family Catholic in the opening round.
Gamez has a 9-17 overall record and is heating up at the right time. She went 3-1 in section play as the No. 13 seed. Her one loss came against top-seeded Leah Maddock of Osakis in the section final.
“Amyra has played really tough players in a really tough conference,” Rost said of the Wright County Conference. “She has started to play a lot better and she’s gotten more confident.”
But as the team competition gets underway Tuesday, Rost knows that her singles players need to step up if her Wildcats can have a shot at winning the school’s first state title in its history.
NLS’ doubles teams each won in its 4-3 section final victory over Osakis to help propel them to state
. Ella Wieland, a senior at the No. 2 singles spot, also won for the Wildcats.
“We need to be stronger in our singles matches,” Rost said.
1. Amyra Gamez (junior)
2. Ella Wieland (senior)
3. Emily Ruter (senior)
4. Emma Freidel (sophomore)
1. Delaney Hanson (senior)/Madisyn Claseman (senior)
2. Brianna Wileman (senior)/Jadyn Proehl (junior)
3. Heidi Taunton (sophomore)/Averie Turner (sophomore)
*All matches take place at Reed-Sweat Family Tennis Center
Quarterfinals + consolation semifinals (Tuesday) — Q1: (1) Rochester Lourdes vs. Luverne, 8 a.m. — Q2: (4) St. James vs. (5) Crookston, 10 a.m. — Q3: (2) Blake vs. Providence Academy, noon — Q4: (3) Pine City vs. New London-Spicer, 2 p.m. — CS1: losers from Q1 and Q2, 4 p.m. — CS2: losers from Q3 and Q4, 6 p.m.
Semifinals + finals (Wednesday) — S1: winners from Q1 and Q2, 8 a.m. — S2: winners from Q3 and Q4, 10 a.m. — 5th place: winners from CS1 and CS2, noon — 3rd place: losers from S1 and S2, 2 p.m. — Championship: winners from S1 and S2, 4 p.m.
Seven more area athletes will compete in the Class A individual state tournament.
Montevideo’s Brooke Lindeman will face top-seed Isabelle Einess from Breck in singles play.
The remaining six area competitors all fall into the doubles competition.
Lac qui Parle Valley/Dawson-Boyd’s Hannah Oie/Kayla Jahn face four-seeded Lauren Rutten/Ronnie Noska from Staples-Motley. Litchfield’s Isla Dille/Olivia Olson play Lexa Valvoda/Alana Linnell of Pine City. Benson/Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s Elise Duncan/Elle Kletscher take on Providence Academy’s Katelyn Clements/Lisey Langhus.
Jessica Roberts serves up the latest in the world of tennis. With a love for the racket sport, she reports on tennis matches, player rankings, and Grand Slam events, ensuring readers stay informed about the tennis world.