Cordell, Nolan cream of crop

By Matt Hill

   JOHNSON CITY -- The Atlantic Coast Conference has traditionally been the top college basketball league for many years. But this week at the ETSU tennis center, it was also the top tennis conference.
   The ACC took home both the men's singles and the ladies singles titles in the finals of the collegiate division in the Little Caesars/ETSU Tennis Championships on Friday.
   Florida State's Brooke Cordell took the women's title with a 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Furman's Caroline Bentley. The men's title went to Virginia standout Steven Nolan, a 6-2, 6-0 victor over fellow ACC player Jonathan Janda of North Carolina.
   "It's a good start for us," Cordell said about the ACC sweep.
   Cordell had the tougher road of the two winners. After breezing in the first set, Cordell found herself down 4-3 in the second set.
   Cordell did rally back to win the final three games to avoid having to play the super tiebreak.
   "It feels good," Cordell said. "I felt like I played really well the first set. She started playing better in the second set. I felt like I didn't play bad, but she stepped it up a little bit in the second.
   Cordell, who recently transferred to Florida State from the University of Tennessee, is now the first player to win this tournament twice. Cordell won representing the Volunteers in 2000.
   Cordell thought it was tough to win both times.
   "It's good players every time," Cordell said. "I just have to play well. It's been tough both times. I don't know which one was tougher."
   Cordell complimented Bentley for playing a great match, as she definitely thought it wasn't an easy final.
   "I've played her before, and we had a battle last time we played," Cordell said. "I knew it was going to be close. She's hard to play. She has a tough game to play against. She mixes it up a lot, and never lets you get into a groove. She just mixes it up a lot, and that's hard to play against."
   With Cordell taking her second Little Caesars title home, she is now ready to focus on the new season with her new team.
   Cordell hopes to make an impact with the Seminoles.
   "I want to help the team out," Cordell said. "I hope to play three or four, and maybe we can compete for an ACC title. That would be nice."
   The men's final was sort of an upset, as Janda was the top-seed in the tournament. But on this day, it was Nolan that ended up being the No. 1 player.
   "I started off well," Nolan said. "I got a break early, and got the momentum. I knew he was a big hitter with big forehands, so I just wanted to make him play. I wanted to get to his backhand most of the time and just scrap. I kind of felt like I did that pretty well. And I took advantage of short balls."
   After winning the first set, Nolan just totally frustrated Janda and took him out of the match.
   "I knew if I just got the ball back in, I could get him frustrated a little bit," Nolan said. "I knew if I just stayed on top of him, and focused on every point, and not let him get away with anything, I thought I could keep the momentum."
   Nolan, who played mostly No. 2 at Virginia, is happy to be playing this sport. The school at one time talked about getting rid of scholarship tennis.
   Nolan said things have changed.
   "That was kind of frustrating for me," Nolan said. "I had signed, and then my coach called and said that they might get rid of the scholarships. That was very disappointing, because I wanted to have a good team.
   "But the board committee voted against it. They voted actually to put more money into the programs to make them elite teams. That was really helpful to me. I was thinking about transferring, because I was getting scared. I wanted to play for a good team.
   Life is now grand for Nolan. He's happy at Virginia, and happy about winning this tournament.
   Nolan believes winning this event is a big confidence boost for him.
   "I feel good about it," Nolan said. "I've been practicing really hard all summer, so I'm glad it showed in the tournament. It feels good to come away with a win. It gives me confidence for the next couple of tournaments."