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The Tigers are seeking another pair of state titles, adding to a rich tradition

Another year, another shot at a title.

The Newberg boys and girls water polo teams advanced to the state semifinals over the weekend, bringing each squad within two victories of yet another state title sweep. The boys defeated Grant and Barlow by a combined score of 38-7; the girls won 18-4 over Tualatin and 15-3 over David Douglas. Both teams are ranked No. 1 in the state.

Boys coach Jim McMaster said he only played his varsity unit for about half of the total time between the first two playoff games.

"I think overall, they played well," McMaster said. "When you're playing less experienced teams, sometimes you lower your abilities down to theirs in some ways. You might not be as intense or you make mistakes. We didn't do that."

The Newberg program is seeking its 32nd boys and 33rd girls title during McMaster's time with the Tigers. Cari Blanchard is the head coach for the girls squad now that McMaster is just coaching the boys.

Newberg's girls team lost just three of its 31 games this season, all in a tournament against elite teams in California. The boys lost just once, 7-5, in the finals of a different California tournament.

A state championship would be "icing on the cake" for both squads, according to McMaster.

"They're probably one of my top five teams overall," he said of the boys team. "I've had teams that get into the finals and win by 20 goals."

Standing in Newberg's way in the upcoming semifinal is either Westview or Beaverton on the boys side and Lincoln on the girls side. The Tiger boys dominated both of their potential opponents during the regular season, while the girls narrowly defeated Lincoln 11-10 on Sept. 17.

The Tigers have been here before. Game planning against their opponents has less to do with a scouting report and more to do with playing their brand of water polo.

"We have great depth with our starting seven," Blanchard said of the girls. "The team is excited and ready to defend their state title. They have trained hard all season in preparation for this moment."

On Friday at Tualatin Hills Swim Center in Beaverton, both the girls and boys are likely to advance. The girls game starts at 5 p.m., while the boys get going at 7:20. After a win, they would play at 5:45 and 7 p.m. Saturday, in the same order, for the state titles.

At this point, McMaster said he's almost more worried about how the game will be officiated than the opponent his team will face.

"What we're working on this week is fundamental-type things to adjust to officiating," he said. "A lot of times the referees hurt us more than the other teams. They make calls out of the blue and so we're trying to show our players how to circumvent that a bit."

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