Building for the future

Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn talks with his team during a timeout in the sectional championship game against New Castle on Oct. 22, 2016. (Rob Baker/Daily Reporter) Rob Baker

FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon’s high school volleyball program has had quite a run since Eric Bulmahn has been the Marauders head coach.

Finishing 9-20 in 2013, Bulmahn took the wheel in 2014. Since that time, Mt. Vernon has been one of the state’s top programs. The Marauders have gone 149-48 over the last six seasons, including sectional titles in 2015, 2016. The team has been well over .500 each year and has won at least 24 matches in five of the past six seasons.

This fall, Mt. Vernon went 27-5, losing in the sectional championship to eventual state champion New Castle. The team won 56 matches combined in 2015-16.

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The Marauders have had all the success without a school feeder program, but that is about to change.

“We have been really fortunate,” Bulmahn said. “We haven’t had a lot of depth, but we’ve had a lot of dedicated athletes.”

Eric and his wife and assistant coach, Monica Bulmahn, have just started the Marauder Juniors Volleyball Club.

The Bulmahns have a great track record, not only with the win-loss record, but the development of players that have gone on to play at a high level in the collegiate ranks.

Three former players are currently playing at the NCAA Div.-I level.

Grace Hurst is a sophomore defensive specialist for SIU-Edwardsville. Julia Wayer is a junior libero for Purdue Fort Wayne.

The coaches’ oldest daughter, Jaclyn Bulmahn, is a junior outside hitter at Valparaiso. Middle daughter Victoria, a senior setter this past season and Hancock County Player of the Year, will be joining her sister next school year. Current junior Claire Ertel has already committed to Florida Gulf Coast.

Other former Marauders are playing at the Div.-II and Div.-III levels. Maddie Keerns, a junior defensive specialist, just won a national championship for NAIA Marian University.

The addition of the new club program gives Mt. Vernon a greater chance of sustainability at the top of the Indiana high school volleyball ranks.

The inaugural season will run from Jan. 1 to March 14, with some preseason training days this month. The club is being offered for girls in the Mt. Vernon school district from grades four through eight.

“We have had success (at the high school level), but we didn’t have a freshman team (this year),” Eric Bulmahn said. “If you’re a (Class) 4A school, you have got to have a pipeline. New Palestine has seven teams in its feeder system.”

The coach also noted other comparable programs, such as nearby rivals and fellow Hoosier Heritage Conference schools Greenfield-Central and Pendleton Heights, who already have systems in place at their schools. “Most large schools have it,” he said.

Prior to starting the club, girls in the school system got their introduction to volleyball at the middle school level.

“A lot of kids have never played before or get frustrated because they don’t know how to play,” Eric Bulmahn said.

The coach added that the school feeder system is not a replacement for the larger club volleyball programs like The Academy, Munciana or Team Indiana, but more of a supplemental program.

The Bulmahns are wanting to give Mt. Vernon kids earlier exposure to the game of volleyball and a chance to develop skills and be better prepared as they move up to the high school ranks.

Wednesday was the final player evaluation day. Eric said he expects to have two teams for this first season, but sees the program growing in the future. He said there are expectations of 2,000 more students in the school system over the next 10 years.

“If we’re going to continue to be a state power and climb the mountain and knock off other powers, it’s important to have a feeder system,” Eric Bulmahn added.