FORTVILLE — The celebration had to wait, but the Mt. Vernon Marauders weren’t complaining.
Initially postponed Friday night due to rain, and partially completed Saturday morning before another torrential downpour delayed the conclusion, the Mt. Vernon Sectional tennis finals ended as expected Monday.
At least, exactly how the defending champion Marauders envisioned.
Unofficially winning the match Saturday up 3-0, the Marauders applied the finishing touch 48 hours later with a 4-1 victory against Pendleton Heights.
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The sectional title marked the team’s seventh in nine years and fourth straight.
“We look at that (sectional) as our goal and our main focus, but we also know deep down we’re going to achieve it,” Mt. Vernon junior Olivia Spicer said.
The Marauders set out on their quest of a four-peat with a perfect game in the semifinal round of the sectional last week, beating Eastern Hancock 5-0 without surrendering a game.
Against Pendleton Heights, the Marauders were shooting for another shutout, but they had to settle for a 4-1 win — the same margin they used to tame the Arabians during the regular-season opener on April 6.
“We had the confidence, but the nerves were still there,” Spicer said. “I’ve beaten my opponent before, but it was sectional. It was big. I had to win.”
The Marauders won their three matches Saturday in straight sets. Spicer cruised 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 singles. Kaleigh Helm, a sophomore, won 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.
The unbeaten tandem of Sophie Williams, a junior, and Maeve McCafferty, a senior, increased their season record as a pair to 19-0 with a sound 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 2 doubles. They were 22-2 last season.
“Overall, it is a team sport. It matters to us how we do, both of us, but overall it’s the team score that counts,” McCafferty said. “I’m really proud of our team.”
Mt. Vernon’s lone loss this season was 1-4 to No. 16 Delta on April 19. After Monday’s win, the team improved to 20-1 with 10 dual victories by a 5-0 margins this year.
The program’s win total this season is a school record, and signifies the work put into the process, Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said.
“It builds,” Muterspaugh remarked on the team’s budding tradition. “It’s my 21st year and I’ve seen the highs and lows. But we’ve gradually taken steps, and it’s all about the kids. It’s fun to see these kids succeed.”
The Marauders swept both doubles matches after senior Emily Annakin and sophomore Maeve Laughlin battled back to win 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 at No. 1 doubles.
“We wanted to win this for Gabe because it is a big deal for him to get so many in a row,” McCafferty said. “Do it for him.”
The Marauders’ only setback in the match was at No. 1 singles against Arabians’ senior Sam Hammel, who is now 19-1. Mt. Vernon junior Alaina Nelson won the first set 6-4, but Hammel turned the tide in the second with a 6-3 score.
In the third, the two went into a tiebreaker with Hammel surviving 7-6 (7-3). Though, the Marauders dropped one match in the tournament, all that mattered in the end was the W.
“It’s unbelievable, and I can’t express enough just how hard it is to get these,” Muterspaugh remarked. “When you don’t win, it sticks with you.”
When you win, it builds on tradition.
“I don’t even know how many in a row,” Spicer said. “I just love the team environment. It’s like a family. We all want to do well for each other. We want to win. I’m really proud. I never thought I would be part of something this great.”
The Marauders will now face No. 2 Cathedral in the regional tournament at North Central High School today. The defending state champion Irish beat No. 5 North Central 5-0 recently, posing a serious challenge.
“I’m pretty excited about it actually. We want to see where’s our measuring stick. That’s going to show us. We’ve beaten the No. 17 team in Marion. We lost to the 16 team in Delta. Now, we’re going No. 2 and the defending state champs,” Muterspaugh said. “We’re not going to play scared. We’re not going to be afraid of them. We’ll fight and compete.”
Mt. Vernon 4, Pendleton Heights 1
No. 1 singles: Sam Hammel (PH) def. Alaina Nelson (MV) 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
No. 2 singles: Olivia Spicer (MV) def. Bailey Davis (PH) 6-2, 6-1
No. 3 singles: Kaleight Helm (MV) def. Gracie Criswell (PH) 6-4, 6-0
No. 1 doubles: Maeve Laughlin/Emily Annakin (MV) def. Gabby Kramer/Susie Kramer (PH) 1-6, 6-4, 6-3
No. 2 doubles: Sophie Williams/Maeve McCafferty (MV) def. Brielle Boynton/Claire Goodwin (PH) 6-0, 6-0