FORTVILLE — There wasn’t as much at stake as the first meeting, but Monday’s regular-season matchup between rivals New Palestine and Mt. Vernon showed the Marauders still have a lot of fight in them, even though the Dragons ended their long run of Hancock County titles last month.
In a match truly closer than the final score, Mt. Vernon’s girls tennis team defeated New Palestine 5-0 at Mt. Vernon High School.
In last month’s Hancock County Tournament, New Palestine ended a stretch of 12 straight Mt. Vernon championships.
The two could meet again next week, with everything at stake, as favorites in the upcoming Mt. Vernon Sectional, which begins Tuesday, May 16.
“In sports, if you can break somebody’s spirit, you can win again and again and again,” Mt. Vernon coach Gabe Muterspaugh said. “We know New Pal is going to come back and fight, but at the same time, it sets the tone that Mt. Vernon is not dead. We’re back and we’re starting to play our best tennis right now.”
Muterspaugh said, though a regular-season match, it felt a lot bigger.
“It felt like a sectional final. You have to win big points and you have to let all your pressure feelings go,” he said. “It’s always been a different level of tennis when it’s Mt. Vernon-New Pal. The rivalry, it’s not just in tennis, every single sport. It’s fun. It’s what you play high school sports for.”
Last month, the Dragons won three of five county tournament championship flights and edged the Marauders 26-23.
Four of the five county tournament finals were New Pal-Mt. Vernon matchups. Two of those were replayed Monday.
In both cases, Mt. Vernon avenged its county final losses.
At No. 2 singles, Mt. Vernon’s Ava Lusby, who lost 6-4, 7-5 to New Palestine’s Kaitlyn Mitchell in the No. 2 singles championship, avenged the loss with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 victory. It was Mt. Vernon’s third victory of the dual, securing the win.
“I think this was really big for us,” Lusby said of winning Monday’s dual. “I think a lot of people were down on themselves after losing our title and our streak. Winning this boosts our confidence as a team … I think it’s going to build our confidence for our next matches and even toward the sectional.”
In the other rematch, at No. 1 doubles, Mt. Vernon’s Carmen Lugo and Kim Joubert defeated New Pal’s Bethany Blachly and Jo Harvey 7-5, 6-1. In last month’s county championship match, Blachly and Harvey won 6-3, 7-5.
One big difference from the first meeting was the Marauders had its best player.
Mt. Vernon jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when sophomore all-stater Kylie Brandes defeated New Palestine’s Olivia Hasenkamp 6-1, 6-0. Brandes was unable to play in last week’s county tournament and was cleared to play over the weekend. Monday’s matchup was the Dragons was her first match back in the lineup.
“I think everybody but Mt. Vernon ruled us out of this match,” Muterspaugh added. “And, it’s nice to have a full lineup again. You see how much our all-state player Kylie (Brandes) means. She set the tone early. We win 5-0, that’s a huge step, especially for six of them, who have never been in this pressure situation before. It was a huge win, especially coming off the sour taste of county.”
The final two matches on court both lasted more than three hours.
At No. 3 singles, Mt. Vernon’s Maria Downs beat New Palestine’s Mia Knoop 7-5, 7-5.
At No. 2 doubles, the Marauder team of Sophie Maxwell and Addy Lockwood defeated the Dragons combo of Maddy Potter and Emily Appleby 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (4).
“We just made too many unforced errors,” New Palestine head coach Jean Graham said. “I think Mt. Vernon wanted it more tonight than we did. We’ll have to change our mindset for the sectional, and we will. We’ll come back more prepared.”