After capturing the Sun Belt Conference Championship in dramatic fashion, the Georgia State women's tennis team opens play in the NCAA Athens Regional on Friday, facing host and No. 7 national seed Georgia at 3 p.m. at the Dan Magill Tennis Center.

Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year Kristin Rehse, a senior from Hofheim, Germany, shared her thoughts on her experience as a student-athlete at Georgia State and the journey that brought her here from across the world:

I am at the end of my collegiate career and I get goose bumps when I think about all the great moments I got to experience during my time as a student-athlete at Georgia State University. And I am not quite done yet! Lucky me, because I am not ready for all of this to be over. My team and I just won the Sun Belt Conference Championship, and that with only four players! One week before the tournament I told my teammates: “Girls, I really believe that we can win Conference, no matter with how many players.” Back then, I honestly did not fully believe what I told them myself, but I knew that we had to give it our best shot in order to have the chance that I believed in. Taking the title with the minimum number of allowed players and beginning every match down 2-0 due to walkover defeats in the fifth and sixth singles flights, and being able to overcome tremendous adversity truly showed me what passion, belief in each other, and the word team really mean. I am in a position which I would have never pictured myself in when I first came to the U.S. almost four years ago.

 

I have always been very family oriented and enjoyed living in my home country of Germany, where most things were planned and certain. This is why I thought that playing tennis as a student-athlete in the United States was not an option for me, and that is exactly what I told the representative from the German recruitment agency, Uniexperts, when he first contacted me. However, after hearing about his own experience as a student-athlete, something changed for me. I realized that playing tennis in the United States represented a lifetime opportunity.

 

I started playing tennis at the age of nine, and my passion for this sport was there from the very beginning. I remember playing with my grandpa and him telling me, “Kristin, it is time to leave the court and go home, it is getting dark outside!” and me answering “But grandpa, I can still see the ball very clearly and I want to get that shot right first!” This mindset intensified over the following years and I applied it to everything I did. Not getting something right motivated me to keep trying and to keep improving. Ten years after I first started playing, I had to face the biggest decision of my life.

 

Leaving behind everything that I had known sounded frightening to me at first, especially because I had never planned to leave home. Today, I could not be happier about that decision because it helped me develop as a person, brought me together with people from all over the world, and showed me how powerful and meaningful a team can be. I am convinced that the past four years made me a better person, and I believe that I helped other people experience that as well. I learned that it is not always about winning, but about the moments we experience, the lessons we learn, and the way we choose to react to the world. Sometimes things happen that we do not expect. Things that challenge us to keep doing the right things. Taking care of the little things every day won my team the Sun Belt Conference Championship this year, but we felt free before the tournament even started because we knew that we had already won by bringing the right attitude and enjoying every moment.

 

I know that after the summer, I will be coming back to the U.S. to start my MBA program at GSU, but not being able to practice in the heat every day, to wake up at 5 a.m. at times to go to the stadium and run sprints on the field, to be a leader, teammate, and friend to the girls on my team, and to have the best time of my life competing beside them is unimaginable for me.