FORTVILLE — Their Hancock County title defense was postponed 12 days due to rain, but it was worth the wait for the Mt. Vernon Marauders.
Contending with frigid wind chills throughout and annoying showers late Wednesday night, the Marauders extended their county championship dominance by winning their third straight with near perfection.
Mt. Vernon captured 19 of 20 matches to claim both the varsity and junior varsity girls tennis county titles. A year ago, the Marauders completed the sweep by winning all 20.
The final championship match of the evening at No. 1 doubles was suspended due to rain after nearly five hours of tennis.
The match will resume tied at a set apiece when Mt. Vernon travels to New Palestine on Monday for their Hoosier Heritage Conference meeting at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s all a testament to our girls and the offseason work,” Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh remarked on his program’s second three-peat in eight years.
“Tennis is a game where you have to put the work in, and our girls did. We knew we were graduating a few girls from last year, but our young girls stepped up, but it’s our senior leaders in Cassie (York) and Bri (Partin) that sets the tone everyday.”
A quick start was needed against their county foes with an even larger than usual target on the Marauders’ back this year.
This week the Marauders cracked the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association’s top 30 poll this week, ranked 30th overall — a first for the program since 2004.
“It was really important to us to show it wasn’t just a fluke, and that we are a good team,” York remarked on the team’s motivation after the rankings were released.
The Marauders, who are 9-1 on the season, advance into the final at every lineup spot, and in the finals they swept three matches without surrendering a single game.
York opened the tournament with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Greenfield-Central’s Lindsey McCord in the first round at No. 1 singles. An individual champion last season, the senior complete her repeat run with a flawless 6-0, 6-0 win in the finals versus New Palestine’s Anelia Fleetwood.
Olivia Spicer defeated Greenfield-Central’s Aly Proper 6-0, 6-0 in the finals at No. 3 singles. Mt. Vernon’s No. 2 doubles team of Maeve McCafferty and Sophie Williams finished 6-1, 6-0 in the first round and won the championship match 6-0, 6-0.
“You want them to be excited about (being ranked). You want them to embrace that because it’s cool for our school and our girls,” Muterspaugh said. “At the same time, we came in with the mindset that the ranking doesn’t mean anything, if you don’t take care of business.”
Alaina Nelson applied the finishing touch at No. 2 singles, cruising 6-0, 6-0 in the first round and capping the night with a 6-2, 6-2 win against Greenfield-Central’s Kate Henderson in the finals.
The Cougars pushed three into the finals while New Palestine had two. The Dragons won three third-place matches and sat with 12 team points, one shy of Greenfield-Central, which accumulated 13.
A win by New Palestine in the title match at No. 1 doubles would have propelled them into second place.
Lauren Hardebeck and Katie Settergren made their intentions known by taking the first set 6-4 against Mt. Vernon’s Emily Annakin and Partin.
The Marauders’ duo roared back to win the second set 7-6 (7-5) before the rain forced the match to be postponed until Monday. The final will determine the race for second and third and the Marauders’ bid at a second straight county 20-for-20 sweep.
Annakin and Partin sealed a crucial 3-2 team win against HHC rival Pendleton Heights on Tuesday night with a third-set clincher after losing the second.
That comeback thriller, said Muterspaugh, was a catalyst on Wednesday.
“That’s a possible big time sectional opponent, conference matchup, so for us to get that win was a confidence builder,” Muterspaugh said. “It was one of those matches where it could have gone either way. … I think it’s going to springboard us to greater things.
“In that doubles match (tonight), we could have folded, but we got it to a third set against a good New Pal team.”
The last time the Marauders won three straight county titles was from 2009-11. New Palestine captured back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
“It’s been a weird year with the rain, but we’ll take it. We’ll take being on top,” said Muterspaugh, who is in his 20th season as the girls coach. “It’s been a fun ride so far. It never gets old. It was definitely worth the wait.”