By Rocky Higginbotham
Webster Progress Times
When Randee Jernigan took over as the Eupora tennis coach, she knew she was going to have built-in senior leadership.
Last Friday, some of that senior leadership was rewarded.
Just a few days after wrapping up his high school career, Eupora’s Richard Hernandez signed a national letter-of-intent to continue his playing career at Holmes Community College. It was the second tennis signee of the school year for Eupora, as Madison Hester had previously signed to play at Meridian Community College.
“Any avenue that you can use to further your education but do something fun at the same time is great,” Jernigan said. “Having someone come from this program and this town and actually achieve a dream is something I’ll be using in the future.
“We are all so very proud of Richie, and also excited that he’ll be furthering his education while getting the chance to keep playing tennis, too.”
This past season, Hernandez helped Eupora win the Region 2 championship for Class 2A and 1A schools. He was a two-time district champ in boys singles and mixed doubles.
Hernandez helped the Eagles to the Class 2A-1A North State semifinals and state quarterfinals as a team, and was also an early-qualifier for the Mississippi High School Activities Association’s individual state tournament.
In the state tourney, Hernandez defeated Corey Jones of Pisgah 6-3, 6-3 before falling to eventual state runner-up and No. 2 seeded Patrick Roth of Resurrection Catholic in the state quarterfinals.
Jernigan said the success enjoyed by Hernandez was a direct result of his work ethic.
“He’s put in so much time on those courts pushing himself,” she said. “He’s a really internally-motivated athlete and I know that any chance he gets, he’s always going to be trying to do something better on the court.
“It’s been real neat to see Richie grow as a player and a person,” she said. “He’s really been one of those role models that we need.”
At Holmes, Hernandez will play for men’s coach Greg LeVert.
“I’m very excited. Holmes’ coach is a great coach that can really improve my game,” Hernandez said. “I never thought I’d be playing tennis in college … the game itself has just been a big blessing for me.”