FORTVILLE — The Mt. Vernon girls tennis team isn’t in it for style points. The Marauders are in it for the championships, and during the Mt. Vernon Sectional semifinals Friday night, the hosts scored just enough to get another shot at the title.
The defending champion Marauders defeated rival New Palestine, 3-2, behind a sweep in doubles play, while Hancock County foe Greenfield-Central gritted past Eastern Hancock, 3-2, with a decisive win at No. 2 singles by junior Jaclyn Layton in two sets.
The two programs will meet back at the courts this morning at 10 a.m. to decide the team championship with Mt. Vernon (15-6) aiming for an eighth consecutive and 16th overall.
Greenfield-Central hasn’t won a sectional championship since 1992-93 with three in program history all time.
“A long time ago, Jimmie Howell, my old basketball coach told me, tournament time is all about survive and advance because anything can happen,” Mt. Vernon head coach Gabe Muterspaugh said. “We saw it tonight. Greenfield beat a team that, besides us beating them (3-2), was undefeated all year. That’s the beauty, the scariness and the glory of sectional play. I love it every year, and I get ulcers every year.”
Where the Marauders had little concern was at No. 1 singles where freshman Kylie Brandes worked quickly, defeating New Palestine’s Olivia Hasenkamp, 6-0, 6-1 for the first point.
The second came at No. 2 doubles where multi-sport standout seniors Maddie Swingle and Shay Shipley beat Dragon junior Lily Haeberle and freshman Bethany Blachly, 6-0, 6-1.
From there, the Marauders needed a boost as Dragon freshman Kaitlyn Mitchell bested senior Anna Hawks, 6-2, 6-4, to cut the deficit in half, 2-1.
During the regular season, Mt. Vernon swept past Hoosier Heritage Conference opponent New Palestine, 5-0, in early May and surpassed the Dragons to win the program’s 12th straight county team title late last month.
“New Pal challenged big time today. They were ready to play, but three points is all you need to have, and we got three points,” Muterspaugh said.
The third point was secured by the No. 1 doubles senior tandem of Olivia Lugo and Cecilia Bulmahn, who prevailed 6-4, 6-4 against Dragon sophomore Josephine Harvey and junior Maddy Potter.
New Palestine won at No. 2 singles with junior Mia Knoop claiming victory, 6-0, 4-6, before Mt. Vernon senior Carly Wilkerson was forced to default the third set due to illness.
The Dragons concluded their season with a 13-8 record.
“We lost our No. 1, Abby (Blachly), to a knee injury (last month) and that hurts when you lose your No. 1, but she’s been a good leader for us and has remained positive. I hate it, though, because she’s a senior,” New Palestine head coach Jean Graham said. “But, the girls stepped up, and I’m just very proud of them.”
The Greenfield-Central Cougars (13-5) entered the semifinal round with a point to prove.
The projected underdog against the favored Eastern Hancock Royals (10-1), the Cougars battled to a 2-2 tie before Layton pushed the team into its third sectional final in five years.
Layton defeated Royals’ foreign-exchange student Violette Sagalowicz 6-4, 6-2.
“My old coach Dave Spencer, he always says, if you ever wrote a book, call it 2-3 because it’s the worst way to lose ever, you know. But, today, we were on the good side, 3-2,” G-C head coach Michael Turpin said. “Much better book.”
The Cougars’ first semifinal chapter went to junior Brianna McConnell at No. 3 singles where she won 6-1, 6-3 against sophomore Savanah Hardin.
The next point came from the Cougars’ two doubles team of junior Emma Berty and senior Leah Puckett, 6-2, 6-2 over sophomore Makayla Hardy and freshman Abby Bolding.
Eastern Hancock junior foreign-exchange student Bianca Di Vittorio won at No. 1 singles against senior Zoe Starks, 6-4, 6-2, and Royals’ sophomores Lexi Swauger and Tori Parker triumphed, 6-1, 6-1, over junior Lauren Chastain and sophomore Hallie Smith at No. 1 doubles to tie the match.
Layton had the final say, though.
“She just played an amazing match today,” Turpin remarked on Layton’s win. “Sometimes, it’s really tough to change your game plan and play in a different way, but we talked to her about a couple of different strategies and she stuck to it the entire time. Obviously, it was the key to her win, especially in that second set to win 6-2. I can’t say enough about how well she played mentally and physically today.”
The Cougars and Marauders will face each other for the sectional title in consecutive years. Last spring, the Marauders won 4-1 to win their seventh straight championship and defeated Greenfield-Central 3-2 during the regular season last month.
The two programs have played in the sectional finals three times since 2014, marking their recent meeting their fourth.
Mt. Vernon has beaten Greenfield-Central three times, New Palestine three times and Pendleton Heights once in the finals through their current seven-year sectional title run.
“We always like to play for the next day, so today was an amazing opportunity to push it back into Saturday,” Turpin said.
For the Marauders, the title match is the moment they’ve been working toward since they captured their last crown.
“We’re going to have to be on our best because they were firing tonight. They want it bad. We know coming in, we got freshman and all seniors. You can’t come out and play scared. You got to lay it all on the line, but we’re there, so there should be no looking past anyone,” Muterspaugh said.
“It’s going to be an absolute battle, but I feel like with our group of girls, it’s go time. It’s shut up or put up or whatever. It’s all about giving it all you got, and we’re going for sectional No. 8 and if we do what we’re suppose to do, we’re going to come out on top and that’s why we’re here.”
2022 Mt. Vernon Girls Tennis Sectional
New Palestine 4, Pendleton Heights 1
1 singles: Abigail Cruiser (PH) def. Olivia Hasenkamp (NP), 6-1, 6-2
2 singles: Mia Knoop (NP) def. Jaina Link (PH), 6-2, 6-2
3 singles: Kaitlyn Mitchell (NP) def. Josei Graves (PH), 6-3, 6-1
1 doubles: Josephine Harvey/Maddy Potter (NP) def. Abigail Rosenkrans/Faith Bluel (PH), 6-4, 7-5
2 doubles: Lily Haeberle/Bethany Blachly (NP) def. Camille Spencer/Ellie Manchess (PH), 6-2, 6-3
Greenfield-Central 3, Eastern Hancock 2
1 singles: Bianca Di Vittorio (EH) def. Zoe Starks (G-C), 6-4, 6-2
2 singles: Jaclyn Layton (G-C) def. Violette Sagalowicz (EH), 6-4, 6-2
3 singles: Brianna McConnell (G-C) def. Savanah Hardin (EH), 6-1, 6-3
1 doubles: Lexi Swauger/Tori Parker (EH) def. Lauren Chastain/Hallie Smith (G-C), 6-1, 6-1
2 doubles: Emma Berty/Leah Puckett (G-C) def. Mikayla Hardy/Abby Bolding (EH), 6-2, 6-2
Mt. Vernon 3, New Palestine 2
1 singles: Kylie Brandes (MV) def. Olivia Hasenkamp (NP), 6-0, 6-1
2 singles: Mia Knoop (NP) def. Carly Wilkerson (MV), 6-0, 4-6, default
3 singles: Kaitlyn Mitchell (NP) def. Anna Hawks (MV), 6-2, 6-4
1 doubles: Olivia Lugo/Cecilia Bulmahn (MV) def. Josephine Harvey/Maddy Potter (NP), 6-4, 6-4
2 doubles: Maddie Swingle/Shay Shipley (MV) def. Lily Haeberle/Bethany Blachly (NP), 6-0, 6-1