GREENFIELD — To win a potential third straight sectional title, the Class 4A Mt. Vernon Marauders know they have to win three.
On Thursday night, they took the first of three steps, knocking off host and county rival Greenfield-Central in a 3-0 sweep during the Sectional 9 quarterfinals.
The Marauders will now advance to Saturday’s semifinals at 11 a.m. to play another county foe in New Palestine, which swept Richmond 3-0 in Thursday’s other quarterfinal match.
“It’s as big as it gets,” Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn remarked on the upcoming semifinal with New Palestine. “I think they are going to come out gunning for us, and we’re just going to try to defend our title.”
Winners of the sectional championship in back-to-back seasons, Mt. Vernon has to win three matches to claim another trophy and their big hitters came through to fend off the Cougars (19-14).
Mt. Vernon won 25-17, 25-20, 25-23 as Greenfield-Central tried to force a fourth set with leads of six, five and two points late in the third.
“I was having flashbacks from when they played at our place. We won the third 25-23 and then turned it around,” Bulmahn said. “That last match, I was like, ‘oh, boy. They are going to flip it.'”
Kills by Victoria Bulmahn, a sophomore, and Claire Ertel, a freshman, kept the Marauders in control with Greenfield-Central’s offense falling silent.
Ertel finished with a double-double, posting 11 kills and 20 digs. Victoria Bulmahn had 16 assists, 10 digs and 18 kills.
Senior Sarah Herman came through with nine kills and 11 digs, while senior setter Meridan Eads dished out 21 assists to push her career total to 1,566.
“I talked to the team about it before the match started. I said, ‘look, we’ve been here before. You seniors have been here before. You need to lead with confidence,'” Eric Bulmahn said. “They have four freshmen. They are a young team, so they’re going to wonder how it’s going to go.”
Mt. Vernon (20-11), who charged back to win in five sets against Greenfield-Central after trailing 2-0 during the regular season on Sept. 12, took a different path in the rematch.
The Marauders came out firing to build a 9-7 lead in the first before falling behind 11-9. A 4-1 run put them up 19-14, and a 6-2 run sealed it.
In the second, the Marauders clawed back from a 9-3 deficit and broke a 20-all tie with a 5-0 run to win. Greenfield-Central surrendered four error points during the Marauders’ final push.
“We wanted to let them hit,” Bulmahn said. “That’s what we went on. Block low, tight and hit the ball hard and low and they were out of serve receive all night. If we dictated the pace right up front, it would give us a big advantage.”
The Cougars never led the third set but strong play from Molly Broome, Hannah Burkhart, Haleigh Pribble and Makayla Price kept it tight.
Bulmahn expects nothing less from New Palestine (25-6), which lost to Mt. Vernon 20-25, 25-16, 23-15, 25-18, 13-15 in their regular-season finale last week.
“But you can’t look past whoever wins that (other semifinal) either,” Bulmahn said. “Pendleton Heights is playing phenomenal. Their middles are really starting to take over. They’re a team to be reckoned with.”
Pendleton Heights (17-15) plays Connersville (9-23) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the other semifinal.
Mt. Vernon 3, Greenfield-Central 0
Kills: Victoria Bulmahn 18, Sarah Herman 9, Claire Ertel 11 (MV). Digs: V. Bulmahn 10, S. Herman 11, C. Ertel 20, Grace Hurst 20 (MV). Assists: V. Bulmahn 16, Meridan Eads 21 (MV).