FORTVILLE — Eric Bulmahn is not a teacher at Mt. Vernon High School, but he was in charge of a chemistry class after school each day.
The eighth-year volleyball head coach led another Marauder team to a 20-plus win season and is the 2021 Daily Reporter All-County Volleyball Coach of the Year.
The Marauders finished 24-7 and were runner-up to No. 1-ranked Yorktown in both the sectional and Hoosier Heritage Conference. They spent much of the year ranked among the top programs in Class 4A.
It was the fourth straight 20-plus win campaign. Seven of Bulmahn’s eight seasons have seen the program win at least 22 matches. The only season under 20, the Marauders finished 18-12 in 2017.
Bulmahn has had a lot of talented team, most of them led by one of his daughters. Cecilia Bulmahn is the Daily Reporter All-County Player of the Year for the second straight year. Victoria Bulmahn, now a setter at Valparaiso, earned the honor in 2019. Jaclyn Bulmahn, who graduated in 2017 and is playing at Ball State, was a two-time recipient. Cecilia is headed to play at Southern Illinois next year.
This year’s team had similar records, accomplishments and rankings to those of the past, but he said the 2021 club had its own identity.
“Each team is different, but I think this team did more by chemistry. All of the teams have got along, but I think there was chemistry on this team of everybody cheering for everybody else. That took them a long way, maybe we won some matches we shouldn’t have (because of that),” coach Bulmahn said. “A lot of those came down to two points, five sets.”
Playing in the Hoosier Heritage Conference, the Marauders are in one of the state’s strongest leagues. Yorktown spent much of the season ranked No. 1 in the state. Though down this year, New Castle is a recent multiple state champion. Pendleton Heights won 30 matches this year and New Palestine played in its sectional champion match.
Mt. Vernon beat all those teams but Yorktown and added a strong non-conference schedule that included wins over 3A state finalists Brebeuf and Bellmont, and long-time 4A state power Cathedral.
Of its seven losses, two were to Yorktown, another came against 4A state semifinalist Roncalli. Fishers, a regional finalist, sectional champions Brownsburg and Floyd Central and Carmel gave Mt. Vernon its other losses. The Marauders won at least one set in all the matches except for the regular-season contest against Yorktown. They took the Tigers to four sets in the sectional title game.
Coach Bulmahn said another component to the strong season was the play of the Marauders back row, ranked among the best in the state in serve reception.
Along with having the big hitting up top with Cecilia Bulmahn, they had back row players able to get the ball to setter Rylee Ugen, who then passed to Bulmahn and other attackers.
“We have constantly developed good back row players,” the coach said. “Our back row has been among the top 10 in the state every year. That allows our offense to be successful. The matches we lost is because our first contact (serve reception) wasn’t good.
“Our philosophy has always been, if we can put pressure on the other team, outlast them in rallies, eventually they are going to make a hitting error. That usually fuels our runs.”
Coach Bulmahn praised the play of his back row specialists in Abby Herman, Libby Gee-Weiler and Delaney Bowser, as well as the six-rotation play of his daughter, who was second to Herman on the team in digs.
Bowser, a senior, was a hitter most of her first three seasons, but was mainly a back row player this year.
“She could hit, pass. The first three years she started in the front row,” Bulmahn said of Bowser. “She’s an example of our team chemistry and team first. This year she played back row and was only in for three rotations, but she just had as much energy, fire and great play as ever. You would have never known she had been a starter on the front row for three years. She did it with a smile on her face and the grit that she’s going to get it done. Libby, Abby and Ceci were all solid back there, too.
“We had the luxury of four people that could really handle the ball.”