Eagles claim Central Ozark Conference title with win over Branson

Apr. 25—Joplin overcame losses in No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles to beat Branson 7-2 and claim the Central Ozark Conference title.

That team depth proved to be a strength for the Eagles and coach Aaron Stump mentioned his team's development over the last two seasons playing a role in this conference championship.

"Our team has really developed over the past two years, gaining the experience they needed to win the conference championship with tonight's victory over Branson," he said. "The guys showed up and played well with consistency all the way down the rankings.

"The last two years against Branson have been tough for our team. In 2022, we only won six total games and no matches against them. Last year, we lost the match 8-1."

It was much different in 2024. Adam Badr dropped the top singles match 8-5 to Branson's Benjamin Merrifield. In the top doubles match, Badr and Leif Garrity fell to Merrifield and Tyler Borger 8-2.

But Joplin didn't surrender another match. Garrity rolled past Preston Volz in No. 2 singles by a match score of 8-1. Josiah Hazlewood of Joplin earned a quick 8-2 victory over Borger in No. 4 singles.

There were some close contests in singles as Joplin's Ben Converse defeated Zachary Zander (No. 3) 8-6. Taylor Schlag kept it going for the Eagles with an 8-5 win over Hayden Pead (No.5). Finally, Oscar Kienzle won the No. 6 match 8-5 over Cash Davis.

"Josiah (Hazlewood) was able to get his focus. He capitalized on quite a few points by approaching the net when he was given a short ball and putting it away," Stump said. "Taylor (Schlag) continues to show promise. He played a great game. Oscar hustled to get some tough shots in today, which helped him close out on the closer games."

Joplin took No. 2 and 3 doubles by scores of 8-2 and 8-6, respectively.

The Eagles are now 12-1 and will compete in the Joplin Area Varsity Round Robin on Monday, April 29. The last competition before postseason is on Tuesday at Carl Junction.