It was new scenery, a new perspective and a new fresh look to the city boys tennis showdown.
It didn't matter, though. As far as results go, it was the same old story.
Free State High played host to the city dual for the first time since the two squads first tangled in 2000. The weather was chilly, but the Firebirds shook it off and cruised to a 7-2 victory Monday at Free State's home courts.
Free State maintained an undefeated mark against its neighbor to the south, stretching the advantage to 5-0 all-time.
"We've always performed well against Lawrence High," FSHS coach Jon Renberger said. "We've never lost to them. That's not going to last forever, but when you've got a streak like that going, it's certainly something to ride and enjoy. Each senior class doesn't want to be the one to let that slip away."
In past years, the showdown was always at LHS, where twice as many courts allow matches to go more efficiently. But Free State is no stranger to having home duals with other squads, so the two schools agreed the annual city dual would alternate between LHS and FSHS starting this year. A similar agreement will be made with the girls tennis teams this fall.
"We started it that way because of their superior facilities," Renberger said of Lawrence's eight-court center compared to Free State's four courts. "But in reality, it's better to do it this way. It's more fair for our kids. This was a special day, to finally host them over here."
Monday, the Firebirds struggled through doubles, but rolled in singles. Free State claimed victory in the top five singles matches, with Bryan Maygers, Charles Guard and Mark Whittemore all winning by 8-0 scores.
Perhaps even more impressive, though, were the victories by sophomore Keith Pipkin. He trailed Lawrence's Tommy Johnson 5-2 in the No. 1 singles match, but fought back to win, 8-6, in the dual's final match.
By that point, the Free State team victory was well in hand, but Pipkin's perserverance was inspiring, to say the least. Pipkin teamed up with senior Cody Young earlier at No. 2 doubles, and after falling behind 7-4 to Jim Ashcraft and Martin Vertacnik, Young and Pipkin won five straight games to win, 9-7. The Firebirds grabbed two of three doubles matches and never looked back.
"As a sophomore, he's really coming along at a greater pace than I would've expected," Renberger said. "He's lost a couple of close matches, and to be able to come back and close out a couple of matches like this is huge for his confidence."
Lawrence High sophomore Ryan Robinson contributed to both of the Lions' victories Monday. Robinson and junior Rahul Gogineni grabbed an 8-4 decision at No. 3 doubles, then Robinson later claimed an 8-6 victory over Abel Martens at No. 6 singles.
The bright spots were few and far between for LHS, though. Blame lack of experience.
"The guys didn't really know how to play a match, how to construct points and how to win," LHS coach Dick Wedel said. "That comes from not playing enough."
Both teams will play host to home quads today. Free State will bring in Topeka Seaman, Roeland Park Miege and Olathe Northwest, while Lawrence sees Olathe South and Shawnee Mission West. With only two teams coming in, The Lions will have a black and a red team to fill out the field.
The double duty might be a good thing for Wedel and the Lions. Anything to get some court time.
"I was suprised at how flat our guys seeemd," Wedel said. "They were talking about this as a big match, and how you always want to play Free State, but they didn't look like they wanted to. That's unfortunate."