Joplin tennis stays undefeated with win over Ozark

Apr. 12—The Joplin boys tennis team kept a perfect season intact with a 9-0 sweep of Ozark (7-3) on a windy Thursday at Joplin High School.

The doubles combo of Adam Badr and Leif Garrity got the ball rolling for the Eagles with an 8-3 win over Ozark's Conner Kitchin and Luke Morris.

Joplin's Ben Converse and Taylor Schlag followed with an 8-2 victory over Ozark's Nicholas Psarev and Brett Kail in their doubles match.

The Eagles (5-0) entered the single matches with a 3-0 lead after the doubles team of Josiah Hazlewood and Oscar Kienzle dismantled Ozark's Ashton Hitt and Asher Lairmore 8-2. The match marked the return of Hazlewood, who underwent surgery for a torn meniscus just two weeks ago.

Hazlewood looked strong in his return, logging an 8-6 win in his singles match against Ozark's Hitt.

"It feels way better than a couple of weeks ago," Hazlewood said of the knee. "I'm really happy I get to play on it. I feel really lucky and very grateful."

Hazlewood said the team win moves them up in the rankings.

"That puts us at least second in the district behind Kickapoo," he said. "It feels great. We struggled last year, so it feels really good to win."

Despite a late surge from Ozark's Kitchin, Badr hung on for an 8-5 win in their match.

He praised his opponent after their match.

"His game is solid, everything about it — from his one-hand backhand to his crazy topspin forehands and his amazing serves," Badr said. "I was scared today, to be honest. We had a great back-and-forth match. We're both looking forward to districts and getting our rematch."

In the singles matchup, Garrity blanked Ozark's Morris 8-0, and kept the Eagle sweep alive.

Joplin's Converse continued the Eagles' winning streak with a 9-8 (7-5) tiebreaker over Ozark's Psarev.

"I'm really proud of Ben," JHS assistant coach Richard Perry said of Converse. "He was exhausted. He went really far in the tournament on Tuesday and played some tough matches, so to be able to go all the way to a tiebreaker today and find that energy was respectable."

Joplin's Schlag defeated Ozark's Lairmore 8-4, and Kienzle wrapped up a perfect day for the Eagles with an 8-2 victory over Ozark's Kail.

Perry, who stood in Wednesday for head coach Aaron Stump, talked about the significance of Thursday's win.

"It's been a grueling week," Perry said. "We had a tough match on Tuesday and a tournament on Wednesday, so to be able to get energy out of nowhere and be able to compete in a match, that means a whole lot to them. It shows how good they really are this year."

The Eagles return to action this weekend at the Truman Tournament in Independence.