Marauders make it eight, beat Cougars for tennis sectional crown

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Mt. Vernon’s Carly Wilkerson concentrates on her return against Greenfield-Central during the Mt. Vernon Girls Tennis Sectional finals on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

FORTVILLE — Gabe Muterspaugh had one message for his No. 1 doubles team before Mt. Vernon’s Olivia Lugo and Cecilia Bulmahn retook the tennis court for their final game Saturday afternoon.

“Let’s lock it up! Let’s lock it up right here!,” the Mt. Vernon girls tennis coach exclaimed.

The Marauder seniors complied with their team up 2-0 against rival Greenfield-Central during the Mt. Vernon girls tennis sectional finals, and the program’s potential eighth straight championship on the line.

“We were so excited. We were looking around and we knew we had to be the last one to clinch the win, and that was awesome,” Bulmahn said.

After a brief back-and-forth second set with Cougars’ Lauren Chastain and Hallie Smith, the Marauder duo wrapped up the match’s third point, 6-4, 6-3, before senior Carly Wilkerson tied the final bow at No. 2 single, 6-4, 6-0, over Jaclyn Layton to secure Mt. Vernon’s 4-1 team win and 11th sectional title in 14 years.

The Marauders haven’t lost in the sectional final since 2013 when New Palestine halted their attempt at back-to-back titles, 3-2, and they missed a chance to defend their crown during the canceled COVID-19 season of 2020.

Their current title run began in 2014 with a 3-2 finals win against New Palestine, and this weekend’s 4-1 triumph marked the program’s third straight 3-point championship final margin of victory and fifth through the past eight contested seasons.

In celebration of the feat, Bulmahn and Lugo stealthily doused Marauder assistant coach Graham McMullen with the team’s water cooler, and as is tradition, the team posed for a group jump photo with sectional trophy in hand, signifying their consistent drive to soar above any obstacle.

Behind six senior starters — many multi-sport athletes — and freshman Kylie Brandes at No. 1 singles, the Marauders turned a 3-2 regular-season win over Greenfield-Central last month into a more decisive victory and another trip to the team regional at Lawrence North.

“What a group. What a group that embraced a freshman that’s our best player. There was no jealousy. There hasn’t been anything. That’s what we do. We just adapt and do the work to make us stronger,” Muterspaugh said.

Brandes emphasized the team’s strength up top, winning her match for the Marauders’ first point, 6-3, 6-0 over Cougars’ senior Zoe Sparks.

The next point came at No. 2 doubles from seniors Maddie Swingle and Shay Shipley, who are both NCAA Division-I soccer recruits and were back-to-back basketball sectional champions the past two years.

Swingle and Shipley defeated G-C’s Emma Berty and Leah Puckett, 6-3, 6-3.

“What a team. We have coach Graham, and he’s the one that gets the ice bath. That’s what we want around here,” Muterspaugh said. “It’s a culture and it’s a family. When you have that and you have everything in place, good things can happen, man. You’re going to have your ups and downs, just like any family. You’re not always going to get along, but you’re all working towards the same goal. I can’t ask for more than that. This is the pinnacle of what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.”

The first postseason goal was locked down at No. 1 doubles, but every point mattered, as the Marauders replicated their 4-1 win over Greenfield-Central from last year’s sectional final. In 2019, Mt. Vernon defeated New Palestine 4-1 to stretch their streak to six straight. In the past nine years, the Marauders have posted two 5-0 wins in the finals — against Greenfield-Central in 2018 and 2016.

The Marauders and Cougars have met in the finals four times in the past seven years.

Greenfield-Central avoided the sweep with a gritty win by junior Brianna McConnell at No. 3 singles, who beat Mt. Vernon senior Anna Hawks 6-2, 6-3.

“With the match already decided, and you could see that out on the court, Brianna was down in the second set, but she was still able to stay out there mentally and finish it out to get that point,” Greenfield-Central head coach Michael Turpin said. “That shows a lot for what she’s done this year. That puts her at 18-1, so she’s had a great season.”

The Cougars’ varsity roster includes just two seniors, meaning they will return five players for 2023, which Turpin hopes will translate into another run at the program’s first sectional title since 1993.

“That’s the thing we have to look at. Nobody wants to lose, but at the same time if we look at where we’ve come from, when I took over this team, my first year we had seven wins, and then to go 13-5 this year I think shows that we’re still growing,” Turpin said. “We’re improving quite a bit. The talent is there. We just have to keep pushing towards where we want to be.”

Mt. Vernon’s 16th sectional championship overall came together through a mixture of maturity and personality with a focus on paving the way for the future while curating the present.

“It’s been really fun. The seniors have been really nice and they immediately accepted me even though I’m a freshman. It’s just been a fun journey with the coaches and the whole team,” Brandes said. “Obviously, it’s been really good to continue the tradition. It’s been really good.”

The Marauders (16-6) will attempt to keep their season going today against host Lawrence North at regional with the winner between Cathedral and Fishers awaiting in the regional final on Wednesday.

If the Marauders succeed at regional, victory will be a direct result of their approach, stemming from the top with Muterspaugh, who preaches effort, drive and no excuses.

“Liv Lugo, the snarkiest person we’ve ever had, and we love it. Now, she’s just a beam of shining light. We have Maddie Swingle, who is the mother hen, the captain that keeps everybody together. You have Shay Shipley, the one-year wonder coming in. We brought her in because she’s mean and we like her. We like mean girls,” Muterspaugh said. “We can’t forget dancing Carly. This girl all year long fought through a lot and last year she had a huge match in the sectional final. This year, again, she had a huge match in the sectional final to make it 4-1. She’s so awesome. Cecilia, our volleyball player, is our book reader and kills it at the net. We love these girls. This is our team.”

2022 Mt. Vernon Girls Tennis Sectional

Championship Final Results

Mt. Vernon 4, Greenfield-Central 1

1 singles: Kylie Brandes (MV) def. Zoe Starks (GC), 6-3, 6-0

2 singles: Carly Wilkerson (MV) def. Jaclyn Layton (GC), 6-4, 6-0

3 singles: Brianna McConnell (GC) def. Anna Hawks (MV), 6-2, 6-3

1 doubles: Olivia Lugo/Cecilia Bulmahn (MV) def. Lauren Chastain/Hallie Smith (GC), 6-4, 6-3

2 doubles: Maddie Swingle/Shay Shipley (MV) def. Emma Berty/Leah Puckett (GC), 6-3, 6-3

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