FORTVILLE — No lead was safe, and no deficit was insurmountable Tuesday night.
Recording the first points in the first two sets, the Mt. Vernon Marauders couldn’t hold on, falling behind 2-0 to Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Greenfield-Central.
But with their backs against the wall, the host Marauders spoke up and charged back, taking the last three sets to win 3-2.
“These seniors have been kind of quiet, but then they all started speaking up. We were very quiet the first two sets,” Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn said. “They started getting more vocal.”
As the volume increased, so did the Marauders efficiency and swagger as they snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 8-6 on the season and 2-2 in the HHC.
“We needed the conference win. We needed the confidence,” Bulmahn said. “Both teams needed that win.”
The Cougars, who had lost five of their last six, were in control early and appeared destined to sweep the match. They claimed the first two sets 25-19, 25-17. In the first, the Cougars (7-8, 0-4 HHC) overcame five lead changes and 13 ties to win.
In the second, they were decisive and put together a key 6-0 run to lead 16-9. They fended off a late Marauders’ comeback with a 5-0 run to end the set.
In the third, the Marauders responded, 25-23. They scored the first point again and also lost the lead late through five ties, but they won off of two unforced Cougars’ errors to close the gap.
“I don’t think anything changed, mindsets changed, and when you have a young team, that probably is the scariest thing as a coach, the uncertainty that comes with that,” Greenfield-Central head coach Travis Fuller said. “They were playing really good volleyball those first two sets, and we had the matchups we wanted tonight. We just have to perform a little bit better in the moment.”
The Marauders altered their attack and it paid dividends on defense along the net, while opening opportunities for sophomore Victoria Bulmahn on the right side where she led the team with 27 kills. She added 18 digs and three blocks as one of three players with a double-double.
Claire Ertel had 12 kills and 15 digs, while Sarah Herman posted 10 kills and 10 digs. The defense elevated their game behind Grace Hurst’s 39 digs and three blocks by Rachel Pilkington. Sophie Schultz had 18 digs.
“We put Rachel Pilkington in the middle because they were abusing us constantly with their outside hitters, so we made that change with the blocking, and it seemed to take them out of their rhythm,” Bulmahn said. “This is a rhythm game.”
The Marauders trailed 1-0 early in the fourth set before taking off to win 25-17. The Cougars sliced Mt. Vernon’s lead to two points at 15-13 behind several kills by Haleigh Pribble, who had 15 total, 24 digs and four blocks.
Ava Antic added 16 kills and 26 digs. Makayla Price hammered a team-high 21 kills and added 16 digs for the Cougars on the night.
“I don’t know if what they did really impacted our personnel. I know they started hitting more shots, and when we start to get more timid, you lose the ability to put pressure on the ball,” Fuller said. “When we couldn’t put pressure on the ball with our pin hitters, it allowed them to pick apart the defense with a couple of tips and soft shots.”
A kill by Victoria Bulmahn, set by Meridan Eads, who had 29, put Mt. Vernon in position to strike in the fifth set, down 3-1. A block by Bulmahn cut it to 3-2 before she rattled off four more points.
“We knew if the we lost that third set, it was over, and we weren’t willing to accept that, so we kept fighting until we won,” Victoria Bulmahn said. “This year, it’s a kind of a young team, so we have to keep our mental composure and we knew we could come back and play our game.”
An ace by Pilkington followed by a block sealed the Marauders 15-7 set victory and the match.
“That (losing streak) was a wake-up call for us. We really had to pick ourselves up and play better. We’ve been growing up,” Victoria Bulmahn said. “We need to use this as momentum and jump off from here to beat those other good teams we have coming up next.”
The Marauders travel to HHC foe New Castle on Thursday before hosting Center Grove on Saturday. Greenfield-Central hosts HHC rival Shelbyville on Thursday.
Mt. Vernon 3, Greenfield-Central 2
GC (7-8, 0-4 HHC);25;25;23;17;7;—;2
MV (8-6, 2-2 HHC);19;17;25;25;15;—;3
Kills: Haleigh Pribble 15, Ava Antic 16, Makayla Price 21 (GC); Victoria Bulmahn 27, Sarah Herman 10, Claire Ertel 12 (MV).
Digs: H. Pribble 24, Morgan Grigsby 19, A. Antic 26, M. Price 16 (GC); V. Bulmahn 18, Grace Hurst 39, S. Herman 10, Sophie Schultz 18, C. Ertel 15 (MV).
Blocks: Mary Voigt 5 (GC); V. Bulmahn 3, Rachel Pilkington 3 (MV).
Assists: Molly Broome 55 (GC); V. Bulmahn 18, Meridan Eads 29 (MV).