FORTVILLE — The New Palestine Dragons weren’t taking any chances Friday.
Well aware of the Mt. Vernon Marauders intentions to slow down each match in an attempt to grind their way toward a potential upset, the Dragons had their own game plan — speed and efficiency.
New Palestine’s three singles players came out fast and combined to surrender only five games as the Dragons scored three quick points followed by another two-set victory at No. 1 doubles to win the Mt. Vernon Sectional title 4-1.
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The championship marks the program’s sixth straight and 16th all time. The Dragons, who are now 20-4 on the season, swept through the quarterfinals against Eastern Hancock 5-0 and the semifinals against Pendleton Heights 5-0 to win the sectional title 14-1 overall.
“It was good to get the job done,” New Palestine’s No. 1 singles player Matthew True said. “The team wanted to win this really bad. We just came out and tried to play our game because we knew they were going to come out firing because we knew they wanted it.”
True, a junior, improved to 19-5 on the season with a 6-0, 6-1 win against Matthew McCullough, while sophomore Ben Blachly won 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Carson Gavin, a junior, completed the singles sweep at No. 3 with a 6-1, 6-1 performance.
Seniors Nick Rusche and Colby Wagoner won 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles to improve to 19-3 on the season.
“This is a pretty awesome thing for us because we’ve worked so hard this season to try to improve our game overall,” True said. “It was great to see all of our hard work pay off.”
The Dragons defeated Mt. Vernon 5-0 during the regular season and then fended them off during the Hancock County tournament to sweep all five individual titles en route to an eighth straight championship.
New Palestine won the Hoosier Heritage Conference title for the first time in approximately 10 years and with another sectional title, they completed their trifecta, a mission set before the season started.
“We’ve played well this season. We’re 20-4 at the moment. That’s not too bad when you consider we played Lapel, Greenwood and Fishers for the first time, and Noblesville. We managed to beat Noblesville,” New Palestine head coach Des Evans said. “The others we lost 3-2, so it could have been even better.
“We beat six (HHC) schools 5-0, and we beat Delta 3-2, so that’s 33-2 for the conference.”
Though it wasn’t an official HHC match, Mt. Vernon handed the Dragons only their third loss against a conference foe as Sam McCarty and Peyton Meadors prevented the shutout.
The duo lost their first set 2-6 at No. 2 doubles, but they regrouped to win the second 6-2 and the third 7-5 by pressuring the Dragons into several unforced errors.
“I was a little disappointed, but you have to give credit to Mt. Vernon for really fighting and clawing their way back in,” Evans said. “But I thought our No. 2 dubs played nervously after they won the first set. They let their opponents back in.”
The point, Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said, hopefully will boost his team’s confidence with only one senior in the lineup and six juniors. They concluded the season with an 11-9 record.
“We knew it was going to be a big time, uphill battle. They are an extremely talented team, top 20. We have fighters right now, not tennis players. But we’ve closed that gap every time we’ve played them,” Muterspaugh said. “It’s gotten closer and closer.”
The Dragons move on to play in the North Central Regional on Tuesday against Lawrence North, who they faced and lost to 4-1 in the opening round last year.
“If you play with fear of losing at regional on Tuesday, we’re not going to do well,” Evans said. “We have to have a positive attitude and try to win and not be tentative and tight because of the occasion.”
Mt. Vernon Tennis Sectional
New Palestine 4, Mt. Vernon 1
No. 1 Singles: Matthew True (NP) def. Matthew McCullough (MV) 6-0, 6-1
No. 2 Singles: Ben Blachly (NP) def. JD Cohee (MV) 6-0, 6-2
No. 3 Singles: Carson Gavin (NP) def. Thomas Obergfell (MV) 6-1, 6-1
No. 1 Doubles: Nick Rusche/Colby Wagoner (NP) def. Brayden Browning/Sam Frye (MV) 6-2, 6-2
No. 2 Doubles: Sam McCarty/Peyton Meadors (MV) def. David Hockett/Dane Reid (NP) 2-6, 6-2, 7-5