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The Antelope

Tennis player regains rock solid confidence on the court


Usually, college athletes dedicate more time to their sport at the college level than ever before. For UNK tennis’s Jazmin Zamorano, this was not the case.

In fact, she had to pump the brakes.

“I struggled a little bit more because I used to play [tennis] maybe four or five hours a day,” Zamorano said. “Then coming here and playing like two, maximum three hours with weights, I was like, ‘Oh my God what am I going to do?’”

Tennis has been a part of Zamorano’s life for the last 13 years. The Sonora, Mexico, native came to UNK in 2020, fulfilling her dream of becoming a college tennis player. However, that dream was put on hold, as Zamorano came to UNK in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then, little has slowed Zamorano down, reaching national rankings in doubles with partner Melisa Becerra and stringing together a 13-match singles win streak in her sophomore season.

Her sophomore success meant high expectations for her junior season. She met these expectations head-on, going a combined 8-2 in the fall of 2022 in doubles and singles matches. Zamorano’s confidence was soaring.

And then it wasn’t.

She suffered an injury in November that forced her to stop playing tennis for two weeks. Zamorano returned, but her confidence did not.

“I started playing my teammates again and I [felt] like I lost all of my confidence,” Zamorano said. “All of them were beating me and I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s happening to me.’”

Zamorano was dealing with the combination of injuries, losing matches and questions about her future. With her confidence slipping, the usually independent Zamorano decided she needed some extra help. Leading her to reach out to a familiar face, Brad Bernthal, father of teammate Alexis Bernthal.

Bernthal is a former collegiate tennis player himself. Playing at the University of Kansas and finishing his career at UNL. Now, he is an associate professor at the University of Colorado law school. On the side, he offers mental training for tennis players like Zamorano.

“What stands out to me about Jazmin is that she remembers her matches in a photographic memory kind of way,” Bernthal said. “She can tell you point-for-point what happened in a match.”

With a memory like Zamorano’s, visualization was a simple way to get her confidence up.

“We focused on some of her past matches,” Bernthal said. “Getting her to think of her past matches as a highlight film, and I think that was catalytic for her.”

Bernthal says that Zamorano may be overstating all he has done for her. Saying the real credit needs to go to coach Scott Shafer and how hardworking Zamorano is. While this may be true, there is a clear appreciation for all that Bernthal has provided to her.

“He has helped me just to be a better teammate, to be a better person,” Zamorano said. “I feel like it’s an extra tool and he has been part of my growth and I really appreciate that.”

To go along with the mental reminders to stay optimistic and confident, Zamorano also likes to keep physical reminders as well. Simple things like bracelets that Shafer’s daughter gave her that she can look at mid-match. But there is one thing she keeps with her as an added boost that may be considered ‘untraditional.’

All the tips and techniques she uses would be needed in a matchup against nationally-ranked Central Oklahoma. Zamorano found herself down 5-2 in the second set of her singles matchup after losing her first set. A loss in this set would end her day, and meant a team loss as well.

In need of a boost, Zamorano reached into her bag to search for a rock.

A rock that her coach from Mexico gave to her, describing it as ‘lucky,’ saying that it brings ‘good vibes.’

“It gave me so much power,” Zamorano said. ”It reminds me of all I have been through and that I am strong and can overcome anything.”

With the support of her coach and teammates, along with advice from Bernthal keeping her confidence high and a rock, the rally was on for Zamorano. 

“I don’t know what happened,” Zamorano said. “I just started making so [many] shots. Boom, boom, boom, boom and then at the end I won the match 7-6.”

Zamorano would win the second and third sets, clinching not only the victory for herself, but also the victory over UCO, 4-3. Avenging a February loss to the Bronchos.

“I was just mentally so focused and then my teammates were cheering and they were being so loud,” Zamorano said. “And then everyone came and hugged me…then I thank[ed] them for being there for me, because without them and my coach too, I [wouldn’t] be able to win that day.”

Zamorano has come a long way from her early days at UNK. Going from not knowing how to play for a team, to becoming the ultimate team player, cheerleader and overall leader for her teammates.

“She’s such an asset to our tennis program,” Shafer said. “The energy that Jazmin consistently brings to practice is something that the other girls notice…they’re just extra motivated because they see Jazmin coming with energy all the time.”

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