---- — By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE -- Qualifying for the District 4 team tournament was a goal the Selinsgrove girls tennis team set prior to the start of the season.
And now, with only two weeks and four matches remaining in the regular season, that goal has become a strong possibility for a young Seals squad that has just one senior on the roster.
Selinsgrove took a big step forward in its quest to reach the postseason when it beat Milton, 3-2, in a Heartland-I matchup on Wednesday.
The Seals (7-5, 7-3 HAC-I), who won all three singles matches on the day, need to finish with at least a .500 record to qualify for team districts.
"It's a good win. We're one win away from making team districts for the first time," said Selinsgrove coach Duke Fravel. "Milton played real tough tennis, and they have a shot at making (districts), too, if they keep playing like (they did Wednesday)."
Liza Smith and Brittney Aucker got the ball rolling for Selinsgrove by winning their respective matches at No. 2 and 3 singles.
At No. 2, Smith defeated Julia Spear, 6-2, 6-1, while at No. 3 Aucker downed Hunter Metzger, 6-2, 6-3.
"Brittney and Liza are just cruising right along. It's the best tennis I've seen them play," said Fravel. "They keep improving day after day, and I'm just really pleased with their play."
Sara Moyer, the lone senior for the Selinsgrove, then sealed the win by taking a hard-fought 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 victory over Alaina Houtz in the No. 1 match.
Moyer, who has been battling an injury to her right shoulder, was down in both sets. In the second set Moyer at one point trailed Houtz 4-2, but the Seal picked up a pair of service breaks to win the next four games and close it out.
"Sara plays tough, and even though she is not a 100 percent she doesn't give up," said Fravel. "No matter how close the match is or how far down she is, Sara is going to stay out there until the last possible moment and fight it out.
"That's just how Sara plays. She's relentless and she doesn't lose easily," added the Seals coach. "She just tries to play hard all of the time, even if she's not a 100 percent."
Milton (4-8, 2-8), which was missing a couple of girls from its lineup Wednesday, must win all of its remaining matches to qualify for districts.
"It was a tough match all around. Selinsgrove always puts up a good fight," said Milton coach Aaron Slusser. "My No. 1 and No. 5 players were sitting today and it was something that we had to work though."
Despite the loss, the Black Panthers continue to show promise as they won both doubles matches in three sets.
At No. 1 doubles, Caylee Pinchak and Taylor Wolfe beat Olivia Fravel and Jess Kerstetter, 0-6, 6-4, 6-3; at No. 2 Brandi Gray and Maggie Wetzel beat Savanna Foor and Paige Hepner, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
"I'm proud of the girls who stepped up and played; everybody was playing in a different position. Selinsgrove swept us in singles but, I tell you what, we went down swinging," said Slusser. "Alaina Houtz is a fighter and she doesn't give up. This is her first year playing varsity singles and her first match against a No. 1. I was really proud of the way she played.
"Same thing with the other girls. In doubles, to bump a young team up to play No. 1 and for them to pull out a three-set match -- especially after losing the first set -- I got to give them credit," Slusser added. "Our record may not be the best right now, but the girls are not giving up. They did very well."