Serving It Up
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos courtesy of Nazareth College
When Elizabeth Karstedt picked up a racket when she was a little girl thoughts of her playing in high school and college never even entered her mind.
She was a just a little girl trying something new. It was fun and exciting. As time went on, Karstedt started playing other sports, and doing other things. But, tennis always came back into her life.
Now as she is ready to graduate from Nazareth College, Karstedt finally has time to look back on a career that started at Eden High School and blossomed while at Nazareth.
“When I started playing tennis at Willow Bend Country Club in Hamburg (I don’t think they are even open anymore) I never dreamed that it would become such a big portion of my life. Entering what was previously called Eden Jr. Sr. High School in seventh grade, it was time to select what sport we wanted to play in the fall. Both of my older sisters did tennis, softball and cheerleading. As I always like to be different, I considered picking a different fall sport instead of tennis, but ultimately I decided I would give the school team a try to follow in my sisters footsteps,” explained Karstedt. “Fast forward to college decision making time and I had to decide if I would pursue, cheerleading, softball or tennis (not doing a sport in college wasn’t really an option for me). My softball team was so successful and I played with so many girls that were going to play in college and I figured I should try to do the same. However, I remember my dad mentioning the idea of playing tennis in college. I hadn’t put much thought into it. I thought oh, am I good enough to do that? Tennis was not a big thing at my high school, so I often felt like I held back my desire to play. Eventually I decided I would try and play tennis at Nazareth college. Four years ago I never dreamed that I would have met so many amazing people, improved my tennis skills beyond what I thought I could do, and had such a successful career personally and as a team. My tennis career has far surpassed all of my hopes.”
Karstedt hit the ground running at Nazareth. She started her career at sixth single before moving up each year. it wasn’t until her junior year where Karstedt took off. It seemed liked every time the Eden product hit the court that she wasn’t going to loose. She had a type of season that even some of professional tennis players on tour don’t have.
Compiling a 16-3 overall record, and 8-0 in league play, Karstedt showed that she belonged on the big stage. She showed that she could play with anyone in the country - and that her game was suited for any type of play.
She used her amazing junior season as a springboard for future success.
“It was honestly intimidating. I didn’t realize what I had accomplished really. My coaches and my dad would talk about the possibility of breaking school records and my win streaks and I was thinking… who me?,” Karstedt said with a laugh. Heading into my senior year and being named a co-captain along with Maelah Nadeau and Marisa Joyce, I was worried that I wouldn’t live up to people’s standards and that my good luck was bound to run out at some point. But I just kept working hard, but also tried to really enjoy each match I played. I was finally processing that this was the last time I would be on this type of competitive sports team and I wanted to really cherish each moment and fight for all the points because it was truly my last chance to do so.”
It has been a senior year to cherish and one that Karstedt hasn’t taken for grant it. The little girl who wanted to do something different from her older sisters was no setting records and becoming a force on the court.
As her season, and college career, comes to an end, it’s now time for Karstedt to change her focus. Besides being a top tennis player, Karstedt is also a top student. She puts the word student in student-athlete. Karstedt is set to graduate this spring and continue her studies at either Nazareth or Loyola University. While not playing on a competitive team for the first time in a long time is a little scary, Karstedt is ready for the next chapter in her life.
“I will be attending graduate school for a masters in speech-language pathology either at Nazareth or Loyola University in Maryland. After graduate school I hope to become a register speech language pathologist in either a hospital or a clinical setting,” stated Karstedt. “I am excited and nervous for this chapter of my life. It will be the first time in my life where I won’t be balancing a sport with my academics. I hope to still stay active, but I’m hoping the extra time will really push me even harder to succeed in my masters program. As a future speech-language pathologist I hope to utilize the lesson’s tennis has taught me over the years. Just to name a few I’ve learned how to work well with others, what it’s like to truly have patience (whether it be in a match that isn’t going your way, or patience with teammates), how to be passionate for what you love to do, and to cherish all the little milestones made as either an athlete or professional.”
Karstedt also learned more about what it takes to be mentally strong, which will only help her in her professional career. Tennis can be a humbling sport. It’s you against the other player. Sometimes it’s not about how hard you hit the ball, but how mentally strong you can be.
The mental side of the game is just as important as the physical side, and Karstedt knew she had be mentally strong to be able to compete with some of the best the conference had to offer.
“There have definitely been some tears shed after some matches,” Karstedt said with a laugh. “All sports are mentally and physically exhausting, but I’ve found that tennis is just as much a mental game as it is physical skill and ability. My personality is pretty upbeat and I like to enjoy what I’m doing, but it can be tough when you play some very competitive girls who can be loud and overly competitive. When these matches came along, at first I found myself feeling sad and scared when opponents would be yelling in frustration or excitement. However, I started to use it to my ability with the help of my coaches by keeping the ball in play, staying calm and just clearing my head and remembering at the end of the day, it is a game I love to play, but there are a lot bigger issues in this world and I should be thankful for the opportunity I have to be playing a college sport. I found with these tough opponents, if I played with a calm and even mindset and focused on just getting the ball back, I found they would often get themselves more worked up and become too tense to complete accurate shots.”
With her career coming to and end, Karstedt has a lot to be thankful for. She can thank Eden High School for giving her the opportunity to play so many sports, and to be a part of so many winning teams.
But, it comes down to her family. Her parents have done a lot of traveling over the years to watch her play. They are the ones that took her to the court early in the morning or late at night when she was child.
They have made the ultimate sacrifice when it came to her, and the rest of their children. That hasn’t been lost on Karstedt at all. She understands everything that her family sacrificed over the years just for her to realize her dreams and aspirations.
“I definitely want to show my gratitude to my parents (Gordon and Amy Karstedt) over my entire athletic career. Having five kids and now seven grandchildren is quite the balancing act to make it to everything,” stated Karstedt. “But they have made it to almost all of my matches traveling near and far, have always supported me and listening to me complain when I was frustrated, and picked me up when I was down.”