To get where she wanted to go, former St. Thomas More state tennis champion Madison Fenske had to travel around the Midwest, particularly to the Minneapolis area, to get noticed.
It worked as she landed a Division I scholarship to play at Idaho State University.
That journey continues, literally, as now going into her senior season at Idaho State, her goal is to improve in singles play. To do that, she’ll have to play in more tennis tournaments over the summer.
On the road again, to Minneapolis and around the Midwest.
“When you come from South Dakota, you don’t have the resources, so growing up it is hard to get recruited by Division I schools. I was really lucky that my coach (Gretchen Maloney) saw potential in me,” Fenske said. “I think every single year, just being surrounded by a good environment, I was able to grow and cultivate my game. Every year I have improved, so I think I can still improve by my senior season. I’m looking forward to that.”
A three-time all-state performer for the Cavaliers in high school and state doubles champion (2014), Fenske helped lead STM to its first state title in tennis.
In order to get noticed, she sent a recording of herself playing tennis, and called several coaches.
Her father, Tom Fenske, also took her to multiple trips to Minnesota for tournaments.
"That was the nearest place I could play tennis tournaments, and it is still an 8-hour drive,” she said. “I would have to do that during high school to accumulate points and get noticed by coaches.”
This season Fenske and her doubles partner, Melissa Coburn, finished 15-2 in 2018-2019 (8-0 in Big Sky Conference play) and were named to the all-conference second team. Yet, they weren’t able to compete in the conference tournament as postseason play is determined by the team rankings and the top six teams (Idaho State was seventh) qualify.
“Next year there will be eight seniors on team, so we’re looking forward to it,” she said.
Fenske was also 5-1 in singles play.
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As the No. 7 singles player (the top six compete), Fenske saw some action there, but she hopes to earn a spot in both singles play and doubles play next season.
“I enjoy singles and there is definitely room for improvement. It is not my strength as where doubles is,” she said. “This summer I am definitely going to work on my singles game. It definitely is my goal to make the singles lineup by next season.
“It will take a lot of practice matches and hopefully this summer we can travel to do some ITA (International Tennis Association) tournaments.”
It’s been a pretty steady progression for Fenske at Idaho State, going 1-3 in singles play and 7-10 in doubles as a freshman and 4-2 in singles and 10-7 in doubles as a sophomore.
“I was a little nervous out of high school, and I didn’t have a lot of confidence because I wasn’t sure how I would stack up to Division I level,” she said. “But my level has grown so much. Now I feel like I do have that confidence that I can play with D-1 players.”
She’s been a doubles partner with Coburn for two seasons and they have a 25-9 record in that time span.
“We have good chemistry and positive energy on court,” Fenske said. “I really love doubles; I love attacking at the net. I have a natural ability to read where the ball is going. I just always have fun.”
In college tennis, there’s only one team point given in doubles, so the team has to win at least two of the three flights. In a sense, it is more of a team sport, which Fenske enjoys.
“It is important to get that doubles point. I think that definitely motivates my partner and I to show up for our team, and contribute to our team,” she said.
Tennis has often been described as a lifetime sport, and Fenske said she hopes to play for fun for many years after her college career is finished. In the meantime, she is also working on her nursing degree. She just finished her first year in nursing school, and she is currently working this summer at Rapid City Regional Hospital in the Patient Care Champion program.
“After I graduate, I might go back and be a nurse practitioner,” she said. “I’m pretty open, though, at what type of nursing field to go into. But I really enjoy it so far.”