FORTVILLE — Defense leads to offense, and the most offense wins the game. As simple as that may sound, it was Mt. Vernon’s formula for success this season. And there’s no better way to produce a school-record 29 wins than with two of the most dominant players in the state.
Led by libero Julia Wayer and outside hitter Jaclyn Bulmahn, the Marauders cruised to a county-best 29-5 record, a sectional title and an impressive regional showing against the nation’s No. 1 team.
Both did so in record-breaking fashion, earning them the title of Daily Reporter Volleyball Co-Players of the Year. As juniors this season, Wayer and Bulmahn led Hancock County in digs and kills, respectively, as both were selected to represent the South as Junior All-Stars.
Bulmahn, who finished with a school-record 496 kills this season (5.4 per set), was also named Second Team All-State for the first time in school history for Class 4A. She was named player of the year in 2014. Her numbers put her first among juniors in Indiana.
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“Both my parents have really helped me grow and learn how to play volleyball, along with my cousin who played at Mt. Vernon before,” Bulmahn said, whose father Eric Bulmahn is the head coach. “Just being around it my whole life really helps.”
Wayer was just as controlling on defense, tallying a Marauders record for digs in a season with 557 (6.0 per set), good enough for first in the conference.
She recorded a season-high 42 digs in the sectional final against Greenfield-Central, a game that went an exhilarating five sets. Those stats placed her sixth overall in the state, regardless of class.
“She was our libero from day one, but we didn’t know how good she was going to be until it stared unfolding,” coach Bulmahn said.
“When she started dominating and controlling matches, it became very evident that she was a special player that we don’t see come through here very often.
“She has the unique ability to read where the hitter is going to hit the ball. As a unit we clicked, because of how she controlled the back row.”
His daughter has been one of the biggest benefactors of Wayer’s play, he said.
“Playing with Julia gives you a bit of a comfort level knowing someone has your back,” coach Bulmahn said. “That allowed her (Jaclyn) to focus a little bit more on her hitting and blocking. When she got to the front row, she knew she would have to get ready fast, because that back row would have the ball there.
“She was hitting smarter and hitting higher percentage shots. Her hitting percentage went up again.”
Coach Bulmahn, who was named Daily Reporter Volleyball Coach of the Year, said what makes the pair unique, however, besides their undeniable talent, is their ability to keep the team’s mood light, even in the toughest situations.
“Jaclyn is a very positive and optimistic person,” Wayer said. “She always has a smile on her face and says funny, lighthearted comments that keep the team smiling.”
Added Bulmahn with a laugh, “Julia is one of my best friends. She’s never down or sad or anything. She can make anything into a funny joke. We both have our blonde moments, which makes everything funnier.”
That bond formed from the countless hours on the court together since freshman year, including recently playing in the same club system — Vision Volleyball Club. Coach Bulmahn believes the organization’s coaches have been instrumental in allowing the two to accomplish what they did this season. Instead of peaking, both tremendously improved but still have room for growth.
“I think that this past club season and this school season made for a big building year for me,” Wayer said. “Breaking the school record felt good, but that gives me no reason to stop pushing myself.”
And Bulmahn and Wayer actually are playing in the same age group for the first time this offseason, which should give the offensive and defensive stars more time to improve their chemistry.
Bulmahn finished with 443 kills last season as Wayer contributed 331 digs — numbers that were certainly not easy to surpass.
After topping the Cougars for the sectional championship, the duo showed extreme confidence against the eventual 4A state champions, the Cathedral Irish, a team that went 36-0. The Marauders lost 25-20, 25-18, 25-10, holding their own but eventually running out of gas.
Wayer led the team with 12 digs and Bulmahn finished with 13 kills, also a team-high.
Mt. Vernon won 24 games in straight sets while only being shut out three times with Wayer and Bulmahn dominating almost every night. The Marauders finished 5-2 in a tough Hoosier Heritage Conference, as well, behind Yorktown and Delta.
The history books will not be safe next season, either, as both will be back a year older with much of the same team responsible for the best season in school history. Seniors Mary Grace Ertel and Teresa Bond will be missed, but Ashton Barr, Grace Hurst, Meridan Eads, Karri Kramer and Abby Anderson all return with experience.
“Hopefully, we can make it farther in the state tournament and make it past the regional,” Bulmahn said.
With this dynamic duo, nothing seems out of the question.