By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Head coach Scott Shafer calls her “one of the most unique people I’ve met.”
She’s fun-loving and friendly, but also very focused and intense. “There’s kind of a dichotomy that you get with her.”
University of Nebraska at Kearney tennis player Jazmin Zamorano fully commits to every aspect of her life – for better or worse.
“Jazmin definitely brings a whole lot of everything to the team,” Shafer said. “She brings attitude, discipline, personality, passion. I’ve had great leaders in the past, but Jazmin definitely checks all the boxes because she’s both a vocal leader and a lead-by-example person.”
A senior from Sonora, Mexico, where she was a nationally ranked player during high school, Zamorano has been an integral part of the UNK women’s tennis team since she arrived on campus in fall 2020.
The left-hander led the Lopers with nine singles wins as a freshman and tied for the team lead with nine doubles victories, earning honorable mention all-conference recognition in the MIAA.
She was even better the following season, collecting 39 total victories, including 14 straight singles wins. Zamorano and teammate Melisa Becerra were nationally ranked in doubles, and they received second team all-conference honors. Individually, Zamorano was once again an honorable mention all-conference selection, as well as a finalist for UNK Women’s Athlete of the Year.
Zamorano had plenty of momentum heading into her junior year, but she was also starting to feel the pressure to succeed.
“Junior year, I think I got caught up in individual goals and ambitions,” she said. “I was really serious, because I wanted to be this perfect person.”
As part of her quest to be “faster, stronger, better,” she started waking up at 5 a.m. each day, changed her diet – first to vegan, then vegetarian – and distanced herself from friends and teammates. She wanted to win the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Central Regional tournament, advance to nationals, then begin preparing for a professional career in the sport.
Zamorano reached the quarterfinals of that tournament, winning her first three matches in straight sets before falling to Missouri Western’s Isabella MacGibbon, an opponent she’d defeated twice before. She finished the season with 37 total victories and earned second team all-conference honors in both singles and doubles. Zamorano is one of just three Loper women to receive All-MIAA recognition in three or more seasons at singles, and she and Becerra are the second UNK doubles team to earn multiple All-MIAA honors.
Despite those accolades, Zamorano thought she needed a new environment to reach a higher level of tennis, so she considered transferring last spring.
“My head was everywhere,” she said. “Last season, I didn’t have as much fun because I was so focused on winning. It was a hard time, but in the summer I reflected and I got closer to God.”
Recognizing that she could still improve at UNK, Zamorano decided to stay in Kearney but change her approach. She joined Fellowship of Christian Athletes and started thinking about all the reasons why she fell in love with tennis in the first place. Although she’s still competitive, she also knows how to have fun again.
“Jazmin is still the same person she was when she arrived here, but she’s become more aware of herself,” Shafer said. “It’s almost like she’s reduced the demands that she puts on herself.”
That new mentality was on full display last month, when the Lopers returned to Edmond, Oklahoma, for the ITA Central Regional tournament. Instead of letting the pressure and stress overwhelm her, this time Zamorano was able to play with a sense of freedom.
“I think the difference was my mindset and how I was looking at the game,” she said. “I just reminded myself that you’re not doing this for you; you’re doing this for God and your teammates. Just play for fun. Play for joy.”
Zamorano went 6-0 during the three-day tournament, winning each match in straight sets and becoming only the second Loper woman to claim a regional singles title. A year after allowing the tournament to consume her life, she celebrated her biggest victory.
“It’s just an honor to represent UNK,” she said. “I think I’m happier than I’ve ever been, because I kind of found myself again.”
Zamorano will compete for a national championship during this week’s ITA Cup in Rome, Georgia. She faces second-seeded Nadja Meier of Flagler College to open the double-elimination tournament, with that match scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. UNK freshman Maksym Kulish also qualified on the men’s side after receiving an at-large bid. He’ll take on Takeshi Taco of Valdosta State at 8 a.m. Thursday.
The ITA Cup continues through Sunday, with a livestream available here.
A three-time MIAA Academic Honor Roll selection, Zamorano is studying business administration with a management emphasis and a minor in supply chain management. She’s part of the Supply Chain Management Organization and Women in Supply Chain, and she works as a student leader in the UNK Wellness Center and Spanish tutor for the Department of Modern Languages.
She’ll graduate from UNK in May, giving her one more spring season with the Lopers.
“I just want to enjoy every moment,” Zamorano said, “because you never know when it’s going to be your last day of tennis.”