FORTVILLE — Tennis can be stressful, but Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh does his best to keep the mood light. And after 21 seasons with the program, the longtime tennis coach might have come up with his best “Harry Potter” reference yet after another win for the Marauders earlier this week.
After posting a 5-0 victory against Shenandoah on Wednesday, Muterspaugh said the team’s No. 1 singles player, junior Alaina Nelson, has been playing like a wizard.
“Alaina is starting to figure out her classes at Hogwarts,” Muterspaugh joked, helping build confidence in Nelson in her first season at the position.
That type of attitude and demeanor, according to Nelson and fellow junior Olivia Spicer, has helped the Marauders to another undefeated start. With a 5-0 win against Shelbyville on Thursday, Muterspaugh and third-ranked Mt. Vernon (District 4) moves to 4-0 this year, including a 2-0 mark in the Hoosier Heritage Conference.
“Sometimes I feel like I am not good enough to beat other girls,” Nelson said after topping Shelbyville’s Daniella Joseph 6-0, 6-0. “But coach comes to me and talks to me (about it).
“I think I have improved a lot (from last season). I took lessons over the winter, which has helped.”
Spicer, who Muterspaugh said is the team’s 1-B player, beat the Golden Bears’ No. 2 singles player, Elizabeth Finkel, 6-0, 6-0, as well Thursday. She said playing against Nelson in practice, which is nothing but a friendly rivalry, has increased her skill level.
“We are both evenly matched, and we are good for each other,” Spicer said. “We are both juniors and each year have helped one another. It makes the team better.”
And having Muterspaugh as their leader, Spicer said with a laugh, really eases the tension at matches and practices.
“(Muterspaugh) makes you feel like it is a family environment,” she explained. “He gives you confidence and overall is just really inspiring.”
Spicer also won 6-0, 6-0 on Wednesday against Shenandoah. Muterspaugh’s response afterward: “Olivia is playing like RNA (ribonucleic acid) in making her shots have a message and transferring them to her desired location.”
Again, he keeps the mood light. But Muterspaugh, in a separate sense, takes the game of tennis very seriously.
“Players aren’t going to play well if they are all stressed out and if I am yelling at them,” Muterspaugh said. “Everybody pulls for everybody.
“I tell our girls, and we stress this, if you can break (opposing players) spirits (you can be successful). We aren’t going to be flashy on the court. We are going to run you. We want to hit the corners. If we can get up 3-0 early, most girls don’t want to fight back. And if you can not beat yourself, you can win a lot in high school tennis.”
Mt. Vernon’s doubles teams performed on par against Shelbyville, too. The No. 1 team of Emily Annakin and Maeve Laughlin handled Alivia Chenoweth and Sam Watson 6-2, 6-1, while Sophie Williams and Maeve McCafferty beat McKenzie McKay and Cloe Phares 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2.
At No. 3 singles against Shelbyville, Kaleigh Helm beat Corinna Jones 6-1, 6-0 to continue her fine season in a new spot.
The Marauders opened the year with a 4-1 win over Pendleton Heights and also topped Franklin Central, 3-2, earlier this season.
Mt. Vernon looks to continue its hot start Saturday at 9 a.m. The Marauders host their own invitational with No. 17 Marion, Richmond, Lebanon, Muncie Central and New Palestine in attendance, to name a few.
“It should be a fun day, we have some big schools and some small schools in there,” Muterspaugh said of the invite. “I am excited to see the girls compete, and we have a real shot to win it.”