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Brown tickled pink after signing with Koalas

Posted: March 25, 2014 12:06 p.m.
Updated: March 26, 2014 5:00 a.m.
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MIRANDA BROWN SIGNED a National Letter of Intent fo continue her academic and tennis pursuits at Columbia College. Flanking the Camden High senior are her stepfather, Eddie Corcoran, and her mother, Suzi Duncan. Looking on from behind are, from left, CHS assistant principal Accie Collins, CHS girls’ tennis coach Stephen Sutusky and Columbia College tennis coach Nancy Powell.

Unlike some student-athletes who make sports their first priority when choosing a college, Miranda Brown was ready to put athletics in her rear-view mirror after choosing to attend Columbia College.
After being accepted into the private all-girls school of a little more than 1,000 students, the Camden High School senior met Columbia College president Elizabeth A. Dinndorf. It was during this meeting in which Dinndorf posed a question to Brown.
“The president of the college asked me, ‘Do you play any sports?’ I said that I played tennis and she said, ‘We’re going to get you in contact with the tennis coach.’ I said, ‘That’s awesome,’” Brown said in recalling that conversation.
“I looked at (Columbia College) more for academic reasons. I wanted to major in behavioral science and psychology and Columbia gave me the opportunity to study both.”
Last Wednesday inside the Camden High School library, Brown signed her National Letter of Intent to play college for the Koalas. Standing in back of the former Lady Bulldogs for the ceremony was Columbia head coach Nancy Powell, who was grinning from ear-to-ear once Brown had affixed her signature to the sheet of paper.
A teaching professional as well as Columbia’s tennis coach, Powell sounded like a baseball coach when she talked about her program needing someone who hits the ball from the left side. That, she said, is a valuable commodity in college tennis.
“I think one of the things that impressed me the most, and what I need on my team, is a left-hander,” Powell said. “Miranda was kind enough to come out and we got to hit with her and watch her play. I think she is going to be a big asset to Columbia College.
“She has a few things that we’re going to work on. As a teaching pro, I’m going to help her get to the point to where she is going to maximize her potential on the court. I want her to be in one of our positions when she hits the court next fall.”
What does a lefty bring to the table? Powell said it brings a new set of dynamics to the court for players who regularly play against right-handed players. Just a few days earlier, the Koalas faced a lefty and struggled to figure her out.
“When you play a right-hander, it’s pretty easy because you, yourself, are a right-hander,” Powell said. “As a left-hander, the ball is coming at you in a totally opposite way. Sometimes, when you are a right-handed player, it takes you a little while to adjust. I’ve had kids on the court that didn’t even realize they were playing a left-hander to start with. The ball spins differently and you think you’re hitting the ball cross court to their backhand when you are actually hitting to their forehand, which is normally their strength.
“I’m excited to have Miranda come in so we can possibly throw some really unorthodox things at our opponents who we are going to be playing next spring.”
Until last fall’s tennis season at CHS, Brown had never played for the Lady Bulldogs. Her tennis experience was limited to playing recreationally.
“I’ve been playing on and off, through the summers,” Brown said of her playing experience. “Then, last year, I thought, ‘You know, I really like the sport and I’d like to learn more about it.’ So I played nearly every day over the summer and decided that I was going to join the high school tennis team. I really enjoyed it. It was a great group of girls on the team.”
When she decided to play for the Lady Bulldogs, Brown was welcomed with open arms by Lady Bulldog head coach Stephen Sutusky. The third-year girls’ tennis coach knew the type of person he was getting in Brown, whom Sutusky taught when she was a sophomore.
“Miranda’s a great kid and is near the top of her class,” he said. “I was lucky enough to have taught her as a sophomore and then, she came out for the team this year. She improved tremendously from the first day to the last day of the season.
“She’s the kind of kid who, in high school and down the road in college, her coaches won’t have to worry about. She does all the little things right. She shows up early and stays late.
“She brings all those good intangibles to the table which, hopefully, will rub off on her teammates because she is such a good teammate. She is someone who gets along well with others and does everything the right way.”
Used mainly in doubles, while also playing some singles at Camden High School, Brown is looking forward to what Powell and Columbia College can do for her both on and off the tennis court.
“The curriculum is going to be a lot more rigorous and my mom isn’t going to be there for me,” she said with a laugh when asked about the difference between high school and college.
“The level of play of play is going to be higher than in high school and there are going to be more workouts and training. I’m hoping to really improve my game there.”
At Columbia, Brown and her teammates will go through a rigorous off-season conditioning program under the watchful eye of the school’s athletic trainer who designs and oversees the workouts. While each player is responsible for carrying out their assignments, Powell said she will monitor the progress of each member of the squad.
Powell said Brown will discover the change in  going from high school to college tennis fairly quickly. In the same breath, though, the Koala coach said she makes it clear to all her players that she is just a phone call, text message or an e-mail away
“She’s looking to have, once we get started,” Powell said, “about three hours a day of tennis.
“It takes a lot to juggle studies and being a college athlete. One of the things we’re proud of at Columbia College is that once they get there, we monitor them … we mentor them, especially being a small school like we have. It’s not going to be like she’s thrown out there into a large institution and become a number. I’m ‘hands on’ with every one of my athletes. They have my phone numbers and my text numbers. I’m available for them 24/7. I’m hoping Miranda will be comfortable enough that if she needs something, she can get a hold of me at any time because I’m there for her.”
Sutusky believes that Brown is one of those young people whose best days are ahead of her in athletics as well as in academics.
“The pace of the college game is going to be different from high school,” he said. “But with the workout regimen that Columbia College will have set up for her, it will take care of itself.
“Miranda’s one of those people who once she gets into college athletics, the sky’s the limit. There are a lot of talented players out there who, for whatever reason, don’t choose to play at the next level, get pulled in other directions or don’t pan out at the college level.  Because of her tenacity and her work ethic, Miranda has the chance to reach heights that as recently as a couple years ago, she could not have envisioned for herself.”
In fact, as Brown admitted with a smile creasing her face, she could not have imagined something like this having happened to her as recently as a few months ago. But she is enjoying every moment of this experience.
“I never really thought I would be playing college tennis. But I like tennis,” she said.
“I never thought this would happen and I’m so excited that it did. When I got up this morning, I was so excited … I could hardly sleep last night.”

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