-- Chantilly junior Thomas Nolan demonstrated his comeback abilities in Saturday's Virginia AAA singles final at Huntington Park, winning the title, 4-6, 6-4, 6-1, over Bo Edwards of Patrick Henry.
Nolan appeared on the verge of losing his first match after 21 straight victories this season. Facing Edwards's powerful serve and pounding groundstrokes, he dropped the first set and trailed 4-1 in the second.
But then Edwards slammed an overhead that bounced over the fence, and an angered Nolan began to turn around his game. Around the same time, members of the Chantilly girls' soccer team, which had lost in the state semifinals on Friday night, arrived decked out in purple body paint to offer support. Nolan won the next five games to claim the set and tie the match.
"It's been a really crazy weekend," Nolan said. "First, I had to come back from an injury in my quarterfinal match. In the second match, I was frustrated and managed to come out with a default [when his opponent fell ill with cramps]. In this match, I felt like I was hitting the ball well, but I was trying to do too much. I cooled down and started allowing him to make mistakes."
Edwards, a sophomore, was clearly unnerved by the cheering for Nolan. He began over-hitting the ball as Nolan altered the pace to lengthen the rallies and wait for his opponent to make mistakes. "I got really mental," Edwards said. "I should have closed the match out when I was up 4-1."
After a 10-minute break, Nolan returned energized for the third set. He quickly broke Edwards's serve, and then took a 4-1 lead. He again held serve, and broke Edwards at 40-15 to finish the match.
"He was worrying too much about the crowd, and not the match," Nolan said. "I used it to my advantage. That's what I'm proud of the most in the tournament. I was struggling in all my matches, but I found a way to adjust and win."
In the boys' doubles final, Robinson's Mike Smith and Drew Courtney finished the season undefeated (12-0) with a 6-0, 7-5 victory over their Robinson teammates, brothers Matt King and Riley King. Smith and Courtney dominated the Kings behind strong serves and crisp volleys. Trailing 3-5 in the second set, Smith and Courtney broke serve twice for the victory.
"Mostly, [the win] had to do with confidence," Smith said. "We've been playing the entire season together and hadn't lost. So you bring something onto the court when you have accomplished that. We're happy that we won, but they had a great season too."