Lady Panthers show improvement in offseason for new head coach

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By Kristin Beck

Juan Fernandez will be pulling double-duty this year as the head coach of both the boys and the girls tennis teams. This will be his first year coaching the girls, but he has had previous experience helping former head coach Larry Morgan with the team.

Fernandez said he has had to develop a new coaching style with the girls versus the boys. More than anything, he has found that the girls need more encouragement from him during practices.

“I’ve seen a lot of progress,” he said. The first step was getting rid of lingering bad habits and focusing a lot of time on footwork and technique, he said.

The middle school girls have blown everyone else away as far as progress goes, Fernandez said. Among the high school girls, junior Andrea Williams has shown the most progress by far and has been hitting the ball very consistently and at top speed, he said.

Junior Lyndie Burns and eighth grader Sarah McArter will lead the team in singles matches, but Fernandez said he is still figuring out who will play No. 1 and who will play No. 2. He said he is counting on junior Megan Harris to be a leader on the team. She will be playing No. 1 doubles with, most likely, fellow junior Pooja Patel. Seventh graders Taylor Courtney and Jesse Dermon will likely play No. 2 doubles.

“This year is going to be about getting a feel for the girls’ more than anything,” Fernandez said. He also is still figuring out who the better schools are in area. This season, the Lady Panthers will play two matches against Trimble County, Williamstown, Frankfort, Gallatin County, Shelby County and Western Hills. Their first match of the season against Frankfort was rained out. They will play at home Monday, March 19 against Anderson County.

Because he is coaching two teams, Fernandez never stops running. He works 50 hours a week at his full-time job, changes in the car and comes to practice. He also regularly volunteers at church. “I just have to thank my wife for being patient with me,” he said.

But despite the hectic schedule, Fernandez, who started playing tennis at four years old, loves being a coach. “It’s my passion, for tennis,” he said. “I just want to coach. Me and Coach Brian (Hallberg) want to see this court full of kids.”

Fernandez also wanted to thank Parks and Recreation for allowing them to practice and play their home matches on their tennis courts. The team is playing at the county park instead of the high school because the high school courts do not have lights. The park also resurfaced the courts and installed new nets during the off-season.