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High School Sports

Firebird Alexis Czapinski second at state

Top-seeded singles player Alexis Czapinski, a Free State High senior, hits a return during a Class 6A regional tennis tournament, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at Lawrence High.

Top-seeded singles player Alexis Czapinski, a Free State High senior, hits a return during a Class 6A regional tennis tournament, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013, at Lawrence High.

October 21, 2013

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— Alexis Czapinski’s fourth and final trip to the Class 6A state tennis tournament might have ended a day late, but don’t suggest it ended a victory short.

Czapinski, a Free State High senior, placed second in singles at state on Sunday at Maize South High, completing a steady progression during her four years.

“I left it all on the court,” she said. “I’m proud of what I accomplished. I did something special, something I’d never done before. That’s a memory I’ll carry with me all my life. I’m proud of that. I’m proud of our team, qualifying five people. That’s something we haven’t done in a long time. I’d say, for my senior year, it’s more than I could have asked for. I’m very content, very proud of all that happened, and I always will be.”

After claiming two straight-set victories on Saturday’s opening day, Czapinski defeated Shawnee Mission East’s Elizabeth Barnickel, 6-2, 6-4, in Sunday’s semifinal before falling to SM East’s Olivia Sneed, 6-1, 6-1.

For Czapinski, who placed a “heartbreaking” seventh in doubles as a freshman, seventh in singles as a sophomore and sixth in singles last season, it was a tournament of personal redemption.

“I beat three players who had beaten me this year or last year,” she said. “I was really happy to be able to prove myself and show that I’ve improved.”

Just how did she do that? The old-fashioned way.

“I worked my butt off,” she said.

The tournament was scheduled to run Friday and Saturday, but rainy weather forced its postponement a day.

No matter.

Rather than curse the conditions, Czapinski and her Free State teammates — the doubles teams of Alyssa Raye-Rachel Walters and Taylor Hawkins-Caitlin Dodd — used the weather delay to their advantage.

“We went to the mall,” Czapinski said. “We had a relaxing time enjoying ourselves. You can’t let things like that bother you. Kansas weather is kind of strange. You have to be prepared for weather delays. You just can’t let it be a factor, or you hold yourself back. You can’t let yourself lose matches because of that.”

Czapinski credits an improved mind-set with her progression at state.

“My emotional strategy was to stay more calm in my matches,” she said. “I was believing in myself more than I had. I had more confidence knowing that I could beat these players. All my matches were tough. I had a tough draw. But I started to play better the more matches I played.”

The rest of the field, coach Oather Strawderman said, took note.

“Alexis has a wonderful tournament,” he said. “She played strong all weekend long and was the talk of the tournament. Everyone was talking about how sharp she was playing. It was an amazing finish for a four-time state medalist.”

As a team, the Firebirds placed seventh overall.

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