Ben Converse, Taylor Schlag to represent Joplin Eagle netters at State

May 9—While the Joplin Eagles tennis team prepares for a sectional matchup on May 13 after winning the Class 3 District 5 title over Kickapoo 5-1 on Thursday, two Eagle netters will have a little extra on their minds as they prepare for the state doubles tournament May 16-18 in Springfield.

Junior Ben Converse and sophomore Taylor Schlag, Joplin's No. 2 doubles team, qualified for the state doubles tournament after finishing second in their district doubles tourney last week.

Converse and Schlag fell 5-7, 1-6 to Kickapoo's Jonathan Chou and Caleb Kim in the district title match, but the top two teams in each district earn a berth in the state tournament.

Converse and Schlag got a bit of revenge Thursday, when they beat Chou and Spencer Musil in their No. 2 doubles match in the district team tourney at JHS.

The duo have dominated the No. 2 doubles spot this season, logging just one regular season defeat — a tiebreaker loss against Republic early in the season. Since then, the pair has excelled.

"They complement each other very, very well," Joplin head coach Aaron Stump said. "Ben is a power-type hitter who can get the ball in and get in position. He can put away shots without any problem. Taylor has a lot more consistency with his shots. Between the two of them, one (Taylor) is keeping the point alive and keeping it going and the other, Ben, is the power guy that can close things out. They just have good chemistry and play off each other so well. They just don't lose many matches."

Converse talked about his mindset heading into the state doubles tourney.

"We just have to keep our heads up and not get down on ourselves," he said. "We have to keep our motivation up going into it."

Taylor also talked about his strategy heading into the tourney.

"We just have to get some good preparation in and keep doing what we are doing," Schlag said. "We've been playing really well, so we don't want to change anything too drastically and we just need to work on getting a little bit better."

JHS assistant coach Richard Perry, a state qualifier for Carthage in 2018, said the biggest adjustment the duo will have to make involves playing a longer match at a higher level at state. While regular season doubles matches play to the first team to score eight points, the state doubles tournament consists of two pro sets with a tiebreaker if necessary.