Grayslake Central sophomore Raquel Ruiz was battling fatigue, knee pain and a dire situation where Wheeling's Goscia Markiewicz held double match point for the No. 2 singles championship match Saturday afternoon.
But Ruiz never quit battling in her third match of the Grayslake Central/North girls tennis invitational. She overcame all the obstacles to win the title 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 10-8 and help the Rams win the team championship 29-25 over Wheeling.
Grayslake North took third and Antioch was fourth as Sara Petty and Missy Donovan won the No. 1 doubles title.
"I love playing tennis and she was just a great player," Ruiz said after beating Markiewicz to improve to 9-2. "I wanted to see how far I could take it. If I won, great, but if I lost I don't mind because she's such a great opponent to play.
"It's a nice feeling because I wasn't expecting to win after the first set."
Grayslake Central also got doubles titles at No. 2 from juniors Yulia Mykhaylovska and Sarah Adornetto and at No. 3 from sophomore Olivia Love and Peranalee Patel. Sophomore Nikki Tatsuguchi took third at No. 1 singles.
Ruiz led 5-4 in the second set but Markiewicz rallied to win the next two games and go ahead 40-15. Ruiz was also starting to feel the effects of a condition where she gets bruises under her knees when she plays a lot of tennis.
Ruiz rallied to win the game and took an injury timeout to wrap her knees before the tiebreaker. She also adjusted and went with a strategy of playing more lob shots to ease her knee pain and counter Markiewicz's ability to work the ball around the court.
"I actually don't like to lob," Ruiz said with a smile.
But it worked as she used it to open leads of 5-1 and 9-5 in the third-set super tiebreaker and won it with a first serve Markiewicz couldn't return.
Tatsuguchi beat Grayslake North's Nathalia Moran 6-1, 6-0 in the No. 1 third-place match. Tatsuguchi bounced back from a 6-0, 6-0 semifinal loss to Oak Lawn sophomore and singles champion Alexis Fletcher.
"I thought I played pretty well but I do need to work on some things," Tatsuguchi said. "I probably need to be more consistent with my forehand. I generally hit the ball long or into the net (against Fletcher)."
Mykhaylovska-Adornetto and Love-Patel helped Grayslake Central add to the invitational title it won this season at Johnsburg.
"I tell my kids that in tennis, it's not how old you are but how long you've been playing," Central coach Chuck Lawson said of his young team. "Our program is getting better because of our summer camp (which has grown from 15 to 115 players). The summer camp is starting to pay off."
Donovan and Petty beat Round Lake senior Daniella Aviles and sophomore Maria Aviles 6-1, 6-2 for the No. 1 singles title. The Antioch seniors are playing together for the first time and Petty was coming back from missing the last week with a sprained left wrist.
"They've taken some strides and they're playing what I like to call mature tennis," said Antioch coach Neil Lesinski. "They're being patient and letting the match come to them.
"Having two seniors play No. 1 doubles together, you can't put a value on that. Having them together puts on a unified front for the other girls to see."
Lesinski was also impressed with the Aviles sisters in their first year playing tennis for Round Lake.
"They're steady players," Lesinski said. "Our girls were tested today and those girls will have a solid future."
Tiffany Gantz and Kaylee Karpiel took second at No. 2 doubles for Antioch.
Wheeling senior Kamilla Sikora was able to do something no one else could in her 6-1, 6-0 loss to Fletcher for the No. 1 singles title. Fletcher, who didn't play high school tennis last year at Morgan Park Academy but has extensive tournament experience, didn't lose a game in her other two matches.
"I could have played better but I felt I did what I could have," Sikora said. "This definitely prepared me. Playing tough people makes me better overall and hopefully I'll play better."
Grayslake North got third-place doubles finishes at No. 1 from Cayla Dole and Rachel Crutcher and No. 2 from Alex Williams and Hannah Collins. Unfortunately for the Knights, a knee injury could keep Kasia Dudek out up to three weeks, according to coach Jill Tomasello. It also kept Dudek and Lilla Szini from playing for the No. 3 doubles crown.
"Our girls played really well," Tomasello said. "These are (doubles) combinations we just set this last week and they had a lot of success, so that's probably how we'll stay the rest of the season."