FORTVILLE — After years of trading Hancock County and sectional tournament titles back and forth with the Dragons’ girls tennis team, Mt. Vernon entered Friday’s county championship battle in a slump.
New Palestine was aiming for its third straight county crown. And the Dragons defeated Mt. Vernon last spring for the sectional title, as well.
“It’s not a rivalry unless you’re going back and forth,” a relieved and triumphant Mt. Vernon coach Gabe Muterspaugh said Friday evening. “Even though we were extremely close last year in both (county and sectional), you’ve got to win.
“So this one is huge. I’m smiling ear to ear.”
The Marauders returned the rivalry to equilibrium Friday by claiming individual titles at No. 1 singles, No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles on the way to 27 team points.
New Palestine grabbed individual honors at the other two spots and finished with 21 points. Greenfield had eight points and Eastern Hancock, four.
Allie Schafer sealed the Marauders’ first county team title since 2011 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over the Dragons’ Nicole Beaty, giving MV a 23-13 lead with three matches remaining. Just as New Palestine had Mt. Vernon’s number as of late, Beaty had proven too tough for Schafer, outlasting the Mt. Vernon senior in three sets in the 2013 county and sectional matches.
Schafer described the victory as the “best feeling ever” and said embracing the underdog role was key to her turnaround.
“I’ve had a year to get over the awful losses of last year,” she noted. “I had a year to get mentally prepared, and I came in … very relaxed. Once I got out there, I knew I had nothing to lose and I knew she had everything to lose.
“I’ve matured a lot since last year, so I knew she wasn’t in my head anymore. I was just going to play like I’ve never seen her before.”
Mt. Vernon’s Sarah Jones handled Alli Frazier of Greenfield-Central 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 for the No. 2 singles title, and the No. 1 doubles pairing of Addison Eads and Cassie York triumphed over the Cougars’ Rachel Berish and Emma Vowell for the Marauders’ third individual county win.
Jones, Eads and York were part of a massive lineup reshuffling for the Marauders just a week ago, when New Palestine was part of a multi-team tourney in Fortville.
“It was right after the tourney, and it was one of those things where New Pal’s in our tournament, so we kind of see where we’re at,” Muterspaugh said. “We had really kind of loaded up on singles, and with New Pal’s lineup – and they’re strong at doubles – I knew we had to get stronger there.”
In the No. 2 doubles title match, New Palestine’s Kara Miller and Kylar Litteral went three sets to beat MV’s newly created duo of Maddie Walrod and Molly Laughlin, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
Walrod and Schafer were the only players unaffected by the Mt. Vernon lineup change. They’re also MV’s only seniors, and they’ve been vital to bringing along a relatively young squad, according to their coach.
“There aren’t enough superlatives for me to say what they’ve meant to the program and this whole group, because we had a lot of new kids playing varsity this year,” Muterspaugh said. “They’ve been great from last summer all the way through doing our conditioning. They’re the captains, they’re the ones who lead, who speak up when it needs to happen. And hearing a different voice from me is usually pretty nice.”
Maddie Smith claimed No. 3 singles accolades for the Dragons with a 7-6 (7-1), 7-6 (7-1) victory that finished near 10:30 p.m., capping a six-hour tennis evening. Emily Kiefer won the first-round No. 3 match for New Palestine, then had to leave because of other commitments.
New Palestine won the JV tourney, which was played simultaneously Friday, with 27 points, ahead of the Marauders (21), G-C (12) and Eastern Hancock (zero).
Bragging rights belong to the varsity champs, however, and they feel well-earned to the Marauders.
“I think we really deserve this because of our loss last year in county and our loss last year in sectionals,” Schafer said.
“We were such an underdog team, I don’t think anyone expected us to win this, so I’m happy for our team.”
* Recent Hancock County Girls Tennis Tourney team champions:
2014 — Mt. Vernon
2013 — New Palestine
2012 — New Palestine
2011 — Mt. Vernon
2010 — Mt. Vernon
2009 — Mt. Vernon
2008 — New Palestine
2007 — Greenfield-Central
2006 — New Palestine
2005 (tie) — Eastern Hancock/ Mt. Vernon/New Palestine
2004 — Mt. Vernon
* Friday’s Hancock County Girs Tennis Tourney varsity team results, at Mt. Vernon:
Mt. Vernon 27, New Palestine 21, Greenfield-Central 8, Eastern Hancock 4
* Individual title match results:
No. 1 singles — Allie Schafer (MV) def. Nicole Beaty (NP), 6-4, 6-2
No. 2 singles — Sarah Jones (MV) def. Alli Frazier (GC), 4-6, 6-0, 6-4
No. 3 singles — Emily Kiefer (NP) def. Kendra Eberhard (MV), 7-6 (7-1), 7-6 (7-1)
No. 1 doubles — Kara Miller/Kylar Litteral (NP) def. Maddie Walrod/Molly Laughlin (MV), 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
No. 1 doubles — Addison Eads/Cassie York (MV) def. Rachel Berish/Emma Vowell (GC), 6-0, 6-0
* JV team results:
New Palestine 27, Mt. Vernon 21, Greenfield-Central 12, Eastern Hancock 0
* Individual title winners:
No. 1 singles — Brianna Partin (MV)
No. 2 singles — Amelia Fleetwood (NP)
No. 3 singles — Megan Parke (MV)
No. 1 doubles — Cassidy Willhelm/Jamie Mittman (NP)
No. 1 doubles — Alexandria Meyer/Kaitlyn Settergen (NP)