By Randy York, The N-Sider
In the midst of thousands of positively-charged graduation stories Saturday at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, few, if any, can match Katerina Matysova, a multiple Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten tennis player from Erding, Germany.
“I finally have proof of how hard I've worked for the last four years and now I have entrance into the next chapter of my life,” Matysova told me, explaining how she will pursue a UNL Master's degree in Educational Psychology with specialization on quantitative, qualitative, and psychometric methods.
“It was never a question for me that I would get a college degree,” she said, “but I never would have thought that it would take me 5,000 miles from home to a completely new place.”
Matysova Has New Goals: Earn Master's Degree, Capitalize Competitively
Better yet, “I'm very excited to continue my education at UNL into next year and even more excited that I'll be able to play for the Huskers for another year,” Matysova said, adding that after she completes her Master's degree, she plans to stay in the United States and pursue a career that is related to research methods.
Matysova's father and sister celebrated graduation with Katerina in Lincoln, flying to Nebraska from Europe. Katerina's fiancé's father and brother came to Lincoln from South Dakota.
“My parents are both from the Czech Republic, where I was born,” she explained. “They still live in Germany, where I was raised and where I went to school. My sister lives and works in Portugal now, so that's why she and my father flew here separately.”
Growing up in two different countries at the same time “widened my horizon incredibly and took away any fear of new places,” Matysova said. “It could be one of the reasons why I wasn't hesitant to go to college so far away from home.”
Nebraska Best Decision Matysova Ever Made: 'I've Enjoyed Every Moment'
When Matysova packed her suitcase and left Germany in the fall of 2013, it was her first-ever trip to the United States. “It was the best decision I could ever make,” she said. “I've enjoyed every moment of these last four years at Nebraska.”
Matysova embraced every opportunity in Lincoln, becoming a scholar-athlete honor roll student every year that she has been in Lincoln. She also was a Big Ten Sportsmanship Award winner and a multiple recipient of the Tom Osborne Citizenship Team Award.
Her favorite moment was when her fiancé proposed this spring. They met in an introduction to statistics class during her first semester. “I could not be luckier,” she said. “For the proposal, he organized a scavenger hunt using our favorite places. The last stop was at our new tennis facility, where he asked me to marry him.”
Nebraska's entire tennis team and the couple's special friends “set everything up and made it very special for me,” Matysova said, acknowledging that the couple plan to marry in the fall of 2018 in Lincoln or Omaha.
Greatest Lesson Ever? Life Much Easier When You're Positive about Things
Reflecting on her past four years in Lincoln, Matysova doesn't hesitate to pinpoint the greatest life lesson she's learned.
“Coming here, I learned that life is much easier when you're positive about things, especially on the tennis court,” she said, admitting she was “extremely negative” in the fall of her freshman year. “I set my expectations too high and got down on myself when I wasn't able to reach them,” she said. “That November, I tore my ACL and my MCL, which cost me the whole first season.”
The injury, however, gave Matysova a new goal and an opportunity to work herself up from the bottom. “When I came back the next fall, I was a different person,” she said. “Not only have I played better and better in every season since then, but my grades went up and my general well-being increased since that fall. I am now calm and positive on and off the court, and it shows in every aspect of my life.”
Major Moment Changed Matysova's Demeanor, Compassion and Her Mindset
Scott Jacobson, the Nebraska head women's tennis coach who recruited Matysova, told me that Katerina's injury was a life-changing moment. “It changed her demeanor, her compassion and her mindset,” he said.
When tennis “was taken away from her for an extended period of time, it made her realize how much she loved the game,” Jacobson said. “When she realized that her temperament changed while competing, she had a much stronger mind and her body language was phenomenal. She became a completely different person.
“Katerina is a very optimistic person now,” Jacobson said. “She's very confident and very calm on the court. This season, she got hurt again and had a couple things go bad, but she handled all of it with optimism.”
Matysova was 13-0 when a blood clot was diagnosed in her shoulder. “She got well enough to play one match and dominate a player from Penn State,” Jacobson said. “Then, right before we were leaving for Michigan State, she rolled her ankle and it puffed up. She had a severe sprain and could not play for the remainder of the season.”
Coach on Katerina: Phenomenal Student, Organized, Disciplined, Passionate
Through it all, “Katerina has been a great leader,” Jacobson said. “She was one of our team captains and has a team-first kind of mentality. She's a phenomenal student, very organized, very disciplined and very passionate.”
Katerina smiles through adversity simply because of the positive impact Nebraska's day-by-day culture planted into her mind. Even though she moved to Lincoln from 5,000 miles away, she can testify why there is no place like Nebraska.
“It goes beyond football games, friendly people and all the cornfields that make Nebraska so unique,” Matysova said. “Husker spirit also goes far beyond my four years in college. I remember giving my father a red t-shirt for Christmas. The shirt had HUSKER POWER on the front in all capital letters. My dad wore that shirt at a train station in Amsterdam and someone went over and approached him. He was a Husker fan and wanted to talk about Nebraska.
“Something like that is simply amazing to me!” she said. “It's amazing throughout a state, across the country and around the world 5,000 miles away. There is no place like Nebraska is definitely true, and I have proof.”
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