Cornett rising to top of Watauga Conference

By Matt Hill

   MOUNTAIN CITY -- When you think of Johnson County High School athletics, the tennis program doesn't exactly pop up in your mind.
   This year is a little different.
   Johnson County's Adam Cornett has been making waves on the Watauga Conference tennis scene for the last four years, and has asserted himself as one of the top players in the league.
   As of last Thursday's match with Volunteer, Cornett was on pace to be the top seed going into next month's District 1-AA Tournament.
   Cornett is glad to put Johnson County tennis on the map.
   "It feels great," Cornett said. "I would really like to see a program get started real well here. It's a really great game. I think it would be great for anybody to play."
   After last week, Cornett's only setback of the year had been a loss to Elizabethton's David Reece, who Cornett plays again on Thursday in Mountain City.
   Cornett knows that players like Reece, Unicoi County's Florian Schuchert, Volunteer's Andy Clark and Sullivan Central's Brad Huber are tough and can beat him on any given day.
   "I'm just going to do my best," Cornett said. "I'm not saying anything. Anybody can win on any given day. I hope that I do well, and I hope that I do what's expected of me. There are a few good players in this conference this year that will give me a good run."
   Cornett has finally become the man to beat in the Watauga Conference. It was a long road to get there.
   Cornett started playing tennis as a freshman, and had some early struggles. But then as a sophomore, success started coming Cornett's way.
   Cornett was a District finalist and Regional Tournament participant two years ago, and that's when Cornett started really getting into tennis.
   "I just got serious about it my sophomore year," he said. "I've been taking lessons and getting a lot better. It seems to be doing well for me."
   Last year figured to be Cornett's year, but reclassification by the TSSAA made things a little bit tougher for him.
   Sullivan Central moved into the league last year after playing in Class AAA the season before. Central featured two very tough players in Andy Tate and Vlada Tokin.
   Cornett was paired up with Tokin in last season's District 1-AA Semifinals and was defeated.
   That defeat has made Cornett hungrier this season.
   "It's made me want it really bad," Cornett said. "With this being my senior year, I really want it this year. And I will do anything to get it.
   "It was a pretty tough match. Some days you have bad days, and I seem to have a lot of them."
   Cornett definitely took some initiative after failing to advance to the regionals last year. Cornett practiced every day last summer in hopes that a repeat performance wouldn't happen again.
   "I came out and practiced every day, mainly on my serve because everybody always works off their serve," he said. "I've been taking some lessons off a really good instructor (Paul Jude). It's just given me a lot of experience, and I'm starting to get to where I can place the ball and hit it very hard."
   All the extra practice that Cornett has put in could earn him a college scholarship. Cornett is unsure about where he might be going, but is hoping to play at the next level.
   "I would like to play in college," he said. "I've talked to a couple, but the ones that I talked to the coaches ended up moving to a different place. It's going to be tough making a decision on what I'm going to do, depending on how much I like colleges and how much I like the coaches.
   Cornett will be leaving the high school tennis scene soon, but not before earning the respect of his peers. Reece recently called Cornett a, "Class act."
   Cornett is happy that he has earned respect on and off the court.
   "It makes me feel better about myself, and it gives me confidence in my game," Cornett said. "You don't want to cheat to win, you don't want to be a bad person and get other people frustrated. You want to win fairly."