NHS girls stymied in semis and earn third at state
By Ryan Clarke
Newberg Graphic reporter
While the boys team added to its trophy case Saturday, the Newberg girls were on the wrong end of an upset on Friday in the semifinal round of the state tournament, losing to Lincoln 11-10.
It was the same score as Newberg's game against the Cardinals in the regular season, but the opposite result.
NHS coach Cari Blanchard said her team lost the execution battle against a disciplined Lincoln squad.
"They were definitely pumped and prepared physically and mentally," Blanchard said of the Tigers. "We just weren't able to convert on the opportunities we had. Lincoln was able to convert theirs, so they had the upper hand."
Newberg won the third place match handily Saturday afternoon, shutting down Reynolds 11-5 to finish its season on a high note. Blanchard added that she delivered a message of motivation to her team following the loss to Lincoln. It worked.
"I just reminded them that they still had to finish their season strong," she said. "Unfortunately, we didn't play in the final two, but I told them that how they play this game would define them. Were they going to respond, or lay down and wallow in our sadness?"
The Tigers went 28-3 overall in the regular season, with their only losses coming to three California teams on the road. As the No. 1 seed in the Oregon state tournament, they were expected to roll through the competition, but drew a difficult semifinal matchup with a Lincoln team that proved its mettle.
Heading into next season, Newberg graduates four seniors, who Blanchard called "leaders in the pool and the locker room."
"I love this group of girls," Blanchard said. "The culture of our team is really big for me, and from the girls who don't play much to the starters, they all got along really well. We had no drama, they trained hard and their commitment level was super high."
This tournament served as a valuable lesson for the underclassmen: adversity is often the best teacher in high school sports, and water polo is no different.
The Tigers aim to continue a winning tradition in 2019, only next time, they want to hoist the first place trophy again. "It was a high-pressure, intense tournament and I think some of the younger girls struggled a bit this time around," Blanchard said. "I hope they've learned something and will be ready to go next year."