FORTVILLE — The Mt. Vernon girls tennis team was so good last year, the Marauders could count their losses on one hand.
Finishing 17-4 in 2014-15 and netting their second consecutive Hancock County and sectional titles, the Marauders were in a word, dominant, en route to a runner-up finale at the North Central Regional.
If things fall into place again this spring, head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said he believes a repeat run could be a reality — along with a need for more than your standard 10 digits to add up the potential victories.
Story continues below gallery
“The goal every year is to go undefeated and win them all. We lost some very valuable seniors, but I’m extremely excited about this season, too,” said Muterspaugh, who is entering his 20th season at Mt. Vernon.
“I think with the quality girls we have back and what they’ve been able to do in the offseason, I think we can be a top 25 team.”
The thought of the Marauders improving upon last season’s success is an imposing proposition for the competition, especially considering the departure of four seniors from their lineup.
However, with a junior varsity team that propelled Mt. Vernon to the first-ever perfect performance at the county tournament — sweeping every varsity and junior varsity championship — nothing is unobtainable for a program accustom to “reloading quickly.”
“I think you have to have a little bit of a chip on your shoulder to have that belief in yourself. If you don’t have that, you’re probably going to get beat,” Muterspaugh said.
“We try to be confident, and there’s a fine line between confident and cocky, but I want my girls to believe in themselves and each other. I think that transfers onto the court.
“When you pull for each other, good things usually happen.”
With senior Cassie York back at No. 1 singles, there’s one certainty Muterspaugh and the Marauders can count on most nights, and that’s a surefire one point.
As a junior, York was named all-state honorable mention by the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association. She earned an All-Hoosier Heritage Conference distinction and scored one of the Marauders’ wins in their 3-2 regional semifinal win against Lawrence North.
This offseason, York spent her time in traditional fashion, elevating her tennis IQ with private lessons and playing the tournament circuit.
In the classroom, she ranks first in her class and was recently accepted into Cornell University in addition to the College of William and Mary with Brown University on her potential list of hopefuls.
“When we talk about going every night with a girl at No. 1 singles you expect to win every time out, it sets the tone,” Muterspaugh said. “You throw the smarts in there, and she competes like a bulldog out there, too, it could be a great season for her. She’s fun to have around.”
Joining York as team captain is junior Emily Annakin, an all-state honorable mention as a No. 1 doubles player last year. Paired with fellow returnee Brianna Partin, a senior, who is moving up from No. 2 doubles, the duo gives the Marauders an edge.
Replacing Molly Laughlin at No. 2 singles will be sophomore Alana Nelson, who went 8-0 in a short stint at the varsity level as a freshman. Nelson filled in for Laughlin during the regular season before stepping back for the postseason.
Sophomore Olivia Spicer, a key reserve doubles player last season and an integral part of the junior varsity team, takes over at No. 3 singles for Sara Jones, who is off at Anderson University where she plans to resume her career this season.
At No. 2 doubles, Muterspaugh has depth, which he plans to utilize when the time calls for specialty.
“If I want to go with power, we have Hanna Martin (a junior). If I want to go big, I have Sophie Williams (a sophomore). She’s about 6-foot and moving up from JV,” Muterspaugh said. “Maeve McCafferty (a junior) is about 6-foot, too. We have some options there.”
Every spot will matter in the Marauders’ pursuit of a fifth sectional title in six years and the program’s 11th since Muterspaugh took over the team in 1996.
Their county championship in 2014-15 was the program’s second straight and fifth since 2009, but with Des Evans, an instructor at the Indianapolis Racquet Club, around, the tug-of-war between Mt. Vernon and New Palestine won’t fade anytime soon.
In the fall, Evans led the boys team to a sixth straight county title and a fourth consecutive sectional championship against Mt. Vernon in his first season after the resignation of nine-year mainstay Chris Hardin.
The New Palestine girls team has won two sectional titles since 2011 and were back-to-back county champs from 2012-13.
“Hancock County teams are always improving. There’s always a rivalry with New Palestine and Des is over there now. A lot of his girls are working hard in the offseason,” Muterspaugh said. “Every night we’re going to have to be on our best.”
With Pendleton Heights now part of their sectional, the Marauders will look to be flawless by May. The Arabians have won three sectional crowns in a row and return two standouts in Sam Hammel and all-state singles player Emma McCardwell. The two teams will meet in Mt. Vernon’s season opener at home on April 7.
Along with a strong showing early, the Marauders intend to challenge for the HHC, which they haven’t been able to pry from powerhouse Delta despite several near misses.
“We’re still trying to break through. We have one win against Delta in my time. We’re trying to get that conference title,” Muterspaugh said. “I talk with them all the time about wanting to be front runners. I tell the girls, ‘you’ve put in the time. Don’t play scared, play aggressive tennis. If someone is better, so what.’ I think our girls have embraced that.”
Team: Mt. Vernon
Coach: Gabe Muterspaugh
2014-15 record: 17-4
2014-15 results: 1st at Hancock County, 1st at Mt. Vernon Sectional, 2nd at North Central Regional
2015-16 Projected Lineup
No. 1 singles: Cassie York (12)
No. 2 singles: Alana Nelson (10)
No. 3 singles: Olivia Spicer (10)
No. 1 doubles: Emily Annakin (11) and Brianna Partin (12)
No. 2 doubles: Hanna Martin (11), Sophie Williams (10), Mave McCafferty (11)
April 7: vs. Pendleton Heights, 4:30 p.m.
April 12: at Franklin Central, 5 p.m.
April 13: vs. Shenandoah, 5 p.m.
April 14: at Shelbyville, 5 p.m.
April 16: Mt. Vernon Invitational, 9 a.m.
April 19: vs. Rushville, 5 p.m.
April 20: at Delta, 5 p.m.
April 21: at Greenfield-Central, 5:30 p.m.
April 22: Hancock County Meet, 5 p.m.
April 25: vs. Alexandria, 5 p.m.
April 28: at Yorktown, 5 p.m.
May 2: vs. Frankton, 4:30 p.m.
May 4: vs. Warren Central, 4:30 p.m.
May 7: at North Montgomery Invitational, 9:30 a.m.
May 9: at New Palestine, 4:30 p.m.
May 10: at Shelbyville vs. Yorktown, 5 p.m.
May 11: at New Castle, 4:30 p.m.
May 12: at Center Grove vs. Delta, 5:15 p.m.
May 14: vs. Shelbyville and Delta, 10 a.m.
May 16: at Anderson, 4:30 p.m.