FORTVILLE — Gabe Muterspaugh was hopeful, until he peered up toward the sky.
With two tennis courts nearly dried off after the grounds at Mt. Vernon High School were drenched by a pop-up rainstorm on Friday afternoon, a new system immediately cropped up.
“The problem is the humidity,” Muterspaugh said in passing as the Mt. Vernon tennis coach squeegeed the courts. “The water won’t dry up.”
After a second round of showers rolled through, the decision was unavoidable. The Mt. Vernon Sectional championship was officially postponed. Nothing new, the 21-year coaching veteran remarked.
“We’ve been through this with delays and rain this whole spring, so it’s just another day,” Muterspaugh joked. “I told our girls to be ready, and I’ll buy them breakfast tomorrow. They were happy about that.”
Initially to be played Friday night, the title match between Mt. Vernon and Pendleton Heights will now be contested today at 10 a.m. If weather plays a factor in the morning hours, the match will be moved to 4 p.m.
For the Marauders, a one-day delay will do little to dampen their focus. In search of a fourth consecutive sectional championship and seventh in nine years, Mt. Vernon is chasing another milestone as well.
At 19-1 this year, the reigning Hancock County champions are eyeing a program-first 20-win season, and only Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Pendleton Heights stands in their way.
“We have a good group, and they’re definitely ready to go. They understand this is Mother Nature. There’s no control,” Muterspaugh said.
What they have dictated the entire season to date is victory. Mt. Vernon opened the year winning five straight dual matches and their own invitational before suffering their lone defeat 4-1 to No. 16 Delta on April 19.
Mt. Vernon has won 10 duals by a 5-0 margin this year and has surrendered one point a handful of times. The first 4-1 victory was in the season opener against Pendleton Heights in Madison County on April 6.
The Marauders’ only setback in the match was at No. 1 singles against Arabians’ senior Sam Hammel, who is 18-1.
Junior Alaina Nelson, the Marauders’ No. 1 player, battled but came up short 3-6, 4-6 against Hammel. The two faced each other in last year’s postseason, too, with Nelson winning 6-4, 6-3 to clinch a 3-2 first-round win in an upset.
Muterspaugh expects Nelson to come out strong in the rematch.
“That was the first match of the year. Knowing their coach, they’ve improved over the year. They beat a good New Pal team to get here (3-2 in the first round). They beat a Greenfield team handily (4-1 in the semifinals),” Muterspaugh said. “We know we have to play very good tennis to beat them, but at the same time, we’re confident.”
Their confidence led to a clean sweep 5-0 win against Eastern Hancock in the semifinals Thursday. The Marauders didn’t lose a single game behind steady play all around, including from their No. 2 doubles team of Sophie Williams and Maeve McCafferty. The twosome remains unbeaten as a pair this year.
Once ranked in the state’s top-30, Mt. Vernon has claimed 20 consecutive match points and would like to increase the total to 25 today.
“We’re not going to come in with any kind of fear,” Muterspaugh said. “They have to play fantastic tennis to beat us. Our girls know that, too. If we play Marauders tennis, we’re in good shape.
“There should be no motivation. Let’s roll the balls out and let’s get a trophy (today). Keep the tradition going.”