BEMIDJI – After nearly 25 years of teaching and coaching at the middle school and high school level, Mark Fodness is entering his first season as head coach of the Bemidji State women’s tennis team.
The Beavers have won more than four matches in a season just one time in eight years, so Fodness knows it will take time to turn the program around.
“The biggest thing I want to make sure we establish is a winning attitude,” Fodness said. “Even if we do not win many matches in the first year or two, I want a winning and competitive attitude. So far, the girls have done a great job.”
A big factor that lured Fodness - a BSU graduate -into collegiate coaching was the challenge of turning the program around.
“It is always fun to have the opportunity to come back and work at your alma mater,” Fodness said. “I also think the challenge of it brought me in. BSU has not been competitive in tennis for awhile but if we can bring in the right players who will compete, I would like to think that it will not be too long before we are one of the successful programs in the conference.”
Fodness is not the only newcomer on the team. Of the eight women expected to see action, only three played last season.
“Senior Meg Hafdahl and sophomore Caley Westin are our co-captains,” Fodness said. “They are both great leaders in addition to being skilled tennis players.”
Although this will be Hafdahl’s first official position of leadership, the lone senior feels it will not be too much different from last season.
“There is a little bit of pressure having to be a role-model and a leader for the team,” Hafdahl admitted. “I have never really had a leadership position like this before. Off the court, I am responsible for more things like ordering t-shirts and things like that, but on the court there will not be as much pressure. It will be pretty similar to last year.”
Hafdahl and Westin are joined by fellow-returner, sophomore Emily Rollins.
The five newcomers on the roster include Carmen Backowski, Arina Buck, Jessica Dulz, Nicci Hedtke and Carlie Loeks.
“Everybody else is a freshman as far as tennis is concerned,” Fodness said. “That group is very balanced. That is nice because they are working hard to push each other every day in practice.”
Hafdahl feels that one of Fodness’ best qualities as a coach is the way he has handled a young team.
“The main difference is that we are not practicing at 6 a.m. anymore and I am fine with that,” Hafdahl said. “Coach has been very good and very patient while working with the freshmen this year.”
Both Fodness and Hafdhal realize that this year may not be the most successful season in terms of wins and losses, but the goal is to start the turnaround of the BSU tennis program.
“I want all of the girls to enjoy the experience this season,” Hafdahl said. “We are a really young team, so I am not going to set extremely high expectations this year. But we are going to have fun and try our hardest, I know that.”
Bemidji State will begin its season this weekend when it hosts University of Mary 2 p.m. today before traveling to UMD on Sunday.