GREENFIELD — Focused on the present and the future simultaneously, the Greenfield-Central Cougars didn’t waste a single swing during their regular-season finale on Monday.
Already in the know, the Cougars put in their work by defeating county rival Eastern Hancock 5-0, while also eyeing two days off before embarking on their postseason path.
“You can’t complain if you get a bye, but you have to play tough teams if you’re going to push for that win anyway,” Greenfield-Central head coach Michael Turpin said. “So you can’t get too hung up the draw. You have to come ready to play and give your all no matter what.”
The Cougars, who received the first-round bye in the Sectional 39 tournament at Mt. Vernon, will play the winner between rivals Pendleton Heights or New Palestine in the semifinals on Thursday. The draw was conducted on Monday afternoon.
In preparation for the challenge ahead, they won each match against Eastern Hancock in straight sets, surrendering 10 games total en route to their fifth win this year.
Junior Lindsey McCord won her No. 1 singles match 6-1, 6-0 and freshman No. 2 singles player Avery Spencer was flawless at 6-0, 6-0. McCord improved to 8-7 on the year. Spencer is 9-6.
Sophomore Aly Proper completed the singles sweep with a strong 6-3, 6-2 win against Eastern Hancock freshman Valentina Brooks at No. 3.
Sophomore Erin Wright and freshman Grace Hall won at No. 1 doubles 6-2, 6-1, and sophomore Kaleigh Stephenson and junior Haidyn Goodwin were victorious 6-1, 6-0.
“It’s good to give them some extra excitement going into (sectional), especially versus going 0-5. They should be a little revitalized,” Turpin said. “Same thing like last year. We pushed and made the (sectional) finals by giving our full effort. No reason we can’t do it again.”
To do it, the Cougars will need to avenge one of two regular-season losses in the semifinals to possibly face defending sectional champion Mt. Vernon in the title match on Friday.
Greenfield-Central lost to New Palestine 5-0 and to Pendleton Heights 4-1 this season. In both matches, Spencer stood her ground, though, winning and narrowly losing in a third set.
“I’m really impressed with her. When I was a freshman, I didn’t play nearly as well,” McCord remarked on Spencer’s composure on the court. “When you play really well, even when you lose, it’s nice motivation and gets you going for the next match.”
McCord’s resolve has been evident throughout, placing third in the Hancock County Tournament last month. Spencer was a runner-up for the Cougars.
The team’s No. 2 and No. 1 doubles tandems each placed third at county.
“We lost to both teams during the regular season, but I always tell my girls, all season long, the regular season is not that big of a deal. It’s nice to have wins, but at the end of the day it’s sectional that matters. It’s about getting that win at the end,” Turpin said. “If we were playing like we’re playing now at the beginning of the season, our record would be significantly different, so I’m excited to see how we do.”
Eastern Hancock, which has two dual wins this year, will look to play spoiler after they wrap up their regular season today at home against Blue River Valley.
The Royals drew Mt. Vernon (18-1) in the sectional semifinals on Thursday.
“I told the girls, we just have to play our best and have fun,” Eastern Hancock head coach Tom Huff said. “Work hard and do what you can do. That’s all you can do.”
This past weekend, the Royals strung together a championship performance at No. 2 singles as junior Kayla Huff slid over from No. 1 doubles.
She scored wins against Knightstown and Seton Catholic to win the Eastern Hancock Invitational.
“I made some changes because we had one girl gone, so I moved Kayla up and made some adjustments. She really picked it up,” Huff said. “She did really well.”
Kayla opened the season at singles but voluntarily moved to doubles to strengthen the team’s overall lineup. Paired with the Royals’ lone senior Erin McKeeman, the duo won their first match together against Morristown on May 2.
Eastern Hancock was third at their own invitational and had consolation wins from Corina Jennings, a freshman, at singles, and a first-round win by Taylor Kline, a sophomore, and Brooks at No. 2 doubles.
“It was exciting (on Saturday). I’ve never done that in my career. I kind of want to go back to singles now,” Kayla laughed. “But it’s really fun playing doubles.”
Though the Royals’ record looks one-sided, the team lost a pair of matches to Knightstown and Morristown 3-2 and continue to improve with three freshman and two sophomore in the lineup.
“It’s a year of rebuilding. We’ve had four freshman that have played on varsity this year. I think in another two years we’ll do really well,” Tom Huff said. “We’re building for the future.”
Greenfield-Central 5, Eastern Hancock 0
No. 1 singles: Lindsey McCord (GC) def. Chelsi McMahan (EH), 6-1, 6-0
No. 2 singles: Avery Spencer (GC) def. Taylor Kline (EH), 6-0, 6-0
No. 3 singles: Aly Proper (GC) def. Valentina Brooks (EH), 6-3, 6-2
No. 1 doubles: Erin Wright/Grace Hall (GC) def. Erin McKeeman/Kayla Huff (EH), 6-2, 6-1
No. 2 doubles: Kaleigh Stephenson/Haidyn Goodwin (GC) def. Cassandra Hannemann/Madison Hagan (EH), 6-0, 6-1
Tennis Sectional 39 Schedule
At Mt. Vernon High School
Pendleton Heights vs. New Palestine, 5 p.m.
Eastern Hancock vs. Mt. Vernon, 5 p.m.
Winner of match 1 vs. Greenfield-Central, 5 p.m.
Championship Match, 5 p.m.
* Rain Date: Saturday