SEAL BEACH — Neither tennis player from Servite High was missing, and Corona del Mar's Alex Murray and Henry Gordon seemed unable to stop the barrage on the other side of the net.
Going down, 4-1, was not the way Murray and Gordon wanted to begin their quarterfinal doubles match at the CIF Southern Section Individual Championships on Friday.
But the CdM players weathered the storm. A certain significant other showed up just at the right time as well.
"She's my good luck charm," Murray said of his girlfriend, Marelle White, who arrived at the match just as he and Gordon began to rally.
Whatever the cause of the turnaround, the CdM duo will definitely take the result. They came back to upset No. 2-seeded Zach McEntee and Tanner Smith of Servite, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2), at Seal Beach Tennis Center, advancing to the doubles semifinals of the tournament.
Murray and Gordon, who are unseeded, will need to pull off another upset to make the final and ensure their names are put up on a prestigious banner at the CdM tennis courts. They play No. 3-seeded Jack Felich and Austin Rapp of Palm Desert in the semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, back at Seal Beach Tennis Center. The championship match follows.
Murray, a senior, and Gordon, a freshman, also defeated Alexander Smolentev and Brett Friedland of Santa Monica, 6-3, 6-0, in a round of 16 match earlier Friday.
They had rarely played doubles together before finishing second in the Pacific Coast League and starting this CIF Individuals run. Murray is a four-year doubles player and non-United States Tennis Assn. tournament player, while Gordon is typically a singles player who is ranked No. 15 in the USTA Southern California 16s rankings.
But they have made it work. They certainly rallied at the right time against McEntee and Smith, winning the last five games of the first set against the Trinity League doubles champions. It was quite a momentum shift after Smith, the son of USC men's head coach Peter Smith, came out particularly on fire to start the match.
"It was a big energy change," Murray said. "I mean, they were hitting spectacular shots. Tanner, I can't even count how many times he hit down the line, perfect shots on me. That was just a really good team. They came out swinging ... We just started hitting the right shots. Henry was playing excellently today."
Gordon said he was motivated by one point midway through the set. He thought he hit a backhand winner down the line. But the shot, which would have won the game, was called just wide, and Gordon's serve was eventually broken.
"I didn't really agree with that call," Gordon said. "After that, I had more fight in me."
Murray and Gordon also went down a break of serve early in the second set, then again when Murray's serve was broken serving at 3-4. But the CdM pairing immediately broke McEntee's serve back.
Serving at 4-5, Gordon saved two set points before holding. The set eventually went to a tiebreaker, in which McEntee and Smith won the first two points before Murray and Gordon reeled off seven in a row to take the match.
"They started off really hot, and we weathered the storm," CdM Coach Brian Ricker said. " The boys made a couple of adjustments there at the end, trying to go down Smith's alley a little bit to keep him out of the middle. Alex added a little more spin to his serve there at the end, and that really paid off because [the Friars] weren't used to the kick. So, [Murray and Gordon] made the right adjustments at the right time and won a close match."
Murray and Gordon had an easier time in their round of 16 match against the team from Santa Monica. They earned a break in the fourth game of the first set and held onto it, with Murray serving out the set. The second set was even easier.
Winning the title Saturday won't be as easy. Lurking on the other side of the bracket are top-seeded Drew Dawson and Ryo Shimizu of University, who play Chris Lees and Daniel Minami of Thousand Oaks in the other semifinal. Dawson and Shimizu defeated Murray and Gordon, 8-2, to win the Pacific Coast League doubles title May 3.
Murray and Gordon remain confident.
"We feel like when we both are playing good tennis, we can play with anyone here," Murray said.