By Lee Davis
Journal Sports Writer
When most of us think back on our freshman year of college, memories of getting lost on campus, living in a smelly dorm room and sitting in classes with more than 300 students often come to mind.
When Cameron Richard looks back on her freshman year of college, her memories will be very different.
At Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., Richard was anything but a typical freshman. The former Vestavia Hills tennis star played the number two and three singles positions for the Lady Flames, and number one and two doubles in the fall and spring seasons.
At the end of the year, Richard was named Big South Conference Freshman of the Year.
“I must say that I never saw that (the award) coming,” said Richard, when contacted last week. “It was a total surprise. I’m not even sure I realized that such an award existed. It certainly was flattering to win.”
Perhaps Richard’s best week of her freshman year came March 7-13. She compiled a 3-1 record, highlighted by leading Liberty to its first conference win of the season, a 6-1 victory over Presbyterian College. Against Presbyterian, she partnered with fellow freshman Alexandra Sheeran to win the number two doubles contest and ripped Christina Limantoro 6-3, 6-0 to win the number two singles match.
During the same week, Richard took an impressive number three singles victory against Kristina Koprcina of highly-regarded Marshall University. She defeated Koprcina 7-6, 4-6, 10-2.
Of course, success on the tennis court is nothing new to Richard. In high school, she helped lead the Vestavia Hills Lady Rebels to four consecutive Class 6A state championships. Soon after arriving at Liberty, however, she quickly learned the differences between the college and high school versions of the game.
“One of the big differences in college is that you spend so much time with your teammates, there is more camaraderie,” said Richard. “There’s some of that in high school, too, but more in college because you’re around your teammates all the time.”
Another difference, she said, is the game itself.
“Everybody is a good player, and the pace of the game is much faster than high school,” Richard explained. “Sometimes at Vestavia, there were matches that were relatively easy. In college, everyone you face is a very good player, or they wouldn’t be there.”
A third difference, she said, is the time spent on the road.
“You’re out of class a lot,” she explained. “During the spring, I probably missed nearly half my classes. But we’re able to keep up with them online.”
Richard hasn’t chosen a major yet.
“Everyone tells me I should change my major in college at least two times,” she said, laughing. “But I want to find one thing and stick with it. So I’m taking a lot of different courses to get a taste of everything.”
After a stellar freshman year, Richard understands that the bar is set high for her second season. She may move into Liberty’s number one singles position, as last year’s entry has graduated.
“We lost our number one girl, and we didn’t recruit anybody to replace her,” she said. “So I could get the call.”
Although Richard will play any spot that her team needs, she admits her preference is singles over doubles.
“I guess I have a greater comfort level with singles,” she said. “In singles, if I make a mistake it’s all on me – there’s accountability.”
No matter what happens on the tennis court, Richard has her priorities in order.
“I’m just blessed to be able to play tennis and glorify God,” she said. “As long as I remember that, everything else will take care of itself.”
Richard also understands that every time she takes the court, she represents not only herself and her school but all the people who helped her excel at her chosen sport. That includes her tennis mentor, Josh Goff of Hoover County Club, Liberty coach Chris Johnson and certainly her parents, Dick and Debra Richard.
“I really appreciate all my coaches and everyone who invested so much of their own time in me,” she said. “I try to think about them every day.”
In tennis as well as life, Cameron Richard is walking the walk.