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The student news site of Dowling Catholic High School

The Dowling Catholic Post

The student news site of Dowling Catholic High School

The Dowling Catholic Post

You Know the Drill

A look back at the players who helped shape the DCHS Girls Tennis program in the ‘90s as the team aims for a third straight title at the end of May
The 1994 girls tennis team.
The 1994 girls tennis team.

As the school year winds down, the girls’ tennis season at Dowling Catholic High School amps up. When there’s just under three weeks of school left, the tennis team prepares for the first round of postseason matches. This season, DCHS Girls Tennis were named District Champions after closing their regular season with zero 2A losses (only falling to 1A tennis dynasty Waterloo Columbus). The team is looking to earn their third straight Team State Champion title at the end of May. 

In honor of the tennis season, we at The Dowling Catholic Post wanted to hear the memories, successes, and advice from teams of the past. It’s worth noting that according to the Dowling Catholic website, the only time the DCHS Girls Tennis team has held titles at State was at the beginning of the ‘90s and within the last several years. 

  • Doubles State Championship: 1990, 1991, 2019
  • Doubles State Runner-Up: 1990, 1991, 2019, 2021, 2022
  • State Singles Champions: 2021
  • State Singles Runner-Up: 2022
  • State Team Runner-Up: 2017
  • State Team Qualifier: 2015, 2018, 2019, 2022
  • State Team Champions: 2021, 2022
  • State Co-ed Champions: 2022

Mackenzie Branstad and Ella Johnson, doubles partners on the tennis court and a reporter duo in the newsroom, had a heart-to-heart conversation with some of the team from the ‘90s, players-to-players. 

Meet the Squad

Nicole Coffman (Fegley) played tennis at DCHS from 1987-1990. She started playing when she was seven-years-old at Echo Valley Country Club. Eventually, she trained with a private coach at Racquet Club (known as Genesis Health Club today) and played in USTA tournaments year-round. “I truly enjoyed the sport and I was proud to play for Dowling’s team.” Today, she no longer takes to the court, but she enjoyed watching her three sons play. 

Natalie Cataldo (Fegley) is Nicole’s younger sister and played tennis at DCHS from 1989-1993; however, she has returned to the DCHS tennis courts as the boys’ team mom for the past two years. Like her sister, she got her tennis start around the age of seven. She credits the committed Echo Valley tennis community, including her parents, to be a big reason why she played so much. That being said, she did not play tennis year round like her sister. “I love tennis,” Natalie says,  “I don’t play that much because my knees don’t like it when I play,” but she still plays with her three children. She also adds that her favorite tennis player is Boris Becker because of his uncanny resemblance to fellow DCHS tennis player and alum, Jeff Yurgae. 

Peggy Krueger (White) was both Nicole and Natalie’s doubles partner, playing tennis at DCHS from 1989-1992. Her family, particularly her brother Dave, inspired her to start playing tennis in first grade. “It was something fun we could do together.” She participated in summer camps through West Des Moines Parks and Recreation before playing year-round at the Racquet Club beginning in sixth grade. “Playing year-round I was able to be with girls from a lot of the other schools.” From there, she spent her summers playing on Racquet Club’s travel tournament team. Although she no longer plays tennis, she finds the Williams sisters to be inspiring role models, on and off of the court. 

Misha McCurin’s tennis career began in 1988 when she was in middle school. She often remembers practicing her swing at the Waveland Courts because they were close to her house. In the summers, she did tennis camps, and in the winters, she played at Racquet Club. From 1991-1994 she played tennis at DCHS. Misha’s mom encouraged her to play. “She said it was a sport I could enjoy for a lifetime; she was right!” In fact, Misha went on to enjoy tennis during her freshman year of college at Loras. She too is a big fan of Serena Williams, but her all time favorite tennis player is Pete Sampras. “I really love watching Wimbledon. I have been there in the off-season and it’s a magical place for tennis fans.” While her tennis loyalty has dwindled in the past years, even canceling her subscription to Tennis Magazine, Misha intends to start playing more tennis soon. In the meantime, she has been an avid pickleball player for five years. 

It was Kristin Herrig’s (Marcinko) mom who, like Misha’s mom, inspired her to pursue tennis in high school. “Plus I wasn’t good at basketball.” Kristin started playing tennis for fun in eighth grade, but she did not play her freshman year of high school because she lived in Chicago at the time, where the tennis season was during the fall. “Due to summer travel I would’ve missed the first few weeks of practice. When we moved and I found out the season was in the spring I was really excited.” From 1992-1994, she lettered as a varsity tennis player in both singles and doubles at DCHS (shoutout to her doubles partner Mel Smith). Kristin regrets not playing tennis in college, but she’s made up for it by being a loyal follower of Monica Seles, Pete Sampras, Taylor Fritz, Jannik Sinner, and Ons Jabeur. She also encouraged her nine-year-old daughter to take some tennis lessons last summer. During the DCHS European trip in the summer of 1993, she had the opportunity to visit the grounds of her favorite tennis tournament, Wimbledon. “I was able to get up early one morning to take the train to Wimbledon. We walked the grounds the morning of Grand Slam Sunday. I got to go into Center Court and bought a ton of souvenirs. It was a once in a lifetime experience.”

Nicole Berger, currently the head coach of the DCHS Boys Tennis team, played at DCHS from  1998-2001. “I loved practicing tennis from the first time I tried it. I used to hit up against the garage door for hours when I did not have anyone to take me to the tennis courts.” Nicole played racquetball before turning to tennis in middle school at Wakonda and 7 Flags. During the summer, her dedication to tennis included practicing for four hours Monday-Thursday and traveling to tennis tournaments on the weekends. Once school started, she would try to play ten hours per week. “My senior year I went out for the swim team to cross train for tennis.” After high school, Nicole went on to play tennis for two years at Northwest Missouri State University, where her team was inducted into the hall of fame. She continued her DII college tennis career at Ferris State University and helped to take her team to nationals in both years that she played. “I graduated from college with a professional tennis management degree.” From there, she opened and operated Paradise Tennis in Key West, Florida, for nine years. Back in Iowa, she has recently started a tennis nonprofit called Iowa Tennis 4U. “I run wheelchair tennis and Tennis Thanks the Troops (VA Tennis) in the summer and fall.”

Adrianne Branstad (Holmes) played JV tennis from 1995-1999. She played at Des Moines Golf and Country Club and loved it so much that she kept playing through high school. “I had the best time getting to see my friends and having my coaches push me to be my best.” She remembers the biggest team rival being the Valley Tigers (of course), but she recalls that Urbandale was also good at the time. Her favorite memory is the bus rides with Sister Clemenza and the team wearing matching tennis skirts! She truly holds a love for the sport and still plays cardio tennis around three times a week at Des Moines Golf. 

Together on Three…1, 2, 3 TOGETHER

“Dowling tennis was great, every year there were awesome girls on the team and we had lots of fun!” says Peggy. Even today, the success of the DCHS Girls Tennis team is largely in part to the close knit comradery. The team’s current motto is #TOGETHER, and while hashtags did not exist during the ‘90s, the past teams shared the same mindset as current tennis players at DCHS. Natalie Cataldo embodies this attitude, “I love being a part of a team, really any team!” Others offered similar sentiments. Misha remembers being intimidated by the upperclassmen at first because she was the only freshman on the team, “but they were so kind” and she “learned a lot watching them!” As Misha became an upperclassman, she said that more people joined the tennis team “and I made friends I still have today!” Kristin adds, “None of my girl group played, so it allowed me to meet other girls and expand my friend circle. It was more about having fun than winning all the time, and that made it memorable.“

Grind Time

This year, there were nearly seventy girls that went out for tennis at DCHS, with eleven players making up the varsity team. While the format for varsity in the ’90s was the same as it is today (six singles players and five doubles teams), the overall size of the team was much smaller than today. “I want to say maybe twenty girls,” Natalie thinks back on. In 1991, Misha recalls there only being ten girls, so everyone made varsity. “After that, it grew every year and we had JV and varsity.” 

Even so, size did not stop the girls of DCHS tennis. “We always had smaller but mighty teams,” Peggy says. The 1991 ten-deep roster proved this when Molly Brick and Deb Connor were crowned state doubles champions for the second year in a row. While they did not have any state runs after this for a while, DCHS was “always state contenders” with “many talented players,” according to Nicole Coffman. Peggy elaborates, “I remember going to state for doubles at least one year.” Kristin recognizes the best singles player on the team while she played who was a foreign exchange student from Germany. “ She helped carry the team!” Kristin went on to say that “our top 3 singles were pretty good and had years of tennis experience while the rest of us just picked up the sport during high school.” Now as a tennis coach, Nicole Berger thinks that one way in which the sport has evolved is the overall level of Iowa High School Tennis improving. Still, Nicole managed to go to state in singles one year and make it to state doubles twice alongside her sister Jenny.

It is a consensus among all DCHS players, across any sport, that Valley will always be a rival. Tennis is no exception. Nicole Coffman looks back on her competition saying, “Valley, Lincoln and Roosevelt were our rivals.” In later years, Nicole Berger points out that the list grew to include Ames and Ankeny. On the other hand, there were also schools the DCHS tennis may have considered allies. Kristin says, “Personally, I loved playing East as the girls had great sportsmanship and were just fun to play. There are a lot more teams in the mix nowadays.”

A bigger team and more competition are not the only changes in the DCHS tennis team. Communication has also greatly progressed. “The coach shared everything,” Natalie says, “You knew when you had to be somewhere and you just went. We didn’t have as much going on, so all we really did was go to school and then whatever practice we had after school…Practices weren’t canceled like they are today either, we just made it work – if it couldn’t be outside, we ran inside in the gym on the track up top.” Nowadays, players and parents are informed via a weekly email, and any updates are also emailed, texted, added to the announcements page on DCHS’s website, or announced over the intercom.  

Did Someone Say Tennis Skirt?

Journalism students at DCHS have access to one of the school’s great treasures, which is a collection of yearbooks, of course. Upon admiring the ‘90s tennis teams, we could not help but notice their amazing style! “Vintage!” Misha describes the tennis uniforms, “Everyone had to wear a classic pleated white skirt and we had these T-shirts with a plaid ‘D’ on them.” Adrianne Branstad shares that the team collectively wore tennis skirts to school! While many of the past players admit their love for this shirt and skirt combo, they still think that there was room for improvement, as Kristin points out. “I remembered loving our shirt but hating the fact we wore all white! Back then there weren’t options of places to get rackets, bloomers and skirts. I’m so jealous of all the cool tennis clothing and gear nowadays.” Well, right back at you tennis teams of the ‘90s, so Coach Chalstrom, Pose, and Matt, if you are reading this article, please consider investing in some plaid “D” shirts for next year. 

“U Can’t Touch” the Memories

MC Hammer said it best, as Natalie and Peggy know all too well. MC Hammer was Natalie’s first concert, but it was right after their tennis match. “We had to leave early from a tennis match – so had to win quick – and went to the concert – so fun! And now she [Peggy] is a lifelong friend!! Super happy and blessed to have met her and might not have if I didn’t play tennis.”

Misha remembers the team bonding aspects to be what she cherishes most now. “I loved a tournament in Atlantic, Iowa, we had every year. Traveling to the games was the best because it was just so fun being together with that team. There was not a lot of attention on the tennis team, so I remember making “posters” for the girls’ lockers and asking them to announce our games over the PA.”

Kristin shares similar memories, although hers erred on the side of danger (it’s okay – no harm, no foul). “There used to be a gas station where Starbucks is today and we’d run there right after school to get huge 54 cent Diet Mountain Dews to get us through tennis practice. One time we were playing at Waveland and some of us were wrapping up and screwing around by our cars in the parking lot. One of the girls was sitting on the hood of the car and for some reason it seemed like a good idea to put the car in drive while she was on the hood. She fell off and just got gravel scrapes, thankfully! That wasn’t smart and I would not recommend that to anyone! We got lucky!”

For Nicole Coffman, it was the mix of nerves and excitement that all athletes feel. “I still recall the feeling of stepping onto the court to start a match. The butterflies in your stomach, sizing up the opponent and mentally psyching yourself up. Then the high-fives when you serve an ace or smash a volley.”

Nicole Berger’s favorite memory was playing the coach before state. “If I won I would be presented with a plate of king crab legs at the team banquet.” She also recalls her assistant coach making delicious homemade food for the matches.

Putting Faces to Names

Listen Up, the Players are Talking

“Soak up the fun. I know sports are competitive by nature and it is fun to celebrate the wins, but  you can gain so much from taking time to enjoy the moment and make memories with your teammates.” – Nicole Coffman (Fegley)

“Take it seriously, but have fun! Tennis is a lifelong sport, you will play it with your kids – keep your racquet!” – Natalie Cataldo (Fegley)

“Enjoy the time with your teammates and have fun! At the end of the day that really is what it’s all about. Years later that’s what you remember, not if you won or lost a match.” – Peggy Krueger (White)

“Keep playing! Join groups in the summer after you’ve graduated or ask your old teammates to join you. It really is a lifetime sport and so social.” – Misha McCurnin

“My dad would always say work hard, play hard. However my advice would be to have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously. Tennis is a sport you can easily continue after high school and college.” – Kristin Herrig (Marcinko)

“Play year-round and play more matches! Have fun!” – Nicole Berger

“Tennis is a lifelong sport, you can always make friends playing a game of tennis – have fun with it!” – Adrianne Branstad (Holmes)

Our advice at the Dowling Catholic Post? On behalf of the DCHS Girls Tennis Team, please come and support the team! The postseason schedule includes:

  • Girls Individual Regional Tournament @ Waukee Northwest High School – May 10
  • Girls Team Regionals Round 1  – DCHS earned a bye – May 13 
  • Girls Team Regionals Round 2/3 @ DCHS – May 16
  • Girls Team Regionals Quarter-Finals @ DCHS – May 20
  • Girls Individual State Tournament @ Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Center – May 26-27
  • Girls Team State Semi-Finals/Finals @ TBD – May 30

Follow Dowling Catholic Girls Tennis on Twitter and Instagram for updates. We need you! Go Maroons!


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About the Contributors
Ella Johnson
Ella Johnson, Staff Writer
Ella Johnson is a junior at Dowling Catholic High School. Within the performing arts program, she is involved in the fall play as well as Speech and Debate. She is also a part of Student Ambassadors, Student Philanthropy Council, and Ut Fidem. During the spring, she plays tennis at school and continues training year-round. Outside of school she takes piano lessons, an instrument she has played for nearly ten years. In her free time she enjoys continuously selecting the “next episode” button on any streaming service or delving into a good book. 
Mackenzie Branstad
Mackenzie Branstad, Staff Writer
Mackenzie Branstad is a junior at Dowling Catholic High School. She is involved in Best Buddies, Student Ambassadors, Super Cool Service Club, and Ut Fidem. She also runs cross country and plays tennis. Outside of school Mackenzie loves to hang out with her friends, shop, travel, and go on walks outside. Mackenzie's favorite color is blue and she has three younger sisters. Mackenzie is a newcomer to the Dowling Catholic Post and is so excited to be a part of the staff.

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