SELINSGROVE — Increased confidence might have been the biggest change in helping Selinsgrove’s second doubles duo of Murphy O’Brien and Laney Liesenfeld break open their match against Jersey Shore in the District 4 Class 2A team tennis quarterfinals Tuesday.
However, the Seals pair also made a pair of tactical adjustments to help them run away for a 6-2, 6-1 win in the decisive match to lead Selinsgrove to a 3-2 win over the Bulldogs.
With the team score tied 2-2, and the second doubles match tied 2-2, 30-all, O’Brien ripped a backhand passing shot winner.
It was all O’Brien and Liesenfeld from there.
The Selinsgrove pair won seven points off volleys — either on winners or by playing tough volleys that forced Jersey Shore errors — to finish off the opening set, and won 16 points that way in the second set.
“Aggression at the net is one of the best things I think you can do,” Liesenfeld said. “When you’re right there, you’re really in control of the game. ... You’re the one whose deciding it. If you can get a good point at net, you can end it pretty quick.”
Another key for the Seals duo was playing short diagonal balls away from the Bulldog at the net, which was something Liesenfeld said she and O’Brien spent 30 minutes working on with a ball machine during practice Monday.
While it may have been in the Seals’ plan from the start, Liesenfeld only had one winner using that play until the decisive run started. After the fifth game, Liesenfeld hit two winners, and O’Brien hit four using a short, angled ball to the side of the Jersey Shore girl on the baseline.
“Coming into this game, Laney and I talked at practice (Monday), and that was something we knew we had to jump on,” O’Brien said. “We knew they didn’t move last time, so we didn’t expect them to do that today. We wanted to get points off of that.”
Other than the first few tense minutes of the match, Selinsgrove dominated the No. 2 doubles, which was no surprise to Selinsgrove coach Matt Salsman.
“Our two doubles has had a lot of success this season,” Salsman said. “I was trying to let them know before the match how great of a season they’ve had, and to stick to the way they’ve played all season.”
O’Brien and Liesenfeld did just that, helping the Seals into today’s District 4 semifinals against Montgomery at South Williamsport High School at 1 p.m. The winner of that match will play in the final at Williamsport at approximately 3 p.m.
Tuesday marked the third time the Seals and Bulldogs squared off this season, with the teams splitting a pair of regular-season meetings.
“It was really good that it was tied, because I feel if we won both, we would have come in with a different mindset,” Selinsgrove senior Avery DeFazio said. “The mindset we had was we knew could beat them. But at the same time, if we didn’t play our best or if we got lackadaisical, we wouldn’t. I think coming in with a positive mindset and being focused was key.”