CHARLESTON - For someone who doesn't like competition, Wheeling Central's Joanna Capito sure has a funny way of showing it.
The Maroon Knights senior closed her tennis career by surviving a marathon first set and going on to a 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 victory against Charleston Catholic's Christina Centofant for the Class AA-A No. 1 singes championship.
It was the Maroon Knights' first tennis title since her cousin Alex Greco won a state championship in 2010.
Wheeling Central’s Joanna Capito returns a serve during her No. 1 singles title match. Capito won the match, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.
"I feel relieved and I feel excited," the soft-spoken Capito said.
"I love tennis but I really don't like the competition. I was really nervous before the match. I do enjoy playing doubles with my sister, but its different in singles. There was a lot of pressure."
Especially in the first set, when Capito started out with a 3-0 lead before Centofant stormed back to take the next two games and from there, it was back-and forth. When Centofant tied the set at 6-6, it went to a tiebreaker, a best-out-of-12 points system. Even that went to extra points when it was tied at 6-6.
Capito finally closed it out after a couple of long volleys in which she strategicallly forced Centofant, who she was facing for the first time (both are seniors) to make mistakes.
"After she won that first set, I sensed that she gained some confidence and I felt that the momentum changed," coach Peggy Dailer said. "That was a big, big point and I really think it turned out to be the difference. I could see her completely gaining the momentum, and that was just huge."
"I felt better at that point, like some of the pressure was off," Capito said. "She is a great player and there were times in the first set where it seemed like she was going to return everything. You just have to fight from getting frustrated and keep playing your game."
Capito, who earlier in the week assured herself of a fourth straight all-state season by making it to the semifinals for the fourth year, will be attending Duquesne but will not participate in tennis.
"I really feel like a I accomplished a lot, but in some ways it is a relief," Capito said. "I didn't get to this spot by myself. I had great coaching, I had great teammates and my family supported me. I really wanted to show them how much I appreciate what they've done by winning and that made me nervous. I didn't want to let them down."
She certainly didn't.
"She's worked hard for this for four years and I'm just thrilled for her," Dailer said, watching her newly-minted state champion surrounded by her teammates. "Look how thrilled they are for her. At Central it's just like one big family. I think they are as happy for her as she is. And that is what it's all about."
Oak Glen's Madison Juszczak and Weir's Barbie Sulimanova certainly traveled a lot of miles to meet for the third time.
The results were much the same as Juszczak, a sophomore, won her second straight tennis title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Sulimanova, a junior exchange-student from Slovakia, in the AA-A No. 2 singles title match.
Juszczak was the No. 4 state champion last season, and also has been on two volleyball state championship teams at Oak Glen.
"I've been pretty blessed," Juszczak said of her run of state championship success. "I feel like I earned it. I came in here with the mindset that I was not going to let losing be an option."
Her mantra was simple: Think like a champion.
She was able to gain some early traction when she broke Sulimanova's serve.
"My serve was on, and that was the biggest factor for me," Juszczak said. "When I was able to break her serve I gained a lot of confidence."
Sulimanova said she simply made too many mistakes to win.
"She is a great champion, and she knows what it was like to be here and it was new to me," she said. "I made a lot of mistakes, and that really was the difference. You can't make that many errors playing against this competition. She is a very good player though. I did my best."
Juszczak said the No. 2 singles championship will go with her other growing collection of state titles, with the same meaning.
"I do find it funny that we traveled all these hundreds of miles to play this match against each other, but I am very proud to have won it," she sad. "Anytime you make it this far it is a huge accomplishment. The competition was a lot better at No. 2 but I just made it my goal to get down here and to not let losing be an option."
For the first time in school history, Madonna played in three state championship matches with four different players taking part.
All three teams lost - boys No. 4 Allen Alimario fell to Charleston Catholic's Joe Kelly 6-0, 6-3; girls No. 4 Morgan Duerr fell to Parkersburg Catholic's Jullie Wiseman 7-5, 6-0 and the boys No. 3 doubles team of Ryan Watts and Cole Roberts lost to Bridgeport's Ben and Emery Smith 6-3, 6-0.
"Absolutely it was a great season," coach Kelly Sinsigalli said. "To come home with three state runnerup trophies for four kids is just an absolutely huge accomplishment. We are really excited."
Alimario agreed, after his match went final.
"It was my first time here, and it is a first time for our school to make it to a championship," Alimario said. "It's disappointing, but I also exceeded my expectations. For us to have the opportunity to play in three championships is something we won't forget."