FORTVILLE — Finishing 1-2 in the Hancock County tournament and both having victories over the other schools in the field, it was expected that Mt. Vernon and New Palestine would eventually meet in the Mt. Vernon Girls Tennis Sectional.
With the IHSAA blind-draw pairings, the meeting between the tournament’s top two teams came sooner rather than later.
When the draw was released Monday evening, Mt. Vernon and New Palestine found out they would be meeting in the lone quarterfinal match Tuesday, with the winner joining Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central and Pendleton Heights in today’s semifinals.
New Palestine edged out Mt. Vernon in April’s Hancock County tourney and the Marauders won last week’s regular season matchup.
On Tuesday, Mt. Vernon won the most important of the three matchups, defeating the Dragons 3-2 to move on to a semifinal contest against Eastern Hancock at 4:30 p.m. today.
The Marauders improve to 11-6 on the season. New Palestine’s season ends with a 14-8 mark.
“Jimmie Howell, my old basketball coach (at Mt. Vernon) told me a long time ago, it doesn’t have to be pretty, you just have to survive and advance,” Mt. Vernon coach Gabe Muterspaugh said. “That’s the sectional. It’s a brutal matchup for both of us.
“(The sectional is) a gauntlet and it started with a heavyweight matchup for both of us. They’ve had the best team they’ve had in a long time and we knew they’d come out ready to go. Kudos to them for having a great season, too. But our girls stepped up.”
Mt. Vernon got out to a quick 2-0 lead.
No. 1 all-state tennis player Kylie Brandes was first to leave the courts with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over New Palestine’s Olivia Hasenkamp. Roughly 10 minutes later, the Marauders No. 2 doubles team of Addy Lockwood and Sophie Maxwell finished with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over New Pal’s Maddy Potter and Emily Appleby.
New Palestine got on the board at No. 2 singles. Kaitlyn Mitchell beat Ava Lusby during the county tournament, but lost to her in last week’s regular-season match. On Tuesday, Mitchell won 6-1, 6-4 to delay any celebrating by the Marauders.
At No. 3 singles, Mt. Vernon’s Maria Downs secured the win. She beat Mia Knoop for the second time this season, winning 6-1, 6-4. Downs trailed 3-1 in the second set. She broke Knoop’s serve to tie the match 4-4, won her serve to take the lead and picked up another break for the win.
“We knew it was going to be close and we knew this would not be the easiest match, especially when we got the draw,” Downs said. “I think we all had a lot of confidence going in and we believed we could win.
“My confidence was a lot higher and there was more at stake, and I had (coach Muterspaugh) yelling in my ear. It’s important in moments like that.”
New Palestine won the No. 1 doubles match and the team of Bethany Blachly and Jo Harvey will move on to the individual doubles sectional tournament next week.
They beat Mt. Vernon’s Carmen Lugo and Kim Joubert 7-6 (12-10), 2-6, 6-1.
“We knew Kylie (Brandes at No. 1 singles) would play like Kylie should,” Muterspaugh said. “The big keys were No. 2 doubles, and they came out and set the tone winning 6-1, 6-2, and Maria (Downs at No. 3 singles), who has just been great for us all year. She’s someone we didn’t think would be in our varsity lineup at the start of the year. She’s been so phenomenal for us. I can’t say enough about that girl fighting back after winning the first set and then getting down 1-3 and coming back.”
New Palestine had a strong season. Its county championship ended a 12-year run by the Marauders.
“It was close. We were definitely in the fight,” New Palestine coach Jean Graham said. “We’re neck and neck and (the two teams are) pushing each other … Our girls were very competitive.
“We’re very even and I think it’s good we’re pushing each other to get better. We have to push a little harder on our end. We’re getting there.”
Graham’s lineup on Tuesday included three seniors, Hasenkamp, Knoop and Potter. She had others from the class of ’23 that have been in the lineup earlier in the season.
“They’re great role models,” Graham said, noting the team will be an Academic All-State team for the third straight year. “They’re quality girls and have a lot to be proud of.”
Along with today’s EH-MV match, Greenfield-Central will take on Pendleton Heights, also at 4:30 p.m. The championship contest is scheduled for Thursday at 4:30 p.m.