FORTVILLE — There was chatter all around them. Eric Bulmahn heard it. His Mt. Vernon Marauders caught wind of the pre-tournament banter as well.
Everyone wanted to dethrone the defending Hancock County volleyball champions Saturday.
Only one problem: The Class 4A Marauders prefer to speak through their actions.
“We won it last year and we knew everybody was going to come after us this year. I think we got the best shot from everybody,” Bulmahn said. “They were definitely gunning for us.”
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Bulletproof in their title defense, the Marauders opened the day just as they ended it, with a two-set sweep to clinch their second straight county title.
Mt. Vernon defeated 3A New Palestine in the semifinals 25-19, 25-17 and completed their run in the championship match 25-20, 30-28 against Greenfield-Central.
New Palestine (23-6) rebounded in the consolation finals, beating 2A Eastern Hancock 25-19, 25-3 for third place.
Class 4A Greenfield-Central (12-7-1) swept the Royals 25-11, 25-9 to advance into the finals and set up a rematch with the Marauders.
The two teams faced each other twice prior to the title match. In the first meeting, Mt. Vernon won 3-0 at home on Sept. 15. During the Cougar Challenge on Sept. 26, host Greenfield-Central turned the tables, winning 2-1.
The confidence coach Deena Batton’s Cougars gained was evident as Greenfield-Central took early leads in both sets. Through the first, there were five lead changes. In the second, the teams exchanged the lead seven times and were deadlocked 15 times.
“They went after it. That’s what county rivals are, I guess,” Bulmahn said. “Everybody gets up as high as they can and play as good as they can and whoever is the top dog at the time, they try to take them down.
“Greenfield-Central has improved a lot, and Rachel Irbe was on fire. We had to make some adjustments.”
Irbe, who was named to the all-tournament team along with Emily Diehr, connected on 11 kills, including a cross-court laser to put Greenfield-Central up 18-17 in the first set. She hammer home three more kills as the Cougars went up 22-19 in the second set.
In both situations, the Marauders answered.
Jaclyn Bulmahn tied the first set 18-18 with one of her 30 kills on the day before Mary Grace Ertel fired three consecutive aces. Another Bulmahn kill pushed the margin to 23-19, and two Cougars errors gave them the win.
“Coming off that loss to Greenfield, that was a big deal to us,” said Ertel, who joined Bulmahn and Julia Wayer on the all-tourney team. “I thought we composed ourselves really well when we were down. I’m proud of the way we played together as a team.”
Greenfield-Central surged ahead in the second set 21-18, but an Ertel kill and several well-timed digs by Wayer swung the momentum before the teams traded points to a 28-28 tie.
“In the last week and a half, we had a come-from-behind victory against Noblesville, 29-27; and at Warren Central, 26-24. It’s good that we’re used to coming back. Nobody freaks out,” Eric Bulmahn said.
Ertel’s 22nd and 23rd kills after digs No. 38 and 39 by Wayer sealed the finale for the Marauders (25-4).
“We were all wanting revenge. That helped us be more competitive and want the win,” Jaclyn Bulmahn said. “We felt like we could have played a lot better (in the Cougars Challenge) and could have won, which made this match a lot of fun.”
2015 Hancock County All-Tournament Team
Name, School, Year, Pos.
Mary Grace Ertel, Mt. Vernon, Sr., OH
Julia Wayer, Mt. Vernon, Jr., DS
Jaclyn Bulmahn, Mt. Vernon, Jr., OH
Laurie Eells, Eastern Hancock, So., S
Rachel Irbe, Greenfield-Central, Sr., OH
Emily Diehr, Greenfield-Central, Jr., OH, MH
Allison Dennemann, New Palestine, So., OH
2015 Hancock County Volleyball Tournament
Semifinals: Mt. Vernon 2, New Palestine 0; Greenfield-Central 2, Eastern Hancock 0
Consolation (third-place match): New Palestine 2, Eastern Hancock 0
Championship: Mt. Vernon 2, Greenfield-Central 0