Winning in any sport is never easy, but Harlingen High’s newest head coach, Debra Hernandez, is looking to change that and, at the same, time put Lady Cardinal soccer back on the map.
Hernandez is a 2004 graduate of Harlingen South where she played for four years under head coach Omar Pedroza. During that time, the Lady Hawks made the elite eight once and the round of 16 three times.
“Expectations were really high then at South,” Hernandez said. “Now that I’m coaching, I tell my players that they can get there, it’s just a matter of how much they want it.
“We asked the girls before the season started what their goals were for the year and they responded that they wanted to be district champs. That in itself is tougher than just making the playoffs because to make the playoffs the top four teams go, but only one team gets to be district champion.”
After a stellar high school career, Hernandez graduated from Stephen F. Austin University in 2007. During her time in Nacogdoches, Hernandez was able to walk on at Stephen F. Austin her junior year. Unfortunately, due to an injury, she wasn’t able to compete much. Nevertheless, her time at SFA was an eye-opening experience.
“You don’t expect it because you think you’re good as a high school player, but when you get up to the college level there are girls that are better than you and it just puts you down to earth,” Hernandez said.
“That’s why I tell these girls that if they want to play college they need to prepare themselves because it’s a whole other level.”
While this may be Hernandez’s first head coaching appointment, it’s not her first coaching role. In fact, Hernandez coached the Lady Cardinals JV light program in 2008 and was an assistant coach for the Lady Hawks under coach Pedroza before landing at Harlingen High.
Hernandez’s hiring comes after longtime Lady Cards head coach Philip Oxford stepped down after more than a decade in charge of the program.
But do not expect Hernandez to copy her predecessor’s style of play. Hernandez said that she will be looking to implement her own coaching philosophy into the program.
“I think of soccer as a game of chess,” she said. “That was one of the first things I told the players was they better be ready to play any position because they are going to be moving around.”
Lady Cardinals soccer fans didn’t have to wait long to see results as two weeks ago the team won their first trophy of the season in a 2-0 victory over La Joya Juarez-Lincoln in the championship game of the Edcouch-Elsa Tournament.
So far, so good.