Kate Kurtzman’s week began with a loss.
That’s about the only negative for the Brainerd Warriors No. 1 singles player this season.
Kurtzman became the sixth girl and seventh Warrior to reach 100 career victories thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Willmar’s Alyssa Morrell Friday, Sept. 18, at Willmar.
The senior joins Mikinzee Salo (148-35), Sara Wennerstrand (103-30), Ashley Fitterer (101-30), Brooke Mimmack (100-30) and Payge Fitterer (104-53) on the 100 career wins bulletin that hangs on the outside of the Brainerd High School Tennis Courts. Also on that list is Tanner Lundberg (127-27).
“One of my close friends, Payge Fitterer was my sister’s age and she was a senior when I was a freshman,” Kurtzman said. “I remember when she got hers and I knew she started in eighth-grade, too. So it always kind of in the back of my mind as a goal.”
Kurtzman entered her senior season needing five wins to join the club and she knew the number needed. She was already feeling the pressure when a bus issue forced the Brainerd vs. Willmar match to be delayed one more day.
“In my head, I had a little bit of a countdown, but I was definitely nervous because I knew we had so many fewer matches this season,” Kurtzman said. “I was pretty frustrated because I didn’t know if we were going to be able to make up the Willmar match. When they first told us what had happened and the meet wasn’t going to happen, I was just, ‘Oh, no. That was my chance.’ But then they said they were going to reschedule it was a big relief.”
Kurtzman fell to St. Cloud Tech’s Ashley Tarrolly 6-0, 6-1 Tuesday, Sept. 15, to start her week. It was the second time this year Tarrolly got the better of Kurtzman. It should be noted that Tarrolly placed fourth in the Class 2A state singles tournament last year.
But Kurtzman did get her fifth win even against a familiar family name.
“The first set I was feeling really good about how I was playing and I was just cruising along,” Kurtzman said. “Then she ended up switching her strategy for the next set and she did a few more games out of me, but I just kept doing what I was doing and I was able to pull through.”
The victory puts Kurtzman’s career record at 100-28 and will have her name on the career wins list outside of the Brainerd High School Tennis Courts.
Kurtzman said she’s dreamt about that for a while.
“The milestone that she hit is a reflection of an athlete who stayed committed to her game,” Salo said. “She always looked to improve and she learned how to handle the frustrations and the bumps along the way that come with growing your game.
“We pushed her to be willing to take risks. When you compare her game as an eighth-grader to now, oh, it’s night and day.”
Kurtzman was steady in her early career Salo said, but more of a defensive player as evidenced by a marathon match in the Moose Tournament during her eighth-grade season. Kurtzman was playing No. 3 singles against a Perham player on Court 3 in Brainerd. It was the last match of an eight-team tournament on a warm Saturday earlier in the season tournament. Salo believes Kurtzman and this Perham player had a groundstroke rally for one point that lasted longer than 200 shots.
But words like gritty and potential flowed off Salo’s tongue while talking about her five-year varsity player.
“It’s been a cool progression because we knew she had so much potential in her and she kind of realized she could be good,” Salo said. “She just stayed committed and what’s most notable is she is so humble.”
As an eighth-grader at No. 3 singles, Kurtzman finished 26-5. During the Section 8-2A team semifinals, Kurtzman’s biggest victory came against Willmar. Instead of beating Alyssa Morrell, Kurtzman knocked off Lydia Morrell to advance Brainerd to the section finals.
She finished 25-4 as a freshman playing No. 3 singles. She jumped to No. 2 singles as a sophomore and went 27-6. Then came the big jump to No. 1 singles as a junior. She finished last year 17-11.
“When she jumped to first singles as a junior,” Salo said, “I’ll never forget it, after one of her first matches she said to me, ‘I know this is going to be a growth year for me. I know I’m meeting every team’s strongest player and I’m ready for that.’
“We were impressed by that conversation with her. That’s her growth mindset with humility thrown throughout.”
That humility has also helped Kurtzman become a solid captain and leader of a young tennis team. Kurtzman’s win against Willmar helped the Warriors improve to 7-0 heading into a dual with Bemidji Tuesday, Sept. 22.
“Being a captain made me step up out of my comfort zone and get to know a lot of the girls on the team and try to bring everyone together,” Kurtzman said. “My goal was to create more depth and get to know a lot of the girls on the team and I think I’ve accomplished that and I really like a lot of them now that I’ve gotten to know them more.
“It’s also helped me improve my playing because now when I walk onto the court I’m doing it for the team and playing my best.”
Kurtzman said she would have struggled with the extra burden of being a captain and the No. 1 singles player. This year, even before she was named captain, she was ready to lead.
“She leads by example,” Salo said. “She is one of our captains and we pushed her to lead a little bit more vocally. We knew that was a piece, and she knew it too, that she needed to grow in as a leader and she’s doing a great job of being a captain.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Thomas Ruhl, boys cross-country, won the Warrior dual against St. Cloud Tech to lead the Warriors to first..
Bridget Collins, girls cross-country, placed second in the Warrior dual against St. Cloud Tech to lead the Warriors to first.
Chandler Niemeyer, swimming and diving, won the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 breaststroke and was part of two winning relays against St. Cloud Tech.
Brandon Neifert, boys soccer, recorded three saves to preserve a 0-0 tie with St. Cloud Tech.
Izzy Olson, swimming and diving, won the diving competition against St. Cloud Tech and Willmar.
Mari Devine, girls soccer, scored a goal and assisted on another in a 2-0 victory over Willmar.
Cruz Megazzini, boys soccer, assisted on one goal and scored two more in a 3-1 victory over Willmar.
Sport: Girls tennis
Position: No. 1 singles
Career highlight: Defeating Alyssa Morrell to earn her 100th career win. Beating Lydia Morrell during the Section 8-2A semifinals to help Brainerd advance to the finals
Other sports: Lacrosse, weight lifting
Grade-point average: 3.75
Favorite class: Algebra
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite movie: “The Wrong Missy”
Favorite TV show: “Criminal Minds”
Favorite restaurant: The Capital Grille, Minneapolis
Future plans: Attend University of St. Thomas or Bethel University
Favorite athlete: SSerena Williams
Parents: Molly and Chris Kurtzman