GREENFIELD — Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn needed a second to exhale on Tuesday night. While the scoreboard sided in favor of his Marauders 3-0, the volleyball match was far from one-sided.
“That was a close one,” Bulmahn remarked after his squad swept rival Greenfield-Central. “After winning that first set, I think they put it in cruise control. I told them, ‘These guys aren’t going away. It’s a county rivalry. They’re coming after you.'”
The Cougars lived up to Bulmahn’s prediction and turned a 25-14 first set loss into a battle cry through final two.
Greenfield-Central flipped the switch in the second set and erased an early 11-6 deficit. The game featured six ties and four lead changes as the Hoosier Heritage Conference foes had to work for every point.
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Mt. Vernon (9-5, 2-2 HHC) ran out to a 14-8 lead before a Cougars’ timeout slowed down the defending county champions.
Greenfield-Central (5-6, 0-4 HHC) cut into the lead 18-16 after forcing several Marauders errors and attacking the net on defense.
A crucial block and kill by senior Emily Diehr put the Cougars within one point of Mt. Vernon late. Another kill and Marauders’ error tied it at 24-all.
Diehr had nine kills in the match. The Cougars were led by senior Laura Banton’s 12 kills.
The team’s youth stepped up in the clutch as well with sophomore Molly Broome dishing out 28 assists, contributing two aces, five blocks and 11 digs.
“It was a little bit of a younger team maturing in the second set,” Greenfield-Central head coach Travis Fuller said. “Strategically, the biggest difference was we didn’t let Julia Wayer go on a serving run like she did in the first set. We talked about it.”
Momentum swung back and forth in the second set until Ashton Barr recorded one of her 11 kills for the Marauders, and the Cougars registered an unforced error to lose 28-26.
“It’s always fun playing them,” Mt. Vernon senior Jaclyn Bulmahn said. “We really had to stop and focus and especially focus on playing together in the second set. We had to have good passes inside and out, and we did.”
Bulmahn, a Valparaiso commit, had a team-high 18 kills despite dealing with a sore back. Barr had 17 assists.
Victoria Bulmahn, who was recently inserted into the starting lineup, finished with 24 assists. The younger Bulmahn, and Jaclyn’s sister, is playing for junior Meridan Eads, who is sidelined with an illness.
“Right now, there is some uncertainty. We were really playing well before Meridan (Eads) went out. Now, we’re adjusting,” Bulmahn said. “Having her out has taken some of their confidence away, but they’re adjusting.”
The Marauders had to rally in the third, falling behind 6-1 and 8-2 early before going on a 8-4 run and tying it up 20-all on one of Greenfield-Central’s 33 errors overall.
“We all believe in each other. We’ve been down more than that before and won,” Jaclyn Bulmahn said. “We believed we could do it.”
Bulmahn delivered three kills down the stretch as Mt. Vernon closed it out 25-21.
Julia Wayer led the Marauders with 22 digs. In the last five meetings, the Marauders have won four, including in last season’s Hancock County finals, 2-0, and in the sectional finals 3-2.
“When we got tight in the second and third sets, it didn’t surprise us. We didn’t necessarily play any better. We just kept their runs small,” Fuller said. “It just shows how close these guys are to breaking through.
“We’re just asking them to compete, and that’s the best they’ve competed all year.”
Mt. Vernon 3, Greenfield-Central 0
MVHS (9-5, 2-2 HHC);25;28;25
GCHS (5-6, 0-4 HHC);14;26;21
MV – J. Bulmahn 18 kills; Ashton Barr 17 assists, 11 kills; Julia Wayer 22 digs; Victoria Bulmahn 24 assists; Kari Kramer 2 blocks; Abby Anderson 2 blocks.
GC – Molly Broome 28 assists, 11 digs, 5 blocks, 2 aces; Laura Banton 12 kills; Emily Diehr 9 kills; Haleigh Pribble 4 kills.