Free State 2nd, Lawrence High 5th at 6A boys tennis regional tournament
photo by: Chris Duderstadt
OLATHE — When the Free State doubles team of Erik Czapinski and Trey Melvin left the Sunflower League boys tennis tournament last week, they could hardly wait to return to the College Boulevard Activity Center for the Class 6A regional tournament.
Czapinski and Melvin were disappointed that they didn’t put up more of a fight against Shawnee Mission East’s Hayden Leatherwood and Jacob Tilton in the semifinals at the league tournament, but they found themselves in the same scenario on Friday at regionals.
The Firebirds’ No. 1 doubles team made the most of the second chance by outlasting Leatherwood and Tilton, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4, in the semifinals. Czapinski and Melvin went on to fall in the finals to the Lancers’ other doubles team of Blake Eason and Jackson Fenton, 6-1, 6-1, but their second-place finish helped clinch the regional runner-up plaque for the Firebirds.
“It feels good to finally get a win over them,” Melvin said of getting over the hump against Leatherwood and Tilton. “We’ve been waiting for this moment. We’ve been practicing all week for this moment.”
Melvin and Czapinski felt that they made too many unforced errors on both their serves and groundstrokes in the 8-4 loss to Leatherwood and Tilton at the league tournament. While the stage was even bigger at regionals, one of the keys to playing better for Melvin and Czapinski was not putting pressure on themselves.
“We had more fun. I was laughing on the court,” Czapinski said. “That’s how I stayed so relaxed. There were a few times there where I thought I was going to throw my racquet or something, but I just laughed it off.”
The more relaxed approach paid off for the Firebirds, as they jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first and third sets and 3-0 edge in the second. However, Leatherwood and Tilton rallied to tie it or take the lead in each set. The Firebirds had six match points in the second set after the 10th game went to deuce, but the Lancers came out on top in the game and the set.
Melvin and Czapinski stuck to their game plan, though, to bounce back in the third and reach the finals.
“We knew that we had to come back because we needed to win this week so we would have a good seed at state,” Melvin said. “We had to come back and play loose — just like we did in the first set.”
The Firebirds qualified five players to state, as they finished second to SM East. Jack Kelsey and Sam Six placed sixth in doubles, and Sawyer Nickel finished fifth in singles.
“We knew going into today that we would qualify a lot of people,” Melvin said. “We were hoping to qualify six, but we qualified five. It was a pretty good day for Free State High School tennis.”
LHS doubles team of Wright/Masten qualifies for state
Lawrence High’s Kanak Masten had a bitter taste in his mouth at the end of last season — coming up one win shy of qualifying for state.
Masten kept last year’s seventh-place doubles finish with Sam Allen in the back of his mind throughout the season as he teamed up with his new partner, Cooper Wright. Masten and Wright garnered their first state tournament berths on Friday by finishing fourth in the doubles bracket.
“It means a lot,” Masten said. “Last year I got seventh and it was heartbreaking, but this year I’m glad.”
Wright and Masten only dropped one game in the first round to Olathe North’s Serrano/Ahlers to set up a match with SM Northwest’s Gao/Mitts. The Lions dropped the first set, but rallied to win the second and an super tiebreaker to clinch a spot in the semifinals with a 2-6, 6-2 (12-10) victory.
“Oh, it’s awesome,” Wright said. “That was our goal at the beginning of the season — making it to state. It’s just awesome to come back in a match to get to state.”
The LHS doubles team guided the Lions to fifth place. One of the weaknesses for Wright and Masten going into the postseason was serving, but it has turned into a strength the last two weeks.
“Our serves have improved a lot,” Wright said. “When we’re serving well, we can play really well.”
The strong serves from Wright and Masten put them into position to finish off points early.
“If we can get to the net and hit our volleys, we play really well,” Wright said.
Wright and Masten will join Czapinski, Melvin, Six, Kelsey and Nickel at the Class 6A state tournament, which will begin on Friday at the Kossover Tennis Center in Topeka.
6A regional tournament
Friday at the College Boulevard Activity Center
Top six finishers qualify for the state tournament
Team scores — 1. Shawnee Mission East 23, 2. Free State 12, 3. Shawnee Mission Northwest 10, 4. Olathe North 6, 5. Lawrence High 4, T-6. Gardner Edgerton 1, T-6. Olathe Northwest 1, 8. Shawnee Mission North 0.
Free State’s Sawyer Nickel (fifth place) — Sawyer Nickel def. Luke Johnson, SMN, 6-1, 6-0; Madhira Manas, ON, def. Sawyer Nickel, 6-3, 3-6 (10-4); Sawyer Nickel def. Alex Burnham, ONW, 6-0, 6-1; Sawyer Nickel def. Noah Crist, ON, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Free State’s Davis Steadman — Davis Steadman def. Drew Dean, LHS, 6-1, 6-3; Nam Pham def. Davis Steadman, 6-0, 6-0; Noah Crist, ON, def. Davis Steadman, 6-1, 6-0.
Lawrence High’s Remington Eakin — Alex Burnham, ONW, def. Remington Eakin, 6-2, 6-2.
Lawrence High’s Drew Dean — Davis Steadman, FS, def. Drew Dean, 6-1, 6-3.
Free State’s Erik Czapinski/Trey Melvin (second place) — Czapinski/Melvin def. Teska/Logan, LHS, 6-1, 6-0; Czapinski/Melvin def. Frier/Lauridsen, ONW, 6-2, 6-0; Czapinski/Melvin def. Leatherwood/Tilton, SME, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4; Eason/Fenton, SME, def. Czapinski/Melvin, 6-1, 6-1.
Lawrence High’s Cooper Wright/Kanak Masten (fourth place) — Wright/Masten def. Serrano/Ahlers, ON, 6-1, 6-0; Wright/Masten def. Gao/Mitts, SMNW, 2-6, 6-2 (12-10); Eason/Fenton, SME, def. Wright/Masten, 6-0, 6-1; Leatherwood/Tilton, SME, def. Wright/Masten, 6-2, 6-0.
Free State’s Sam Six/Jack Kelsey (sixth place) — Six/Kelsey def. Darpel/Tomasic, SMNW, 6-4, 6-3; Leatherwood/Tilton, SME, def. Six/Kelsey, FS, 6-0, 6-0; Six/Kelsey def. Frier/Lauridsen, ONW, 6-1, 6-2; Gao/Mitts, SMNW, def. Six/Kelsey, 6-2, 1-6 (8-6).
Lawrence High’s Ryan Logan/Stephen Teska — Czapinski/Melvin, FS, def. Teska/Logan, 6-1, 6-0.