Jeremy Papasso
Fairview High School’s Johnny Combs serves the ball on Thursday, Sept. 22, during a tennis match against Boulder’s Julian Melcer at Centennial Middle School in Boulder.

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Fairview High No. 2 singles player Johnny Combs’ right wrist hurt so badly Saturday that he had to default out of his third-place match at the Cherry Creek Invite. And it was sore enough that he sat out tennis duals on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Thursday, though, Combs hardly looked like he’d missed time at all.

The senior rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Boulder’s Julian Melcer to start off the Knights’ 6-1 triumph over their cross-town rival at Centennial Middle School.

“I kind of just needed some time to recover but I’m looking to get back into it now,” said Combs, who changed strings in his racquet and worked on different strokes to try and avoid re-injury Thursday. “I just tried to make balls and hopefully I could out-grind him.”

Like Combs, the Knights as a whole have had some difficult circumstances this week yet have cruised.

Thursday’s dual marked the Knights’ fourth of six in a six-day stretch. They swept Fossil Ridge, Horizon and Mountain Range on consecutive days heading into the clash with Boulder, and will face Kent Denver today and Fort Collins Saturday.

The first three wins of the week came without both Combs and No. 1 singles player Eli Winegardner, who was sick.

Varsity 2 players took care of the win versus Horizon. But freshman No. 3 singles player Ignatius Castellino picked up two big wins at No. 1 singles on Monday and Wednesday, while the No. 1 doubles team of Kevin Chen and Brock DeHaven moved into the other two singles spots and won. The other doubles teams also each moved up.

“I think the biggest thing is the guys have just played one match at a time,” FHS coach Chad Tsuda said. “I think for them it’s just making them mentally tough.”

The Knights were happy to have a full lineup back Thursday, though, against a Panther squad that finished second at state last year and has high aspirations once again.

All six of the Knights’ wins came in two sets, with Harrison Vivas and Levi Chandler at No. 2 doubles picking up Boulder’s lone triumph, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 over Connor Corrigan and Dakota Muench.

Both Winegardner and Boulder No. 1 singles player Jaron Belcher were battling colds. Winegardner came out on top, 6-2, 7-5 after it looked like Belcher might push the match to a third set.

Thursday’s dual was the last of the regular season for Boulder before Monday and Tuesday’s Front Range League Championships in Loveland. And Belcher and Winegardner could meet again in the finals there.

“That felt like one of my few competitive matches so far this season,” said Belcher, who has cruised against every other FRL foe. “So it’s good practice for the more competitive players I’ll be facing at regionals and state.”

Castellino picked up a win at 3 singles, while FHS’ Tommy Mason and Andrew Pollack won at 3 doubles and Nick Blanco and Ben Krahenbuhl prevailed at 4 doubles.

“I think talent-wise we’re definitely (ready for the postseason),” said Combs, whose Knights took second as a team at the Creek tournament. “We just have to get over the mental aspect of believing we can win against the better teams.”

The Panthers, meanwhile, have been without injured No. 1 singles player Galen Arney all season, meaning everyone is forced to play up a position. But BHS coach Gale Howard wasn’t using that as an excuse Thursday, having expected his squad to have a shot to win despite the lineup shuffle.

The Panthers know they can still make a good showing in the postseason. Last year, they lost to Fairview 5-2 during the season but finished higher at state.

“I think (Fairview) showed up better than we did,” Howard said. “I think they just played tougher. Hopefully this will springboard us and wake them up.”

Fairview 6, Boulder 1

Singles — 1. Eli Winegardner, Fairview, def. Jaron Belcher, 6-2, 7-5; 2. Johnny Combs, Fairview, def. Julian Melcer, 6-0, 6-1; 3. Ignatius Castellino, Fairview, def. Miguel Sanchez, 6-2, 6-3.

Doubles — 1. Kevin Chen/Brock DeHaven, Fairview, def. Dylan Platt/Bryce Waldman, 6-2, 7-6(3); 2. Harrison Vivas/Levi Chandler, Boulder, def. Connor Corrigan/Dakota Muench, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1; 3. Tommy Mason/Andrew Pollack, Fairview, def. Ethan Anderson/Scott Cleveland, 6-1, 6-3; 4. Nick Blanco/Ben Krahenbuhl, Fairview, def. Luke Jirmans/Sig Poulsen, 6-2, 6-3.