Senior Spring: Kristina Mathis ’18, a powerhouse for the Big Green all four years
Kristina Mathis '18 is the second Big Green player ever to qualify for the NCAA DI Women's Tennis Singles Championship.
On Apr. 22, the Dartmouth tennis tam concluded its regular season after falling to Princeton University, finishing with a 4-3 mark in the Ivy League to tie for third in the Ivies. The match also marked the approaching end of Kristina Mathis ’18’s illustrative four-year tennis career at Dartmouth, as she has just one final NCAA Championship singles appearance remaining.
Mathis began playing tennis at age five. Her father had been around tennis all his life, and both of her parents served as her coaches prior to college. She began playing competitively shortly after, eventually ranking 23rd on TennisRecruiting.net.
As Mathis explored options for college, family friends introduced her to Dartmouth. After visiting, she thought the community was the perfect fit.
“I really loved the school, the size of the school and, most of all, the team and my coach Bob [Dallis],” Mathis said. “I thought the community was a really good fit for me.”
Joining the Dartmouth tennis team was a significant transition. Mathis had been homeschooled and had never formally been a member of a team, instead spending her junior years playing in singles individual tournaments. She explained that being on a team gave her “a whole new fondness for tennis” and made her understand that tennis was much more than just the final outcome.
“Being on a team made me realize that it’s not just about the results; it’s about how you support one another, the team community that we have, just how much we care about each other, and just the love of the game,” Mathis said. “All of these are so important. That led me to play for everyone else and for Dartmouth, and just be freer on the court.”
Mathis had an immediate impact her freshman year, finishing 14-6 at the No. 3 singles position and 13-6 at the No. 1 doubles position. She was named All-Ivy First Team for doubles and the Most Improved on the team. She was awarded the All-Ivy First Team in doubles again her sophomore and junior years, and ended up becoming part of the first Big Green duo, along with partner Taylor Ng ’17, to qualify for the NCAA Doubles Tournament. During her junior year, she helped lead the team to a share of the Ivy League Title, the Big Green’s first since 2011.
As a senior, Mathis has taken on a more care free approach for each of her matches.
“[This year] I just kind of told myself to go out there and enjoy my last year playing for Dartmouth,” Mathis said. “It’s been such a fun time, and I’ve just been trying to play for fun. I’ve seen some good results without even thinking about that.”
With this new mindset, Mathis’s final season was arguably her best. As a stalwart at the No. 1 singles position, she went 23-13 overall and 12-7 in dual matches. She went 6-1 in Ivy League play, including a tough four-match winning streak to end the regular season. Finishing the year ranked 107, her stellar singles play allowed her to qualify for the 2018 NCAA Singles Championship, which will be held from May 23 to May 28 at Wake Forest University. In addition to singles, Mathis also played at the No. 2 doubles position with teammate Racquel Lyn ’20 for most of the year.
As a result of her impressive play throughout the season, she was named the Ivy League Player of the Year as a unanimous selection and earned a spot on the first singles team.
“I’m extremely proud of her and so happy for her,” Lyn said. “She’s done so many great things this year, and it’s really great to see her hard work paying off. [The team] will truly miss her, but I’m glad she was able to leave her mark.”
A key to her jump this final year was the culmination of her continual improvement on the tennis court. Head coach Bob Dallis noted that it was very easy to coach Mathis and that she was always willing to further develop her game. From a technique standpoint, Mathis has improved significantly in two separate areas.
“She really improved her serve and her ability to take the ball out of the air,” Dallis said. “When she first came to school as a freshman, she didn’t really volley or hit many overheads, and she was able to improve in those areas a great deal.”
In addition to her stellar play this season, Mathis has also grown in her role as one of the team’s captains.
“She’s done a great job on and off the court supporting us,” Lyn said. “She’s very good at communicating with our head coach, in terms of what he says to her to us. She’s just always there and knows what to say at the right time.”
As Mathis wraps up her career on the Dartmouth tennis team, Dallis explained that he will always remember Mathis for her overall calmness.
“She came to practice [and] matches with just a really calm attitude every day,” Dallis said. “For me as a coach, she was a very easy person to be around. The younger players can look at her and go, ‘Oh this is what it takes to be successful and calm.’”
Following college, Mathis will be working full-time next year before applying to medical school the following year. She unfortunately will not have the time to continue playing competitive tennis, but hopes to keep playing tennis for fun.
“I’ve been playing since five, so it can only last for so long,” Mathis said. “You have that small window of time you can enjoy, and I have, so I’m happy about that. I have no regrets and I’m happy about where things left off.”
Despite leaving tennis professionally, Mathis will always remember Dartmouth tennis for instilling in her a deep passion for the sport.
“Dartmouth tennis has helped me develop a love for tennis that made me realize just how amazing the sport is, and [appreciate] the people who have been around me all my life for tennis,” Mathis said.
Lyn is a former member of The Dartmouth.