FORTVILLE — A .500 record isn’t where the Mt. Vernon Marauders want to be at any point of the season, and it was a key point on Tuesday night as they openly expressed their dissatisfaction.
Falling to Fishers (19-3) in three sets, 28-26, 25-16, 25-15, the Marauders (10-10) immediately turned their attention inward, identifying correctable mistakes and critiquing exactly what needed to change.
Only problem is they’ve been learning and applying on the fly with minimal off days as the Marauders played their second match in two days and fourth in seven.
“We need some practice time to clean up these errors,” Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn said. “But they starting to play better. Claire Ertel’s hitting has picked up. She was usually even in kills and errors, and the last two matches she’s move that into the positive. That’s big.”
Story continues below gallery
Ertel, a freshman, and Victoria Bulmahn, a sophomore, both had significant moments against the Tigers, leading the Marauders in kills with 11 and 13, respectively.
The duo played big in a tug-of-war first set, which Fishers star hitter Mallory Hernandez, a Mississippi State recruit, and the Tigers narrowly claimed.
The Marauders trailed 3-0 in the set before taking a 4-3 lead and an 11-6 advantage behind their young up-and-coming leaders.
A kill by Bulmahn put Mt. Vernon ahead 16-12 at one point. Another hammer drop by Bulmahn tied the match 24-all, while Ertel did the same at 26-all.
Six earlier errors however, allowed the Tigers to charge back and capture the moment the rest of the night as Hernandez threw down a kill to seal the first set.
“We held up as much as we could, but the mistakes we made were unforced, unfortunately,” Mt. Vernon senior Sarah Herman said. “She’s a real good competitor and I’m glad that we had some good digs.”
The Marauders proved more than capable in the set, Bulmahn remarked, but confidence continues to grow within his starting lineup, which consists of three seniors, two freshman and a sophomore.
“We have to be mentally tougher to finish those sets,” Bulmahn said. “We will once we win one of those.”
In the remaining sets, the Tigers exploited weaknesses and the Marauders struggled to recover. Fishers jumped out to a 6-0 lead and were up 11-3 en route to a 25-16 win.
“(Passing) has been our strength, but they were serving us deep and we weren’t making adjustments to get back deep. Overall, we just weren’t playing disciplined ball,” Bulmahn said.
“We have a system they need to play in and be disciplined in that system because one weak link and it opens up all these holes. They were exposing those holes. They have some big hitters, and we had to make a lineup change to try to stop them from going right over the top of us.”
Hernandez, along with junior Audrey Haworth and freshman Camryn Haworth, found ways around the Marauders reconfigurations.
In the third set, as Mt. Vernon tied the match four times, the Tigers powered forward behind heavy hits from Hernandez and Audrey Haworth.
Mt. Vernon deadlocked the score eight times on the night and held a lead five times.
“I really thought we could keep the serving pressure on them like we did in the first set, but it looked like we got a little tentative on our serving, not wanting to miss as oppose to going at it,” Bulmahn said.
Instead, the Marauders intend to focus on the their third match in four days Thursday, which is Senior Night against Hoosier Heritage Conference foe Shelbyville. On Saturday, they play a pair at Angola.
Entering Tuesday, the defending sectional champion Marauders had already contended with Cathedral, Cardinal Ritter, Brownsburg, Westfield, Center Grove, Lawrence North and Warren Central in a strong non-conference schedule.
“I think (our schedule) will help us in sectional. Last year for example, we lost to teams like New Castle in the regular season and we beat them in sectional. Teams like that and games like these definitely helps us in the long run,” Herman said. “It (stinks) to lose, but it’s nice to feel like you’re getting better.”