Firebirds sweep City Series titles in singles and doubles

Throughout the summer and offseason, Free State senior Erik Czapinski and junior Trey Melvin started playing as doubles partners in preparation for the upcoming tennis season.

With a jump-start to work on chemistry, Czapinski and Melvin proved how lethal they can play as a tandem. The duo won all three of their matches Tuesday to win a doubles title in the second annual City Series, which matches up Free State, Lawrence High and Bishop Seabury.

Czapinski and Melvin won 8-1 in the first-place match against Lawrence junior Cooper Wright and sophomore Kanak Masten. In their three matches combined, they only lost a total of two games.

“It’s just focus, basically,” Melvin said. “We put in the work this offseason.”

Skilled at the net, Czapinski uses a mix of power shots and drop shots to keep opposing players off balance. Melvin is strong with his groundstrokes, providing a nice balance between the pairing.

For Melvin, he said it’s an adjustment after playing singles last season to move to No. 1 doubles.

“More pressure, I guess,” Melvin said. “Trying to improve my game and trying to reach the next step and go to state.”

Wright and Masten advanced to the first-place match with a comeback win in the semifinals against Free State’s Sam Six and Jack Kelsey. The LHS pairing didn’t play at their best, but they raised their intensity and won the final five games.

Masten, with extremely quick hands, is known for his highlight shots. Wright focuses more on the mental side of the game, which has helped his transition from playing No. 2 singles last year.

“We’re not comfortable yet, but in the next few weeks we should start to settle in a little bit better,” Wright said. “It takes a little time getting used to each other. … I like doubles a lot playing with him. I think we can be a pretty good team.”

In singles, Free State junior Sawyer Nickel only dropped one game on his way to a city title. He won 8-0 in the first-place match over Bishop Seabury sophomore Grayson Rader.

Nickel was consistent Tuesday, landing a majority of first serves and avoiding unforced errors. After placing fifth at the Class 6A state tournament last season in doubles alongside Czapinski, Nickel is enjoying his time playing singles again.

“It’s definitely a different mindset,” Nickel said. “In singles, I can express myself a little more.”

Rader said he didn’t become comfortable with his play until the end of his semifinal match — an 8-6 victory over Free State’s Davis Steadman. Rader won in the first round against Free State’s Shrivatsa Malladi by the same score.

“I just kind of played, which is a simple thought,” said Rader, who reached the Class 2A state tournament in doubles last year. “I’ve been playing timid.”

Playing in the City Series, players from all schools mentioned that it’s a little bit of a different environment than a regular meet or tournament.

“I know all of these people,” Wright said. “It’s just way different playing against people you know because they know the way you play already. So it’s way harder.”

Lawrence City Series

Tuesday at LHS


Round 1: Sawyer Nickel, FS, def. Sam Bayliss, BSA, 8-0; Drew Dean, LHS, def. Peter Westbrooke, BSA, 8-3; Davis Steadman, FS, def. Kirk Johnson, LHS, 8-2; Grayson Rader, BSA, def. Shrivatsa Malladi, FS, 8-6.

Cons. semifinals: Bayliss, BSA, def. Westbrooke, BSA, 8-7 (9-7); Malladi, FS, def. Johnson, LHS, 8-3.

Semifinals: Nickel, FS, def. Dean, LHS, 8-1; Rader, BSA, def. Stedman, FS, 8-6.

7th-place match: Westbrooke, BSA, def. Johnson, LHS, 8-5.

5th-place match: Malladi, FS, def. Bayliss, BSA, 8-2.

3rd-place match: Stedman, FS, def. Dean, LHS, 8-6.

Championship: Nickel, FS, def. Rader, BSA, 8-0.


Round 1: Czapinski/Melvin, FS, def. Ramos/Lavin, LHS, 8-0; Hanna/diZerega, BSA, def. Teska/Logan, LHS, 8-4; Six/Kelsey, FS, def. Schumaker/Almon, BSA, 8-0; Wright/Masten, LHS, def. Loney/Hoey, FS, 8-0.

Cons. semifinals: Teska/Logan, LHS, def. Ramos/Lavin, LHS, 8-2; Loney/Hoey, FS, def. Shumaker/Almon, BSA, 8-3.

Semifinals: Czapinski/Melvin, FS, def. Hanna/diZerega, BSA, 8-1; Wright/Masten, LHS, def. Six/Kelsey, FS, 8-6.

7th-place match: Ramos/Lavin, LHS, def. Shumaker/Almon, BSA, 8-0.

5th-place match: Teksa/Logan, LHS, def. Loney/Hoey, FS, 8-1.

3rd-place match: Six/Kelsey, FS, def. Hanna/diZerega, BSA, 8-4.

Championship: Czapinski/Melvin, FS, def. Wright/Masten, LHS, 8-1.