GREENFIELD — Claire Ertel just wants to be a key contributor in her final high school volleyball season.
On Tuesday night, the Mt. Vernon senior was one of many catalysts against Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Greenfield-Central.
The Class 4A No. 11 Marauders won the evening’s first two sets before dropping the third, only to put it all together with a 3-1 win over the 4A No. 19 Cougars, 25-17, 25-21, 24-26, 25-18.
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“This was a big match in-season, to see where we are. It means something because it’s another tough match,” Mt. Vernon head coach Eric Bulmahn said.
For Ertel, it was just her eighth match back after being stuck in trace contact quarantine to start the 2020 season.
With 22 kills and 12 digs against the Cougars (11-3, 1-2 HHC) each point she scored helped her settle back into her groove.
“She was really hot tonight, and she’s getting more comfortable. She’s not been real comfortable and tonight, she felt it,” Bulmahn said.
In the first set, Ertel hammered down three significant kills as the Marauders (10-3, 2-1 HHC) ran out to a 15-4 rally to get past five early ties and three lead changes.
In the second set, Cecilia Bulmahn took over with five kills while Mt. Vernon used a late 7-2 run to overcome 10 ties and five lead changes.
Bulmahn had 13 kills total in the match with 20 digs and two aces. Olivia Yeley added nine kills, while Rylee Ugen had 41 assists and 16 digs.
Abby Herman logged 24 digs with back row defense playing a large role against Greenfield-Central’s leading attacker Ava Antic, who finished with 14 kills.
“The focal point was making it so tough that they don’t have the option and our blockers could get out there and help on Ava,” Eric Bulmahn said. “If someone is in system, and she’s one-on-one, it’s going to be tough.”
The Cougars, who were coming off a hard-fought 3-2 loss against HHC foe New Castle, made it difficult for the Marauders.
Greenfield-Central cut the Marauders’ 5-point lead to two late in the second set before consecutive errors gave Mt. Vernon the win.
In the third set, the Cougars put together a 7-0 run and a 7-2 run to go up 21-13.
“In that last timeout, I told them, win or lose, you have to build momentum for the fourth set,” Bulmahn said. “That mission was achieved.”
The Marauders chipped away at the Cougars’ 8-point lead and tied the match three times, including at 23-all, but Greenfield-Central rallied 3-1 behind a kill from Makayla Price and a set-winning block from Molly Schwarzkopf.
“We still came back, and we really wanted it, but we just need to finish more in crunch time,” Ertel said.
Ertel’s late kill in the third cut the deficit 22-21, and Cecilia Bulmahn tied it at 23 to spark the Marauders before the final set.
“I think we’re really meshing. If someone else has a bad game, we pick up each other. I think we’re playing more as a team than we have in the past years,” Ertel said. “I’m trying to be a leader my senior year.”
Ertel’s drive powered the Marauders to an 8-6 lead after the Marauders trailed 6-3 in the fourth set. An 8-3 Marauders run after establishing a 14-12 lead put Mt. Vernon in control.
Greenfield-Central closed in 22-18, but a Yeley kill and another by Ertel capped their last push to victory.
“We need to play cleaner than we did tonight. After the first two, they lost their mental focus and you could tell when we got down 21-13,” Bulmahn said. “We tied it up, but that’s the bad part, when the team takes times off.”
With 4A No. 8 New Castle up next on Thursday and 3A No. 2 Bellmont later this week in Angola, the Marauders don’t have much time to rest.
Mt. Vernon lost to 4A No. 9 Avon 2-3 on Saturday and dropped a 0-3 loss to Yorktown on Thursday, Sept. 10, which is their only HHC setback so far.
“It’s a big stretch. We can’t let losses like Yorktown affect other games, like tonight,” Ertel said. “We need to focus on one match at a time. I think this builds momentum for us. We can look up, but we can’t take (New Castle) lightly. We can’t act like they’re easy. We have to play better and just as well as we did tonight.”