Newberg wins fifth consecutive state title
BEAVERTON — Death, taxes, Newberg water polo winning state championships – some things are unavoidable.
The Tigers captured their fifth consecutive boys title Saturday at Tualatin Hills Swim Center, defeating conference rival Lakeridge 6-3. The match was physical, nasty and intense, a fitting cap to a grind-it-out, near-undefeated season for Newberg.
"It's history," senior Zach Jordan said. "We just wrote history and we earned it. We've been doing this for four years every single day and every single time we came out on top. It's a special feeling."
Coach Jim McMaster's team never lost to a team from Oregon or Washington this season. Its only defeat in more than 35 games was in the championship of a California tournament — to a top team from the Golden State. This incarnation of the Tigers — like many of its predecessors — cruised to a state championship. Even if the last step of the process was ugly, the culture instilled by McMaster never wavered.
The longtime leader of the Newberg program picked up his 32nd boys and girls titles on Saturday, jumping into the pool fully clothed at his players' encouragement as they splashed around in celebration.
"I just have a great bunch of kids," McMaster said. "They stayed focused and did what they needed to do. I'm graduating guys that have played for me for like seven years. Next year will be rebuilding a bit, but I'm confident in the guys behind them."
Newberg loses seven seniors to graduation: Jordan, Wilson Johnson, Raleigh Day, Grant Stilp, Dane Findley, Dawson Walls and Rashun Hoskins. Many of them played key roles in the Tigers' narrow victory over the Pacers, fighting off the physically imposing opposition at both ends of the pool.
Leading up to the match, McMaster said his team was more worried about game planning for the officiating than its opponent. While Lakeridge kept the game close until Newberg broke it open in the final quarter, the greater hindrance for the Tigers appeared to be how the physical match was officiated. They were even shown a yellow card at one point in the third quarter.
"We're both really physical teams," Findley said. "But we had to contain ourselves because they were dirty physical. We just wanted to protect ourselves and at this point in the season we were practicing more for the reffing."
Regardless of what happened out of the water, Newberg played its brand of water polo in the pool, showcasing its defensive muscle and dexterity with the ball in its grasp. No one player stood out among his teammates and the club operated with the collective awareness and energy that allows it to be so successful.
Tied 2-2 after one and 3-3 at the half, Newberg shut out the Pacers in the second half and tacked on two of its final three goals in the fourth quarter. Conditioning became a factor — as did Lakeridge's shot accuracy, or lack thereof — in the game's waning moments.
McMaster has been coaching the Tigers for more than three decades, but he said 2018 isn't his last season and that he looks forward to rebuilding the squad next season as his seniors depart.
"I'm proud of all the guys," McMaster said. "They beat all the Washington teams they played, they beat all the Oregon teams, and they got it done down the stretch."