The Newberg girls water polo team had been breezing through the early portion of its schedule, so by the time Lincoln visited the Chehalem Aquatic Center on Monday, the Tigers were ready to be challenged.
NHS coach Cari Blanchard's team had won its previous six games, including five at its home tournament Friday and Saturday, by a combined score of 73-21, but needed a late goal to edge the Cardinals 11-10.
"It was the first time we've really been tested," Blanchard said. "It was good for them."
It was evident early on that Lincoln wouldn't be dispatched easily as Newberg took a 3-2 lead after one quarter.
The Cardinals rallied for five goals in the second quarter to level the score at 7-7 before the pace of the game slowed down considerably in the third quarter. The Tigers pitched a shutout in the third quarter to pull ahead 10-7, but Lincoln responded well, scoring three straight goals in the fourth to make it 10-10. Stella Byles responded by scoring the winning goal with about 90 seconds to play.
"They did play really hard and aggressive the whole game," Blanchard said of the Tigers. "There were definitely some situations on offense and defense where we didn't capitalize and it might not have been so tight, but it was good for them because we're going to see that team again at state."
Blanchard was also pleased to see the offense display more patience against the Cardinals.
"What was key for us was making a lot of weak-side passes, really making an effort to advance the ball or get it across the pool to other players who are open instead of taking a shot on the side with the defense and the goalie," Blanchard said. "We've definitely seen a lot more of those opportunities, so that's exciting."
Byles finished the contest with six goals, Mackenzie Russell scored three and assisted on two. Nikki Rubottom added a goal and three assists.
"Stella is on fire," Blanchard said. "She's definitely come more out of her shell with what she's doing and her ability to dominate the game. It's pretty impressive to see."
Byles also scored six goals, with Russell adding four, to lead Newberg to a 14-4 win over Sunset Sept. 13.
In a scheduling quirk, the Tigers then faced off against the Apollos in the opening game of their home tournament Friday, this time winning 13-0 thanks to a three-goal, four-assist effort from Rubottom. Newberg then got four goals apiece from Byles and Russell in a 13-5 win over David Douglas Friday night.
The Tigers went on to blast Bend 11-2 and down Reynolds 15-8 before closing out with a 9-2 win over Barlow. Russell scored four goals and assisted on another to bring her tournament total to 15 goals and six assists in five games. Rubottom finished the tournament with 14 goals and eight assists, with Byles racking up 12 scores and four helpers.
Newberg (11-0) will travel to Tualatin Wednesday and host Albany Friday, but may not be tested again until the Metro West Tournament Oct. 5-6 at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center. A week later the Tigers will make their annual trek to California for the Modesto Tournament.