Tigers keep rolling along
Although it was never in danger of losing, the Newberg boys water polo team wasn't exactly sharp in the first few games of its home tournament Friday and Saturday at the Chehalem Aquatic Center.
But when the competition got tougher, the Tigers responded, dispatching Reynolds in the final round of pool play and slamming Johansen (Calif.) 10-3 in the final to remain unbeaten on the season.
"Coming out of the tournament, I think we're feeling really good about our defense because we know we can score when we're out on offense," senior goalie Wilson Johnson said. "But you win games with defense and that's really what we've been working on this season."
Newberg tuned up for the tournament with a 19-3 home win over Lake Oswego in which seven players scored at least two goals. Grant Stilp and Dane Findley led the way with four goals apiece and Johnson made nine saves in net.
Stilp followed up with a team-high five goals in Friday's 12-4 win over Summit in the opening round of the tournament, with Zach Jordan adding four tallies.
The team's reserves led the way in a 10-2 win over Emerald Ridge on Friday afternoon, with Dawson Walls and Hudson Andrews notching three goals apiece. It was a similar scenario in an 11-5 win over Bainbridge, Wash., Saturday morning as Nathan Waldal paced the effort with five scores, although Johnson was busy in net with 12 blocks.
Although coach Jim McMaster wasn't quite satisfied with the team's performance in those games, the Tigers did rise to the occasion Saturday afternoon against Reynolds, a team it dispatched at last year's state tournament.
Newberg jumped out to a 6-1 lead after two quarters, but the Raiders did give the Tigers some trouble in the third quarter when they began driving hard to the cage. Newberg eventually settled in defensively, adding a few goals to take a 9-3 lead into the fourth quarter and eventually prevailed 11-4.
"It was a matter of figuring out the switches and converting to a zone-type defense, like in basketball, rather than a man-on-man," Johnson said. "Once they got two goals, then we started to figure it out and it was basically back to business for us."
Stilp spearheaded the offense in that contest, racking up five goals; Johnson made nine saves.
Waiting for the Tigers in the final was Johansen from Modesto, Calif., but Johnson said the Tigers were better prepared mentally after scouting the Vikings earlier in the tournament.
"California teams really like to move and they all have really good legs, so it's hard to defend that without getting a lot of ejections," Johnson said.
With a standout keeper like Johnson in the cage, Newberg's strategy this season has often been to sag off outside shooters and double or triple team the hole set.
The game was tight throughout the first half, with the Tigers taking a 4-2 lead into the break. The Tigers then outscored their guests 4-1 in the third quarter and went on to win 11-3.
"They had a really big hole set, but they didn't really do a whole lot with that. Our defense really stepped up that game," Johnson said. "That's why we won."
Stilp led the way with three goals in the title game, but the Tigers were pretty balanced offensively, with Jordan and Findley adding two apiece. Johnson made 12 saves and said he was proud of the way his team handled the challenge of a physical California team.
"That's one thing that (McMaster) is really cracking down on this year is trying to keep a cool, level head," Johnson said. "If they score on us, it doesn't matter. We'll just go down and score on them. If we get kicked, don't kick back and just get your hands up. That definitely helped in the Johansen game. They were real grabby and physical, but I don't think we let it get to us."
Newberg added a 14-4 road win over Forest Grove Monday night, with Andrews scoring five goals and Ty Patterson adding four.
The Tigers will host Tigard at 6 p.m. Wednesday in their final game of the week and won't return to the pool until Monday, when they will travel to Lakeridge for a repeat of last year's state title game.