Ester Chikvashvili became Half Hollow Hills East's first state girls tennis champion in 30 years Monday at the State Federation tournament in Latham. She was also Suffolk's first representative to win the state singles title since Hauppauge's Jennifer Kellner in 2008.
The fifth-seeded Chikvashvili defeated No. 3 seed Tomo Iwasaki of Edgemont (Section I), 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, in the final.
"I have long legs and I'm taller than most of my opponents at 5-10 and cover the court very well," Chikvashvili said. "I am very excited about the championship, but it really hasn't set in yet."
Chikvashvili said unlike most of her opponents, she does not train year round but prefers to work out with her siblings to prepare for the season.
"I train with my younger sister Stephanie and my little brother Daniel," Chikvashvili said. "It's great. I love staying within the family and while I'm improving, they're also improving."
Stephanie, 15, a sophomore at Hills East, qualified for states in doubles but didn't medal and Daniel, 13, is an eighth-grader.
"This is our first state champion since 1984," Hills East coach Tom Depelteau said. "She was mentally tougher than anyone in the tournament and played a strong game. I thought she was nervous at first but once she calmed down and played her game, she was terrific."
Last year, Chikvashvili lost in the state quarterfinals to Sabrina Barisano of Ursuline (New Rochelle), 6-4, 5-7, 7-5. Barisano was a state runner-up.
"I learned from last year that I'm a great player and that I can perform at this level under this kind of stress," said Chikvashvili, who had a 20-2 record. "I wasn't mentally tough last year. I had a completely different confidence level this time."
One of Chikvashvili's losses came in the Suffolk final to Courtney Provan of Half Hollow Hills West. According to Section XI girls tennis chairman Pete Cesare, Provan withdrew from the tournament after she suffered a back injury in the quarterfinals.