FORTVILLE — It’s been a long time, so long that head coach Chris Hardin wasn’t sure when the last time Eastern Hancock’s girls tennis team won a match in the sectional tournament.

Unlike many other IHSAA-sanctioned sports, girls tennis is not separated by classifications based on enrollment. At sectional time, Eastern Hancock has always gone up against the larger schools in Hancock County, and previous sectionals also included Pendleton Heights, another school that’s more like the size of Mt. Vernon, New Palestine and Greenfield-Central, the latter the Royals opponent Wednesday in a semifinal match of the Mt. Vernon Sectional.

Size of the opponent didn’t matter on Wednesday.

Like it did during April’s Hancock County Tournament, Eastern Hancock got the best of Greenfield-Central, beating the Cougars 4-1 to advance to Thursday championship match against No. 18 Mt. Vernon.

During the county tournament, which is structured into five flights (three singles, two doubles) rather than a head-to-head dual, Eastern Hancock won all five of its matches against Greenfield-Central players.

The Cougars had a different lineup for the sectional, but the outcome was similar. The Royals won, improving their perfect record in dual matches to 8-0.

“The biggest thing over the last several years, we come into the county and sectional (tournaments) playing against schools two, three, four times our size and we get tentative and we don’t play well,” Hardin said. “We’ve talked about that a lot over the last couple of years and the mental aspect of deep breathing, playing one point at a time, not worrying about the last point, mentally focusing on the positives. (We want them) focusing on things they’ve done in the past that have led up to their success and trying to mentally be as sharp and as prepared as we can.

“I think at the county tournament we had some success against Greenfield so we had a little bit of confidence coming into this. I don’t feel like, even with them switching (the lineup) around, like they could really hurt us. We had some tight matches and close matches and we got a little bit tight in some places like we have in the past, but hopefully this will give us some confidence moving forward.”

Greenfield-Central made it close.

With three matches completed, Eastern Hancock led 2-1.

At No. 2 singles, Eastern Hancock freshman Lexie Fletcher defeated G-C junior Tanessa O’Neal 6-0, 6-0. At No. 3, sophomore Sophie Hardin downed Cougar frosh Lauren Page 6-1, 6-1.

Greenfield-Central won at No. 1 doubles in a matchup of four seniors. The Cougars combo of Lauren Haffner and Madison Succaw defeated Mikayla Hardy and Savanah Hardin 6-3, 6-2.

Eastern Hancock won the first sets in both the No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles matches, but both were in tight second sets.

At No. 1, Eastern senior Lexi Swauger pulled out a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Greenfield-Central freshman Kate Gilkison.

The doubles match was won by the Royals senior team of Sarah Clark and Tori Parker 6-4, 7-6 (4) over Greenfield-Central senior Hallie Smith and freshman Anna McQueeney.

“It was significantly closer (than the county tournament) and I think that shows how much work our girls have put in,” Greenfield-Central coach Michael Turpin said. “I thought every girl played really well tonight, definitely something they could be proud of. … There’s nothing to be sad about, Eastern had the stronger team this year. They did a good job and came out ready. They already beat us at county and knew they could do it.”

Greenfield-Central finishes its season 8-10, but it’s not over yet for Haffner and Succaw.

As a victorious No. 1 doubles team, they will move on to next week’s individual sectional beginning Tuesday at Mt. Vernon.

They’ve gone 7-3 since Turpin moved Succaw in as Haffner’s partner. Haffner has been part of 14 wins at the top doubles position.

“After county I moved Madi to No. 1 doubles. She had struggled at singles and has been thriving at that spot,” Turpin said. “It’s been great to watch everything pay off at the No. 1 doubles spot, to see how well they have clicked together.”

Eastern Hancock will have its toughest challenge of the year in Thursday’s 4:30 p.m. championship match.

The Royals take on the highly-ranked Marauders, who are 11-3 with their only losses coming to other ranked schools.

Eastern Hancock has not won a girls tennis sectional since 2001. Records on the school’s athletic website show that it has been at least 2013 since they’d won a match in the tournament against the county’s big schools. Mt. Vernon is going for its 10th straight sectional title.

“I don’t know the last time, it’s been a while,” coach Hardin said of his team’s last postseason win. “This senior group has kind of made Eastern competitive again. I know Mt. Vernon has an exceptional team and they are a big hurdle to climb, but we’ll use this confidence moving forward and play every point one point at a time, and do our best on every single point. We can’t worry about the last point and can’t worry about the next point. We’ve got to focus on the one point we’re playing and do what we can to play at the best of our ability and hopefully good things will happen.

”Obviously it is going to be a tough match, but we’re as good as we’ve been in 20 years.”