Gabe Muterspaugh is never at a loss for descriptors when discussing his Mt. Vernon boys tennis team.
One of his go-to’s is “gritty.” Another is “workman” along with “rabid” and “resilient.” After his team swept all three singles spots to push past Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Greenfield-Central 3-2 on Tuesday night, he had a new offering.
“We’re crashing parties,” the Marauders head coach said with a laugh. “The guys read the paper, and we use locker room bulletin board material. We’re party crashers. We don’t care what name is on the jersey or where we’re at, we’re going to come in and we’re going to battle.
“That’s what my guys have bought into, and it’s fun to coach right now.”
Story continues below gallery
In the preseason, HHC foes New Palestine and Greenfield-Central were projected as top contenders for both the Hancock County and sectional championships. New Palestine (8-2) is shooting for a fifth straight county title, which will be decided this Saturday on their home courts.
Meanwhile, the Cougars returned nearly its entire lineup from last year, which raised expectations for head coach Michael Turpin’s squad this fall.
The Marauders, however, have refused to be ignored and carved out a place in the discussion with a perfect 9-0 dual record through the season’s first month, the best start in Muterspaugh’s 21-year tenure.
“Honestly, coming into the season, I thought there was no way. If someone told us we would be 9-0, I would have laughed in their face,” senior No. 2 singles player Wilken Baldwin said. “But coach is doing a really good job, and we’re doing a good job as a team. We’re going to try to keep rolling.”
Against the host Cougars, Mt. Vernon claimed their fifth 3-2 win on the year. Nothing new, said Muterspaugh, whose team is becoming well known for grinding out matches down to the wire.
And Tuesday was no exception.
Senior Ryan Beck defeated Greenfield-Central’s Zak Lawhorn at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-2, and Baldwin was victorious 6-3, 6-1 against Nate Real, but the outcome remained uncertain as the Cougars clawed back with a win at No. 1 doubles.
The doubles tandem of Saben Fletcher and Dylan Wilburn cruised to a 6-2, 6-0 victory, bringing Greenfield-Central within arms reach. This year, the duo has only lost twice to No. 12 Delta and Whiteland.
“It can be frustrating when you keep winning at a spot and as a team you’re not getting it done, but the doubles have kept up the mindset that they’re out here to get it done for themselves and help the team out each match,” Turpin remarked after his Cougars fell to 3-4 on the season. “They doing a great job.”
Kole Willis and Noah Mohler beat Mt. Vernon’s Peyton Meadors and J.D. Cohee at No. 2 doubles, 7-5, 6-2, but Brendan Pratt put the Marauders ahead with the clincher at No. 3 singles.
Pratt won both sets 6-3 in his match against Kyle Willis to seal the decisive point 3-1.
“Those guys are getting it done, and they should, they’re three seniors, who have been through the battles,” Muterspaugh commented on his singles players. “These guys come out and fight and find a way to win.”
It doesn’t matter where they’re lined up either. Originally, Beck started the season at No. 1 doubles, but prior to the team’s first Muncie Central Invitational win since 2009 earlier last week, Muterspaugh reshuffled the order.
Beck moved to No. 1 singles, while Baldwin dropped to two and Pratt was plugged into three. Sam Frye filled Beck’s spot at No. 1 doubles and Peyton Meadors earned a place at two doubles.
“It’s a good new lineup. It keeps our singles strong and our doubles players are getting better,” Baldwin said. “It’s worked out well for us.”
The shift hasn’t disrupted the Marauders flow, who beat HHC foe Yorktown 5-0 on Thursday — the team’s third shutout this year — and placed fourth out of eight teams during the Richmond Invitational’s individual format on Saturday.
The Marauders have a dual against Lawrence North at home today, followed by a road dual at Shelbyville on Thursday before the individual-style county tournament Saturday.
“(County is) going to be a really big challenge, but I think our team, with the work we’ve put in, can win,” Beck said. “It will be a tough, but we’ll just go out and compete.”
Mt. Vernon 3, Greenfield-Central 2
No. 1 singles: Ryan Beck (MV) def. Zak Lawhorn (GC), 6-2, 6-2
No. 2 singles: Wilken Baldwin (MV) def. Nate Real (GC), 6-3, 6-1
No. 3 singles: Brendan Pratt (MV) def. Kyle Willis (GC), 6-3, 6-3
No. 1 doubles: Saben Fletcher/Dylan Wilburn (GC) def. Gavin Stamper/Sam Frye (MV), 6-0, 6-2
No. 2 doubles: Kole Willis/Noah Mohler (GC) def. Peyton Meadors/JD Cohee (MV), 7-5, 6-2
Team Records: Mt. Vernon 9-0; Greenfield-Central 3-4