An impact was made immediately last year, whether intended or not, by first-year head coach Eric Bulmahn.
With two key senior returnees last fall and nearly a dozen underclassmen, the Mt. Vernon Marauders established themselves as the team to beat in Hancock County.
They won 24 matches, which bested their previous year’s mark by 15. They captured the Hancock County championship and advanced to the Class 4A Sectional 9 title match before falling to Yorktown 3-0.
With their varsity roster back nearly intact for 2015, the next logical step is the most obvious.
The Marauders want to maintain what they’ve built.
“We snuck up on a lot of teams in 2014, but this year, as defending county champion, we’ll be wearing a bulls eye on our back,” Bulmahn said.
The Marauders are well equipped to handle the challenge with three 6-footers, three All-Hancock County players, two all-county honorable mentions, three All-Hoosier Heritage Conference selections and the county player of the year in Jaclyn Bulmahn back on the court.
“We had one of the better back courts in central Indiana in 2014,” coach Bulmahn said, “but will be even better this season.”
Bulmahn’s confidence in his group stems both from talent and, more importantly, leadership, which seniors Mary Grace Ertel, an outside hitter, and Teresa Bond, a libero, bring to the tight-knit squad.
Ertel, who stands 5-foot-11, was second on the team with 290 kills and 256 digs. Bond had 196 digs and 304 assists.
The team intends to count on their back court defense and ball control to dictate tempo. Bond, junior Maddie Keerns and junior Julia Wayer, an all-county honorable mention, will play key roles along with sophomore Grace Hurst.
The trio of Bond, Keerns and Wayer combined for 740 digs last season.
Ertel and Bulmahn will pace the offense with the two accounting for 70 percent of the team’s kills production a year ago.
Bulmahn, a 6-0, first team all-conference and county honoree, blasted a team-best 443 kills, 45 aces and registered 263 digs.
Junior Kari Kramer, a 6-0, all-county honorable mention middle blocker, led the team with 103 total blocks. Ashton Barr, a 6-0, all-county setter, will set the table after recording 558 assists as a sophomore last season.
With additional depth in outside hitter Sarah Herman, libero Alexa Christenson, and the versatility of Annie McCain, a junior, the Marauders are searching for a potential sectional title — their first since 2010.
“We will look to distribute the ball for a more diversified attack,” Bulmahn said. “Having so many players back from the sectional championship loss has been a driving force for motivation in the offseason.”
First serve: Mt. Vernon opened the year on Tuesday with a 3-0 win against Hamilton Heights.