Free State tennis blanks Lawrence High

Free State High School tennis player Erik Czapinski returns the ball during a doubles win against Lawrence High School on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, at LHS.

Free State High sophomore Ian Pultz-Earle took his losses and lumps last year in No. 1 singles, facing opposing team’s best players. Now he’s delivering some revenge.

In the City Showdown dual against Lawrence High, Pultz-Earle combined with freshman Erik Czapinski for a victory in No. 1 doubles, and he won in No. 1 singles to help the Firebirds to a 9-0 victory at LHS.

Pultz-Earle focused on singles last year, but now he’s determined to see how far he can go this season in doubles.

“I used to prefer singles, but now that I’ve played doubles more, I’ve started to like it,” Pultz-Earle said. “It’s fun to have somebody with you so that you’re not out there alone.”

Free State’s top doubles pairing played together in some tournaments before the season started, and their chemistry helps them play to each other’s strengths. Czapinski is strong at the net and Pultz-Earle uses his length and speed to hit power shots from the baseline.

“I think he’s got a strong future this season ahead with Erik,” FSHS coach Oather Strawderman said. “We’ve talked about not just qualifying for state but being in the second day is one of our goals. Definitely, I think, they’ve got a good shot at that.”

The Firebirds, who have won every City Showdown dual over the last 18 years, looked sharp in nearly every match. Czapinski, Seamus Ryan, Jonah Pester, David Neff and Declan Forth all rolled to wins in singles and doubles.

“I had a great day,” said Neff, the team’s lone senior on varsity. “It was a real good improvement. I didn’t do so well last (tournament). But a good improvement and it’s always fun playing LHS.”

“It always helps the guys,” Neff added of the winning streak. “It’s the one tournament where we try to do our best in. We try in all of them, but it’s really something else to look forward to.”

LHS junior Elliott Abromeit had the closest match for the Lions in singles, falling, 9-4, against Pultz-Earle. He took every game to deuce, but couldn’t climb back after falling to an early deficit.

The Lions have won duals against Bishop Seabury and Bonner Springs this season, but couldn’t match the same energy as their crosstown counterparts.

“One team came out and was focused and ready to play,” LHS coach Chris Marshall said. “One team was not, unfortunately it seemed like that was my team. … We just have to learn from being put in our place and hopefully we can, after this humbling, come back and refocus and play with a little more pride next time.”

The Firebirds will play host to Washburn Rural at 3:30 p.m. today, and the Lions will return to the court on Tuesday to play in the Topeka West Invitational.

Free State 9, Lawrence 0

Tuesday at LHS


No. 1 — Ian Pultz-Earle, FS, def. Elliott Abromeit, LHS, 9-4

No. 2 — Erik Czapinski, FS, def. Zach Bowie, LHS, 9-2

No. 3 — Seamus Ryan, FS, def. Brendan Connor, LHS, 9-1

No. 4 — Jonah Pester, FS, def. Sam Allen, LHS, 9-2

No. 5 — David Neff, FS, def. Michael Braman, LHS, 9-1

No. 6 — Declan Forth, FS, def. Chanse Bowie, LHS, 9-3


No. 1 — Pultz-Earle/Czapinski, FS, def. Abromeit/Braman, LHS, 9-0

No. 2 — Ryan/Pester, FS, def. Z. Bowie/Jonathon Kinder, LHS, 9-4

No. 3 — Neff/Forth, FS, def. C. Bowie/Allen, LHS, 9-3