When Giovanna Cappabianca decided to join his team, Matt Davis had an insoluble riddle on his hands.

"Where do I put her?" The Hudson head swimming and diving coach may have asked more than once.

In the end, Davis decided on a rather illogical solution.


Three years later, it’s a safe bet everything worked out quite beautifully for the coach and his prized pupil.

That’s because his dynamic jack-of-all-trades helped turn the Explorers into a perennial powerhouse.

The versatile Cappabianca, a four-year state qualifier, recently signed a national letter of intent to continue her academic and swimming careers at the University of Akron.

The standout senior, who transferred to Hudson after spending her freshman year at Walsh Jesuit, is leaning toward a psychology major with a focus in human performance.

"I chose Akron for many reasons, one of which is how successful the program has been," Cappabianca said. "They are seven-time MAC [Mid-American Conference] champions and have had several swimmers attend the NCAA championship meet.

"Another reason I chose Akron is because of the great coaching staff. [Head coach] Brian [Peresie] and [assistant coach] Hannah [Mattar] bring a lot to the table as far as their coaching ability and with the type of program they run. I’ve always felt comfortable with them and thought it was a good fit for me from the beginning."

Cappabianca, who has been swimming competitively since she was 5 years old, has made a name for herself, thanks to her ability to swim in just about every event.

Not surprisingly, her specialty is the 200-yard individual medley, which features the butterfly, back, breast and freestyle strokes.

"Giovanna is definitely a great swimmer," Davis said. "She works on her craft. Like a lot of our kids, Giovanna doesn’t just show up to practice and do what’s asked. She does stuff on her own such as running, extra lifting and working on certain skills."

Quite a few skills, as a matter of fact.

At the Division I state meet last month, Cappabianca finished fifth in the 200 IM and 17th in the 100 breaststroke. She also was a member of the third-place 200 freestyle relay team and the seventh-place 200 medley relay team.

Cappabianca, a three-time state qualifier in the 200 IM, helped Hudson to a fifth-place finish at the state competition after capturing third the previous two years.

"Swimming for Hudson has been nothing short of amazing," she said. "I have made so many great friends and have grown so much as a person. We are a big family. We are competitive, hard-working and supportive of each other.

"I am so glad I’ve gotten to swim with such a special group of people. We’ve been through it all together: the early mornings, late nights, endless hours spent in the pool and the sacrifices the sport demands.

"I couldn’t have done it without all of them. They make the lows more bearable and the highs more enjoyable."

In some ways, Cappabianca’s new school will be a carbon copy of her current one.

The Zips won their seventh consecutive conference title at the MAC Championships last month.

Akron finished 6-2 overall and 4-0 in the conference during the regular season. Like the rest of their NCAA combatants, the Zips’ season ended prematurely due to a deadly respiratory tract infection known as the coronavirus.

Pardon Cappabianca if she may be a bit more anxious than others. For this driven teenager, the next chapter of her life couldn’t come sooner.

"I have known Brian for about six years and have been able to watch him coach and interact with the team for a long time," Cappabianca said. "I really like his coaching style and can’t wait to start this fall."

If things go her way, Cappabianca hopes to swim the 200 IM, the 100 and 200 breaststroke races and the 100 and 200 butterfly events.

She has other goals too. And they have very little to do with getting chlorine on her face.

"My short-term goals are to get closer to the girls on the team, get used to college life, work on my weaknesses in my strokes and help the team win more conference championships," Cappabianca said.

"My long-term goals are to qualify for the NCAA championship meet, be a MAC champion in an individual event, help continue the success of the Akron program, while continuing to work toward qualifying for the Olympic Trials in multiple events."

In recent years, Cappabianca has competed for the Hudson Explorers Aquatics Team during the offseason. She began her swimming career with the Stow-based Maplewood Gators, which was led by Rich Einsporn.

Cappabianca also spent a year swimming for the Cuyahoga Falls Tigersharks, who were led by Dale Craddock. She got her first swimming lessons at the Cuyahoga Falls Natatorium.

Cappabianca didn’t need too many lessons to realize she was pretty decent at swimming. Once she got the hang of her new favorite hobby, Cappabianca quickly became a bona fide superstar.

"When I was in the 8-and-under age-group category, I broke a lot of team and meet records and won a lot of events," Cappabianca said. "It all really clicked for me when I was in the 11-12 age group. I was nationally ranked in several events and won the overall high-point award at a national championship meet in Florida."

One of her future coaches certainly noticed. And once their partnership became official, a certain high school that makes its home on Hudson Aurora Road became a state powerhouse.

"I’m super blessed to have her," Davis said. "She has really helped our program to new levels. I’ve known her for a long time and she’s an awesome kid."

As for Cappabianca, the feeling is mutual. And that feeling comes inside and outside the natatorium.

"It has been a great experience swimming under Coach Matt," Cappabianca said. "He really pushes and motivates us. He also gives a lot of his time to making the team better.

"He has always been there for me no matter how much I needed or what I needed. He sacrifices a lot for us and I am glad I have a coach that cares as much as he does."

Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, faceto@recordpub.com or @FrankAceto_Gannett.