Just Warming Up: Marauders best rival Cougars with county tourney ahead

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Mt. Vernon’s Kylie Brandes returns a serve during her No. 1 singles match against Greenfield-Central’s Zoe Starks on Thursday, April 21, 2022. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

GREENFIELD — The goal for the Mt. Vernon girls tennis team Thursday night could be summed up in one word: confidence.

Less than 24 hours after losing their first match of the season at Delta, and another 24 before hosting the 2022 Hancock County Tournament, the Marauders were eyeing a bounce back at Greenfield-Central.

The defending county champions found it by defeating the host Cougars, 3-2, and in the process also showcased some resolve.

The Marauders (7-1) were without senior No. 1 doubles competitor Cecilia Bulmahn, a Southern Illinois University volleyball commit, who is currently at a national event.

To compound matters, Mt. Vernon senior Carly Wilkerson attempted to compete at No. 2 singles Thursday, but she was forced to forfeit due to illness.

Instead of folding, the Marauders regrouped against the surging Cougars (3-2) to end the host’s three-match winning streak and resume their own winnings ways.

“This match was a really good step going into tomorrow. It definitely built our confidence, and tomorrow’s a big day, but I think today was an important part of that,” Mt. Vernon senior No. 1 doubles player Liv Lugo said.

Lugo and sophomore Addy Lockwood banded together to seal the victory, winning over Cougars’ sophomore Hallie Smith and junior Lauren Chastain, 7-5, 6-2, for the decisive third point.

Prior to their match’s conclusion, Mt. Vernon clung to a 2-1 lead after freshman Kylie Brandes defeated senior Zoe Starks at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-0, and seniors Maddie Swingle and Shay Shipley won 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.

“It was huge. I can’t say enough about these girls and their fight. We came right off a late night at Delta, battling the No. 20 team in the state and coming in here where Michael (Turpin) has a solid team. It’s huge in regards to the psyche and the culture to let some of these new girls know that we’re legit,” Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said.

“This helps them see that we have a great team. That we can win even when we have to bring the next girl up. They did it tonight. That’s huge.”

Against Delta on Wednesday, the visiting Marauders lost 4-1 with Brandes scoring a two-set victory (7-6, 6-1) at No. 1 singles and Swingle and Shipley lasting three sets before Mt. Vernon’s win streak closed at six straight.

The Hoosier Heritage Conference loss didn’t sit well for the senior-laden group.

“We were a little bit down yesterday, but we played well, and we brought our loss into today’s win,” Lugo said.

They brought a new look with Lockwood in the starting lineup as well, but even with a new face on the court, the results remained the same.

Tonight at county, the Marauders are aiming for a 12th straight team title, while the potential of an eighth consecutive sectional championship continues to loom in the distance.

“That’s what you want. You want to be deep enough that if something happens, and you don’t want it to ever, but it happens, you’re fine. Carly was sick tonight and CeCe is on a volleyball trip because she’s playing in college,” Muterspaugh said. “You have to have people ready to go, and Addy has stepped right in. She was a finisher tonight.”

The final point went to Greenfield-Central, which had racked up three wins in a row against Blue River Valley, 4-1, on April 8 and Morristown, 5-0, on April 12 before taking down Lapel, 4-1, on Tuesday.

Junior Brianna McConnell concluded the night by besting Mt. Vernon senior Anna Hawks at No. 3 singles, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4. The other point went to junior Jaclyn Layton at No. 2 singles via forfeit.

“It’s always hard to go back-to-back against the same team twice in a row. Obviously, county is a different (individual) format, but potentially, a decent amount of the players you’re going to see were here, so it’s about keeping that mindset right to go into the next day whether you won or lost that it’s a fresh match and start strong and finish strong once again,” Turpin said.

“Improvement is the goal and continuing that. We’re nowhere near where we need to be at some spots, but obviously, if we can shore that up over the next month or so, we’re going to start looking significantly stronger than we are now, too.”

For the Marauders, advancement is the focus for county, which opens at 5 p.m. with the semifinal round and continues with placement matches afterwards.

New Palestine enters the tournament at 4-0 on the season as of Wednesday night, and Eastern Hancock brings several contenders to push the presumed favorites.

“It’s going to be a massive challenge, but that’s what we play tennis for and that’s why we play sports. It’s not always going to be unicorns and rainbows, so we want to be gritty and dirty and fight to the end tomorrow and see where we land,” Muterspaugh said.

“It’s one of the battles, but it’s not the war. We always call the war the sectional, and that’s what we’re always working towards. This is that mid-season report card. We’re sure as heck going to give it everything we got. We’re coming to win, so we’ll be fired up.”

Mt. Vernon 3, Greenfield-Central 2

No. 1 singles: Kylie Brandes, MV def. Zoe Starks, GC, 6-0, 6-0

No. 2 singles: Jaclyn Layton, GC def. Carly Wilkerson, MV by forfeit

No. 3 singles: Brianna McConnell, GC def. Anna Hawks, MV, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4

No. 1 doubles: Liv Lugo/Addy Lockwood, MV def. Hallie Smith/Lauren Chastain, GC, 7-5, 6-2

No. 2 doubles: Maddie Swingle/Shay Shipley, MV def. Emma Berty/Leah Puckett, GC, 6-2, 6-1