FORTVILLE — It wasn’t a perfect sweep, but it was still hard to beat.
Faced with adversity for the first time this season, the Mt. Vernon girls tennis team stuck to its routine Friday night, and it led to the Marauders hoisting the Hancock County team trophy, yet again, for a historic fourth straight year.
“We lost our first (match) in three years, but 14 of the last 15 champions are from Mt. Vernon, I like that,” Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said. “I can live with that.”
Mt. Vernon is the first county team to win four consecutive tournament team titles, and they achieved the feat with some last-minute flexibility.
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Losing sophomore No. 1 doubles player Maeve Laughlin to an injury on Wednesday night against Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Delta, the Marauders were forced to shakeup their lineup over the past 48 hours.
The transition was seamless.
Senior Emily Annakin willingly dropped down to No. 2 doubles and was paired with freshman Alexis Lane. As a result, defending county champion partners Sophie Williams and Maeve McCafferty moved up to No. 1 doubles.
Neither teams skipped a beat as Mt. Vernon won four individual titles en route to 31 points with New Palestine second at 18. Greenfield-Central was third with 11 team points.
“This is a big deal for us. We’ve done well in county, so we wanted to continue that tradition,” McCafferty said. “We’re pretty happy, especially because we had to make some adjustments.”
Annakin and Lane found a rhythm despite having limited time together prior to the tournament. Up to this point, Lane was primarily a junior varsity player, but she embraced her new role quickly.
The tandem won their first match 6-0, 6-0 against Eastern Hancock before defeating New Palestine’s Cassie Willhem and Lauren Didelot 6-2, 6-2 in the finals.
“It was kind of scary because you never know. Chemistry is a really big thing in doubles, and Alexis really surprised me. She did so well today and yesterday,” Annakin said. “She came out of nowhere out of the abyss of JV. She was super competitive and I’m really proud of her.”
New Palestine challenged for four individual titles overall, winning one at No. 3 singles were junior Ivey Simmons beat Mt. Vernon’s Kaleigh Helm 7-5, 6-2.
The Dragons captured the junior varsity team title, halting Mt. Vernon’s run at a third consecutive perfect tournament with the Marauders sweeping both years previously.
“We were very pleased because we did better than we expected. The pressure was on them (Mt. Vernon),” New Palestine head coach Des Evans said. “Our JV was able to win it and our varsity came in second. We had some good performances.”
Simmons’ night began with a 6-0, 6-0 first-round win before she captured her first-career county title.
“The big thing was she puts the ball deep and isn’t afraid to put the ball away. I thought she hit some really good forehands to end the points,” Evans said. “She wasn’t afraid to put it away today.”
The Marauders showed no fear at the top of their lineup where both juniors Alaina Nelson and Olivia Spicer repeated as county champions.
Nelson opened with a 6-0, 6-0 win and finished with a 6-1, 6-2 victory at No. 1 singles in the finals against New Palestine’s Amelia Fleetwood. Spicer cruised with a 6-2, 6-1 first-round win at No. 2 singles, which she followed up with a 6-2, 6-2 finale against Greenfield-Central’s Avery Spencer.
Williams and McCafferty wrapped up the night with their 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 finals win against New Palestine’s Katie Settergren and Josee King. The tandem won their first match 6-0, 6-0 against Greenfield-Central’s Aly Proper and Erin Wright.
“I think it’s better for us to have more competition because we can grow and get better. Last year we played two (doubles) and went 22-2,” McCafferty said. “I think we were ready to step up to one dubs.”
The duo is unbeaten on the year with a 10-0 record. They were named all-state honorable mention last season and are on pace again with their county title defense.
“I think we’ll continue to work hard and do the best we can from here,” Williams said.
Greenfield-Central had four third-place wins and a runner-up finish. New Palestine captured three runner-up placements and a third-place winner in Lexi Miller, a senior, at No. 2 singles.
Though the Marauders couldn’t seize every title at county, they are eager to continue their winning trend, ranked 27th in the state, as they aim for a potential fourth straight sectional title at season’s end.
“We’re always about believing around here,” Muterspaugh said. “This is still a fun tournament for us. They’ve dissipated all the other county tournaments in other sports, but I still love this. This is a fun night.”
Hancock County Girls Tennis Tournament
Team Scores: Mt. Vernon 31, New Palestine 18, Greenfield-Central 11, Eastern Hancock 0.
No. 1 Singles
Alaina Nelson (MV) def. Amelia Fleetwood (NP), 6-1, 6-2
No. 2 Singles
Olivia Spicer (MV) def. Avery Spencer (GC), 6-2, 6-2
No. 3 Singles
Ivey Simmons (NP) def. Kaleigh Helm (MV), 7-5, 6-2
No. 1 Doubles
Sophie Williams/Maeve McCafferty (MV) def. Katie Settergren/Josee King (NP), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
No. 2 Doubles
Emily Annakin/Alexis Lane (MV) def. Cassie Willhelm/Lauren Didelot (NP), 6-2, 6-2