April 14, 2014
By Hanna Sprague, MSU Athletic Communications student assistant
At the age of three, most toddlers struggle to wobble around the house, bumping into everything in their path - this was not Katarina Lingl. Lingl got an early feel for the racket, sparking her evident love for the game of tennis.
At the age of 12, college tennis wasn't the first thing on Lingl's mind. After years of influence from her junior coach, who played for Michigan State, Lingl's mindset quickly started to turn toward the Green and White. This marked the beginning of her love and passion for Michigan State.
"I really had never thought about college tennis, but my junior coach was always telling me about how cool it was to play for Michigan State," Lingl said. "He worked with me up until I was 18 and really helped me get here."
Lingl worked effortlessly to improve her game, playing in countless tournaments and traveling all around the Midwest. By the time she was a sophomore in high school at Rochester High School, her hard work and talent became very evident to Michigan State women's tennis head coach Simone Jardim. Lingl noted her interest in attending any school other than MSU was non-existent.
Making the transition from her hometown of Rochester Hills, Mich., to East Lansing, Lingl had a list of goals to accomplish in her four short years on campus. In the eyes of Jardim, she's done everything in her power to make these goals a reality.
"She has done many different things from the beginning," Jardim said. "She had a list of goals she wanted to achieve when she got here. She wanted to earn a scholarship and she earned one. One of her goals was to play in the lineup and contribute, she was MVP of the team a few years ago, and she's stepped up when we needed her."
A few years back, Kat was named the team's Most Valuable Player at the annual season-end team banquet.
"The biggest change occurred in my freshman year," she said. "In junior tennis, I didn't have the money to take private lessons all the time, so getting the one-on-one coaching whenever I wanted really helped my game."
After working hard to earn a scholarship, Lingl's value to the team became extremely evident. Early into her senior season, she was named co-captain.
When asked what it means to be the captain of this team, Lingl grinned from ear to ear.
"It means the world to me," she said. Lingl, who lives with three of her teammates, described this year's team as, "the closest we've been since I've been here. There are 12 other girls on this team, and I want all of them to succeed."
Following in her older sister's footsteps, Lingl came into college originally as a kinesiology major, but quickly realized that her passion was in the field of journalism, as she lists writing as one of her hobbies.
"Once I got through chemistry, or didn't get through chemistry, I sat down with my mom and she just asked me what I like to do," she said. "I've always liked to write, so I thought I'd give it a try."
Lingl has enjoyed interviewing and talking with people, pushing her out of her comfort zone and giving her a new kind of confidence.
Tennis truly is a family affair for the Lingls. The support from Lingl's mom is something for which Kat is incredibly grateful. Calling her mom her "biggest fan," Lingl notes her mom was the one who did not miss a practice and made every effort to be at the tournaments, no matter the weather conditions. Lingl recalls a time where her mom drove through a wicked snowstorm to make it to MSU's match, turning a two-hour trip into a four-hour trip.
Lingl points out one of the biggest things she will miss about playing college tennis is having her mom coming to watch her play.
"She never pressured me (to play)," Lingl said of he rmom. "If I wanted to play, she let me play. She's the best."
After her upcoming graduation, Lingl hopes to continue to be around the game she loves.
"It's been a part of my life since I was three years old," she said. "I just can't picture my life without tennis."
In the fall of 2015, Lingl will be looking to land a graduate assistant position coaching tennis somewhere in the Midwest.
Looking back on her time as a student-athlete at MSU, Lingl offered up some advice for incoming student-athletes.
"You just have to realize that it's a privilege to be here, and it's an amazing opportunity."
With her time winding down at Michigan State, Lingl reminds us that "...being a Spartan means putting all of your effort into everything you do and supporting everyone around you. "I'll miss the atmosphere knowing that you're a Spartan athlete."