FORTVILLE — The threat of rain was a concern for Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh on Wednesday night, but it was nowhere near as bothersome as the mirror image awaiting across the court.
Opening the Mt. Vernon Tennis Sectional against county foe Eastern Hancock, Muterspaugh recognized the similarities — not on paper, but in approach.
“They’re scrappers, man. It was one of those matches as a coach because we’re a team of scrappers, too,” Muterspaugh remarked. “When you have two teams like that, it’s a dogfight. I told our guys we have to impose our will early, and I think we did a good job of doing that.”
Despite a two-hour delay due to heavy rainfall, the Marauders cleared their first hurdle, defeating Eastern Hancock 4-1 to advance into today’s semifinals against Greenfield-Central. New Palestine plays Pendleton Heights in the other semifinal. Both matches are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Story continues below gallery
Mt. Vernon opened the year a perfect 9-0 but struggled down the stretch, finishing the season 11-6. In need of momentum, they found it at the perfect time, atop their soggy home courts.
The Marauders won at No. 1 and 3 singles and both doubles teams prevailed, boosting their record and playoff confidence.
“We really needed to get this match in today. Everyone worked together to get the courts dried, and I’m glad we got it in eventually,” Mt. Vernon senior No. 1 singles player Wilken Baldwin said. “We definitely needed this match just to get ready for Greenfield. They’re a really good team. We’ll see how it goes.”
The Marauders quarterfinals’ match went exactly to plan. Baldwin won his match 6-1, 6-3. Brendan Pratt secured a key point at No. 3 singles with a 6-2, 6-1 win.
Ryan Beck, who was moved back to doubles, partnered with Sam Frye to sweep No. 1 doubles 6-0, 6-0. Gavin Stamper and Peyton Meadors took No. 2 doubles 6-3, 6-1.
Beck, a senior, had logged time at No. 1 singles this season, including during the Hancock County Tournament where he finished third. Baldwin won the county title at No. 2 singles earlier this month. Beck started the year as a doubles player.
“Where’s Ryan Beck? He’s at one doubles,” Muterspaugh said with a laugh. “I think that’s where he’s his best. Plus, we wanted to give both of those senior guys the best opportunity to advance. They’ve put in a lot of time and at the same time, I think it gives us our best lineup overall.”
The move paid off with the Marauders facing a grueling path with potentially two more matches ahead to win the sectional title. Mt. Vernon was sectional runner-up to New Palestine last fall.
“It’s a grinder. We have to go through the gauntlet. Sometimes that’s what you have to have. We’ll be battle tested if we get there,” Muterspaugh said. “You can’t hold anything back now. We’ve talked about it for a full year. We were there last year and we came up short 2-3 to New Pal, but it’s one step at a time.”
Greenfield-Central pushed Mt. Vernon during the regular season before the Marauders won 3-2 with a singles sweep.
The loss for Eastern Hancock gave them a 6-9 record on the year, which first-year head coach Tom Huff felt was a step in the right direction.
A big reason for the Royals success was due to the strong play of junior Duncan Cherry at No. 1 singles and senior Corbin Jennings at No. 2 singles.
“Our No. 1 and 2 singles came in around .500 this year, and they fought to the end. We did fairly well this year. We came close to that .500 record mark, and I’m happy with what we were able to do,” Huff said.
Jennings, who was coming off a 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 three-set victory against Pendleton Heights on Tuesday, continued his streak by winning 6-2, 6-1 in his last match.
“I was excited to see him win tonight to finish his season. He had 11 wins this year,” Huff said.
Mt. Vernon 4, Eastern Hancock 1
No. 1 Singles: Wilken Baldwin, MV def. Duncan Cherry, EH, 6-1, 6-3
No. 2 Singles: Corbin Jennings, EH def. JD Cohee, MV, 6-2, 6-1
No. 3 Singles: Brendan Pratt, MV def. Cameron Albers, EH, 6-2, 6-1
No. 1 Doubles: Ryan Beck/Sam Frye, MV def. Tony Cape/Jack Smith, 6-0, 6-0
No. 2 Doubles: Gavin Stamper/Peyton Meaders, MV def. Ian White/Caleb Kramer, MV, 6-3, 6-1
Records: Mt. Vernon 12-6/ Eastern Hancock 6-9