Tenisha Matlock adds humor, laughter to ISU volleyball

ISU right side hitters Tenisha Matlock and Kelsey Petersen react after a point during the Cyclones’ Sweet 16 victory against Minnesota on Friday in Minneapolis. The win put the Cyclones in the Elite 8 for the second time in four years, but they were eliminated Saturday by Florida State in five sets.

Maddy Arnold

Tenisha Matlock’s reputation precedes her.

Senior libero Kristen Hahn had heard about the middle blocker before either even played for Iowa State. Four years ago when she first visited the ISU volleyball team, Hahn was already hearing funny stories about Matlock.

Hahn heard that the native of North Platte, Neb., danced around to music in the locker room on her official visit to Iowa State. While her future teammates were all confused by Matlock’s behavior, Hahn liked it.

“She was just so out there and just comfortable with herself,  Hahn said. “She was just dancing to the music in the locker room on her official visit not even knowing a single girl on the team. When I heard that when I was on my own official visit I was really excited. I knew we would connect right away.”

Now, it is almost four years after her official visit and Matlock is still making Hahn and the rest of her teammates laugh. One of the easiest ways for Matlock to lighten up the mood during practice is with a “flounder.”

Whenever Matlock hits a ball in a strange way in practice, she will yell out “flounder.” Hahn said Matlock’s unconventional shots and their funny name will always make her teammates chuckle.

“[Matlock] sometimes lightens up practice,” Hahn said. “We all just laugh because [flounders are] like the weirdest thing ever. We don’t know how she gets kills like that, but she does. It’s just definitely a good thing to have in practice.”

Matlock is not just known for being funny. She also has a reputation for being the most positive and energetic player on the court, in addition to her happy disposition.

ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch said that remaining positive and energetic all the time is something most players struggle with, especially in the middle of a season. That’s what makes Matlock special.

“Every practice, every game you can count on her enthusiasm. That’s a huge thing that [Matlock] contributes to the team,” Johnson-Lynch said. “Nine out of 10 people struggle with that and she never does. She’s always enthusiastic.

“She always plays with passion every day. I think that’s one of the most difficult things to do in athletics in general. She’s found a way to do it every day.”

Despite it being difficult for some athletes, Matlock said her positive outlook has always come naturally to her. Even if Matlock is not feeling at her best, she said it is her instinct to remain positive in all situations.

“’Fake it until you make it’ is kind of my motto. Whether I’m down or not I’m still going to have a smile on my face and still kind of joke,” Matlock said. “Somehow, I always find joy out of a certain thing whether someone trips, and I just laugh and that just brightens my day there. Or I trip.”

During the last four years, Matlock’s teammates have come to rely on her personality to pick themselves up when times get tough. Johnson-Lynch said Matlock is always the first to support her teammates.

Matlock is the first one to cheer when things go right and the first one to make her teammates smile when they are struggling. Matlock said she enjoys that responsibility.

“I know once [we] get down my teammates tend to look towards me to kind of get it going,” Matlock said. “I know just joking around also helps somebody else.”

Johnson-Lynch said Matlock’s personality combined with her volleyball skills have done a lot to help Iowa State during her career.

“She just has a neat story,” Johnson-Lynch said. “She’s a great model for her work ethic, perseverance, for energy. She contributes so much that way, and she’s done it now for four years.”