INDIANAPOLIS — Following Mt. Vernon’s sectional title win over New Castle on Saturday, Marauders head coach Eric Bulmahn said he was “happy” his squad opened its season with a real test — at then No. 1 Cathedral.
The end result, a 3-0 loss, was not what Mt. Vernon walked away with, however. The Marauders learned that they, much like last season, can compete with anyone. All they needed was another boost of confidence.
That confidence went a long way on Tuesday in regional play, although the stakes were much higher.
Despite nearly matching the Irish point-for-point early on, Class 4A No. 4 Cathedral took care of No. 11 Mt. Vernon in straight sets Tuesday for the regional title.
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Cathedral, which won 25-19, 25-23, 25-17, also defeated the Marauders last year for the regional crown. Senior Jaclyn Bulmahn led the with 14 kills, while classmate Ashton Barr finished with eight in their final games for Mt. Vernon.
“We had a good scouting report on them,” Coach Bulmahn said. “They did some things differently that we didn’t expect. We had to make some adjustments. The team had confidence, you just have to do the little things right, the stuff we were doing right in practice.
“(Cathedral’s) strengths are our weaknesses.”
According to the Z-Ratings, a metric used to rank volleyball teams like the Sagarin Ratings for football, Mt. Vernon (27-8) ended the regular season ranked No. 10 in the state, with the ninth toughest schedule of all teams. Cathedral (28-4) ended the season at No. 5 and boasted the 11th toughest schedule in the state.
In the first game of the season, Cathedral won 25-14, 27-25, 25-11.
On Tuesday, Mt. Vernon tied the game at 7-all in set one after back-to-back hitting errors from the Irish’s leading attacker, senior Nia Robinson. Robinson, who will attend Northwestern, entered the game with 505 kills this season.
Marauders senior libero Julia Wayer made several impressive digs throughout the opening set and helped her team pull within one, 15-16, after an ace from junior Grace Hurst.
Wayer led the team with 28 digs and Hurst added 11.
Cathedral’s hitting power and solid defense wore the Marauders down, though, and forced Eric Bulmahn to burn his first timeout trailing 20-15.
Despite consecutive kills from Jaclyn Bulmahn, who will play at Valparaiso next year, Mt. Vernon could not catch up despite a handful of fierce rallies.
Robinson gave the Irish a 9-7 lead in set two that extended to 12-8 after a Cathedral block at the net.
A kill and ace from Barr pulled Mt. Vernon within three, though, after trailing by as much as five midway through the set. A hitting error from the Irish put the differential at one, 20-19, causing Cathedral coach Jean Kesterson to call a timeout with the Marauders fans in an uproar.
The defending state champions would refocus, however, and appear to run away with another win. With the score at 24-20, Mt. Vernon rallied off three straight points to force another timeout by Kesterman. Cathedral used a kill out of the small break to eventually earn the win and 2-0 match lead.
“We made some changes to the lineup in set two to get better matchups,” Bulmahn said. “It took away from what they were doing.”
Mt. Vernon started the third set in a 4-0 hole but used a Jaclyn Bulmahn kill to get the offense going. Unfortunately, it would not be enough as the home team took a 12-3 lead en route to the win.
Junior setter Meridan Eads tore her labrum (shoulder) during Saturday’s win over New Castle, Bulmahn said. She started and played valuable minutes on Tuesday, finishing with 11 assists.
Barr led the team with 14 assists, while senior Kari Kramer led the defense with two blocks.
Cathedral moves on to play the winner of Floyd Central and Castle.
Mt. Vernon 0, Cathedral 3
MV – Wayer 28 digs, Hurst 11 digs, J. Bulmahn 14 kills, Barr eight kills, Kramer two blocks, Barr 14 assists, Eads 11 assists