One of the most successful high school girls basketball coaches in the Metro Conference is moving on to the collegiate ranks.
Bellevue West’s Matt Fritsche was announced Wednesday as the new women’s basketball coach at Midland University in Fremont, Neb. He is the second person to hold that position, following the retirement of longtime coach Joanne Bracker.
“Joanne has contributed remarkable things to the sport and to the university,’’ Fritsche said. “I hope to continue those strong traditions.’’
Bracker, after 42 years at Midland, retired as the all-time winningest coach in NAIA women’s basketball history. She guided the Warriors to eight national tournaments and finished with a career mark of 736-403.
“She coached longer than I’ve been alive,’’ the 35-year-old Fritsche said. “But I’m excited about getting the chance to follow her at Midland.’’
Fritsche, a native of Maywood, Neb., enjoyed his own level of success as the Thunderbirds’ coach the past 10 seasons. He guided Bellevue West to three state titles in a four-year span and was named the 2010 World-Herald Nebraska girls high school coach of the year.
“Matt is someone who can continue the legacy that runs so deep within Midland women’s basketball,’’ said Dr. Ben Sasse, President of Midland University. “He possesses the tools to satisfy this need while injecting new energy and competitiveness to expand upon Midland’s accomplishments.”
Fritsche said it was a difficult decision to leave Bellevue West but said he’s looking forward to the college game.
“This will give me the opportunity to be primarily a basketball coach,’’ he said. “Teaching will just be a fraction of my responsibility.’’
Fritsche, whose record was 199-56 with the Thunderbirds, said he met with his players Wednesday afternoon to inform them he was leaving.
“That was terrible,’’ he said. “My kids are terrific young ladies, and to some extent I feel like this is a selfish decision on my part.’’
But Fritsche added he had to do what was right for his family, which includes his wife Colleen and 11-month-old son Kellen.
“This is the first time in 10 years I’ve had to make a tough decision like this based on me and my family,’’ he said.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity and I just couldn’t pass it up.’’
Ironically, Fritsche’s last high school game also took place in Fremont. His Thunderbirds lost to Fremont High in a district final and missed the state tournament for just the second time in the past eight seasons.
“That’s behind me now,’’ he said. “I’m looking ahead to the future with a lot of optimism and excitement.’’
Fritsche, a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney, said Midland fans should get ready for an exciting brand of basketball.
“We are going to bring a fun and electric atmosphere to games next season,” he said. “I also plan to focus on tapping into the large pool of local talent and making Midland University the preferred destination for quality high school athletes across the region.”
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