FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon’s Brendon Ware found his comfort zone as wind gusts cut across the courts at more than 18 mph.
With his forehands and backhands sporadically fluttering short and long, the No. 1 singles player kept his cool while temperatures dropped into the 50s on Thursday evening.
The pressure was spiking, and he knew it after Greenfield-Central tied up the sectional semifinal 2-2 behind a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 win at No. 2 singles by Nate Real.
But Ware’s focus, along with his Marauders’ teammates, remained even keel.
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“I love wind because it’s good for unorthodox style of play, which is all me,” said Ware, who took a nip-and-tuck first set 7-5 against Zak Lawhorn. “It was a factor, but I think I played it well.”
Celebrating the decisive point in his 6-4 second-set win with a boisterous yell and cheers from his teammates, the sectional finals rematch was set.
Mt. Vernon survived 3-2. New Palestine swept Eastern Hancock 5-0. Now, the two programs will meet in the title match at 4:30 p.m. today — for a second straight year.
“We talk about dirt tennis. I do the hashtag (on Twitter). It’s about getting down, gritty, finding a way,” Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said. “That’s what we did today and what we’re going to do (today in the finals). There’s no other match. This is what it’s all about.”
New Palestine has eliminated Mt. Vernon in the sectional every year since the Marauders won their last title in 2011 with a 3-2 victory against the Dragons.
Mt. Vernon lost twice in the semifinals (2012 and 2013) and in the finals 5-0 to New Palestine a year ago.
The Dragons (19-1-1) did their part by defeating the Royals in straight sets for the semifinal sweep, finishing up more than 30 minutes before Ware’s finale.
Greenfield-Central (12-12) didn’t go so quietly, challenging the Marauders (13-4) at every opportunity.
Saben Fletcher and Dylan Wilburn deadlocked the match 1-1 at No. 1 doubles with a 6-3, 6-2 win after Mt. Vernon’s Gavin Stamper and Nathan Grandstaff grabbed a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 2 doubles.
Matt Hays swung the momentum back in the Marauders’ favor with a 6-1, 6-1 match at No. 3 singles, but Real’s performance applied the pressure.
“We knew it. I ever preached it. Greenfield was ready to go,” Muterspaugh said. “I learned a long time ago from my high school basketball coach, no matter if it’s pretty, ugly, barely or by a lot, you survive and advance.”
The margin was an improvement from the two team’s regular-season dual on Sept. 8 when Mt. Vernon won 4-1. The difference was Real, a junior, who fell 6-3, 6-3 to Ryan Beck last month.
“They definitely proved that I think we’re a better team than people thought going into the beginning of the match,” Greenfield-Central head coach Michael Turpin said. “We didn’t get it done today, but I have five juniors that are all coming back next year. So we’re excited for the future.”
The Marauders and Dragons are locked in on the present, which could come down to the final match. When they played last week, New Palestine escaped with a 3-2 win behind a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 clincher at No. 2 doubles.
“It’s going to be the same old same as usual,” New Palestine head coach Des Evans said. “We’re going to fight for every point. Whichever team can hold their nerve and win on the big-match occasion will probably come through. Obviously, we hope it will be us, but it’s going to be a tough match.”
Mt. Vernon Boys Tennis Sectional
New Palestine 5, Eastern Hancock 0
No. 1 singles: Coltin Espich (NP) def. Duncan Cherry (EH), 6-1, 6-1
No. 2 singles: Matthew True (NP) def. Garek Ferguson (EH), 6-0, 6-3
No. 3 singles: Nicholas Ochs (NP) def. Corbin Jennings (EH), 6-2, 6-0
No. 1 doubles: Evan Rejer/Josh McKinney (NP) def. Tony Cape/Bryce Jackson (EH), 6-0, 6-0
No. 2 doubles: David Hockett/Conner Page (NP) def. Jack Smith/Cameron Alberts (EH), 6-1, 6-0
Mt. Vernon 3, Greenfield-Central 2
No. 1 singles: Brendon Ware (MV) def. Zachary Lawhorn (GC), 7-5, 6-4
No. 2 singles: Nathaniel Real (GC) def. Ryan Beck (MV), 7-6 (7-1), 6-2
No. 3 singles: Matt Hays (MV) def. Chris Wu (GC), 6-1, 6-1
No. 1 doubles: Saben Fletcher/Dylan Wilburn (GC) def. Wilken Baldwin/Jacob Swift (MV), 6-3, 6-2
No. 2 doubles: Gavin Stamper/Nathan Grandstaff (MV) def. Brady Wright/Noah Mohler (GC), 6-1, 6-1