CHARLOTTESVILLE — Travis fuller didn’t think about defeating two of the state’s top teams last week in preparation for the Hancock County tournament. He was just worried about Greenfield-Central.
The strategy worked out quite nicely for the Cougars Saturday at Eastern Hancock. After topping Class 3A No. 7 New Palestine in the semifinals, Greenfield-Central used a come-from-behind effort in the title match against 4A No. 11 Mt. Vernon to earn the championship.
With the most difficult road to a trophy laid in front of them, the Cougars never panicked. Even after losing the first set against the Marauders, 25-17, Fuller and company remained focused. Not even a 13-6 hole in set two could wreck their spirits.
Falling behind 8-4 in set three, Greenfield-Central rallied in crunch time to secure an 18-16 win.
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“We have really been within ourselves all season,” Fuller said, a first-year head coach. “We just really focused on getting better on our contacts (this season). We feel we can better improve our contacts on our side of the net than necessarily take (the other team) out of what they want to do.
“We have been a very centrally focused team. I couldn’t be happier for the four seniors. But we didn’t ever talk about winning county. We talked about getting better on Saturday.”
After a Jaclyn Bulmahn kill for Mt. Vernon in set two, the Cougars went to work trailing 13-6.
A 10-4 run for Greenfield-Central turned a deficit into a 17-16 advantage, which was capped by a Mt. Vernon error on a kill attempt. Seniors Emily Diehr and Laura Banton added kills in the comeback and finished with 11 and 17, respectively. Sophomore setter Molly Broome provided an ace and block during that span, as well, and added 37 assists in the win.
Another Diehr kill gave the Cougars a 23-20 lead as they took set two, 25-22, setting up what would be a highly-entertaining final frame.
Trailing 8-4, Greenfield-Central used a block to ignite a 5-1 run — capped by a big Diehr block at the net — to lock the teams at 9-all.
Diehr, who tied the game for the Cougars at 16, used two more powering kills to propel her team to the win. Earlier in the game, one kill actually smashed an opposing player in the face.
“She has a great mental attitude and even apologized to that girl,” Banton said with a smile. “When (Emily’s) in, I know she’s going to help the team out.
“I think we played more as a team (during the comeback). We’ve played them so many times, we knew what we needed to do.”
Diehr also added five blocks in the win. She was named to the All-Hancock County Tournament Team with Banton and Broome.
Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn said he thinks the Marauders can certainly learn from their performance, which was far from their best this season. They were ranked No. 8 overall in the state, according to the Z-Ratings, last week.
“Once (Greenfield-Central) got their groove going, it threw off our defense,” Coach Bulmahn said.
Jaclyn Bulmahn, a senior, added 18 kills, one block and seven digs in the loss. Senior Ashton Barr had 10 kills, 10 digs and 16 assists in a triple-double effort. Senior Libero Julia Wayer finished with 10 digs while freshman Victoria Bulmahn collected nine kills.
The two schools could meet again at the sectional. They have already played three times this season and met four times last year. Mt. Vernon won the two previous meetings this season in straight sets and won in the final meeting a year ago.
Greenfield-Central (18-9) beat New Palestine (21-8) 28-26, 25-22 in their semifinal matchup on Saturday. Allison Dennemann, who broke a school record with 40 kills on Sept. 26, was named all-county.
Mt. Vernon (23-7) defeated Eastern Hancock (12-14) 25-9, 25-5 in the other semifinal on Saturday. Jenna Smith was named all-county for the Royals while Bulmahn and Barr were picked for the Marauders.
Bulmahn recently surpassed 1,500 career kills, while Wayer also passed 1,500 career digs earlier this season.
“Those are tremendous accomplishments that not many players are going to see,” Coach Bulmahn said.
Greenfield-Central defeated Mt. Vernon 17-25, 25-22, 18-16
Mt. Vernon defeated Eastern Hancock 25-9, 25-5
Greenfield-Central defeated New Palestine 28-26, 25-22
Emily Diehr, Greenfield-Central
Molly Broome, Greenfield-Central
Laura Banton, Greenfield-Central
Jaclyn Bulmahn, Mt. Vernon
Ashton Barr, Mt. Vernon
Allison Dennemann, New Palestine
Jenna Smith, Eastern Hancock