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Warriors Athlete of Week: Fitterer joins sister in elite club

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Brainerd’s Payge Fitterer returns the ball during a match against Alexandria ealier this season. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 2

Only four players in the 44-year history of the Brainerd Warrior girls tennis program had notched 100 career victories.

Until Oct. 6.

Payge Fitterer became the fifth member of the prestigious 100-victory club that day when she won her second-round match during the North Subsection 8-2A Individual Tournament. What made it even more significant for Fitterer was the fact that her sister Ashley Fitterer, a 2016 graduate, is one of the 100-win club members. Ashley finished her Warrior career with a 101-30 record.

"It's pretty cool since there have only been four others," Fitterer said. "Right now I'm tied with (Ashley) at 101. With sections coming up (this weekend), it's possible I could beat her."

Ashley and the rest of the Fitterer family had the opportunity to watch Payge attain her milestone at Choice Health and Fitness in Grand Forks, N.D.

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Payge Fitterer

  • Sport: Tennis
  • Position: No. 1 singles
  • Year: Senior
  • Age: 17
  • Height: 5-3
  • Career highlight: Winning 100th career tennis match
  • Other sports: Alpine skiing
  • Grade-point average: 3.8
  • Favorite class: Pottery
  • Favorite food: Steak
  • Favorite movie: "Christmas Vacation"
  • Favorite website: "SnapChat"
  • Future plans: Attend college, play tennis, major in business
  • Favorite tennis player: Roger Federer
  • Parents: Laurie and Taylor Fitterer
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"I was walking off the court when (Brainerd coach Lisa) Salo told me," Fitterer said. "I broke down a little bit when she told me. Then I went up and everyone hugged me and congratulated me. It was really nice to have everyone there, supporting and watching me."

Along with the Fitterer sisters, additional members of the Warrior girls 100-win club are Mikinzee Salo (148-35), a 2011 graduate; Sara Wennerstrand, (103-30), a 2014 grad; and Brooke Mimmack, (100-30), a 2015 grad. Each of the five have their name posted on the Warrior Tennis Achievement Board at the high school courts.

Fitterer, who was a member of the Warriors' 2014-15 state championship Alpine skiing team, said she's honored to join an elite group of Warrior tennis players.

"Everyone who's gotten it before me has been an amazing tennis player and a super good role model," Fitterer said. "This puts me in that position, too. It's a really good accomplishment to reach. It's hard to do but it's also very fun."

Salo has witnessed Fitterer's growth, from an eighth-grader playing No. 3 varsity singles to a senior playing her third year at No. 1.

"Payge was an impact player already in eighth grade," Salo said. "Her sophomore year she jumped to first singles. We knew, and she knew, it would be a challenging year. She knew she would take her lumps that year, meeting the top player from each team.

"(Assistant) coach (Chad) Anderson and I, after a loss early that season, went out to talk to Payge after a match. ... Her vision was to learn from the mistakes of playing at a higher level. She was prepared that it would be a difficult year for her. We talked about as a competitor being able to understand that. She was ready and willing to jump in there."

In Fitterer's first varsity season, Salo said she and her staff recognized that Fitterer was already a powerful hitter.

"Back in eighth grade she could blast the ball," Salo said. "When you play third singles you can get by with that a lot. When she moved up to play at the first-singles level, more tools had to come into her game plan—using more touch, net play, improving her serve which has been a big thing she's been working on. She had to develop those all-court skills to compete effectively at the first-singles level and she's doing it."

Fitterer defeated Moorhead's Brenna Mjoness 6-1, 6-1 for her milestone victory.

"I was really on my game that match," she said. "I didn't know that actually was going to be my 100th win because Salo calculated it wrong (initially) so it actually was a surprise."

Fitterer finished third in the North Subsection tournament to advance to this Saturday's Section 8-2A singles tournament for the third year in a row. She and teammates will also compete in the section team semifinals. North No. 1 seed Brainerd meets South No. 3 Becker in the semifinals. The winner plays the South No. 1 St. Cloud Tech/North No. 2 Bemidji winner for a trip to state.

Fitterer enters the section tournament with a season record of 23-7 and a career mark of 101-50.

"It's been so fun," Fitterer said of her senior season. "It's been like my best season so far. The girls—we've never been closer. We're all just a big family. We've had so many memories together that it's one (season) I will never forget."

Other notable efforts:

• Libby Kurtzman-Taya Person, tennis, won the North Subsection doubles title and advanced to sections.

• Nicole Rud-Maria Bell, tennis, finished third in the North Subsection tournament and advanced to sections.

• Brady Anderson, football, intercepted four passes vs. Becker.

• Charlie Geraets, football, rushed for 227 yards and two TDs vs. Becker.

• Lili Schaeffer, cross country, won the girls race in the C-I Invite at Ruttger's.

• Gina Wasniewski, girls soccer, had a hat trick and assist vs. Fergus Falls.

• Gabbie Smith, girls soccer, had a goal and four assists vs. Fergus Falls.

• Regan McElfresh, girls soccer, had two goals and three assists vs. Fergus Falls.

• Cara Helgeson, volleyball, had 30 set assists vs. Fergus Falls.

• Avery Eckman, volleyball, recorded 14 kills vs. Fergus Falls.