NHS water polo teams off to hot starts
In a year that was thought to be one of transition, the Newberg boys water polo team is still dominating the competition. The Tigers are 6-0 on the season and out-scored their opponents 82-14 in their first five games.
During the undefeated run, Newberg beat the likes of Lincoln, South Eugene, Beaverton, Sunset, Westview and Albany. Now, the team looks ahead confidently to its home tournament and games against Southridge and Hood River on Friday.
"I don't know that we will have any real competition," NHS coach Jim McMaster said of the upcoming tournament. "All the teams that will be there have been beaten by teams that we've beaten, so we'll see. If I get a couple guys ejected, maybe it will be competitive."
So far, Newberg has been led by senior Nathan Waldal and his brother Grant – a freshman – along with Ty Patterson and Alex Touzeau. The most-felt presence in the pool, however, has been goalie Nick Helikson, whose height and intensity have proven difficult for opponents to overcome.
All of Newberg's wins have involved the opponent scoring five goals or less – many of them two- or three-goal games.
"We've got a great goalie who is intimidating," McMaster said. "That slows teams down and we've got some talent at other positions returning from last year that makes us what we are. Unless something spectacular happens, the two teams in the state that are neck-and-neck are Lakeridge and us."
The team has been battling the spread of illness throughout the roster, but McMaster is hoping the majority of players will be healthy for this weekend's tournament and for big games beyond. Newberg has its biggest games of the season on Sept. 30 and Oct. 2 when it travels to face Lake Oswego and Lakeridge, who are sure to test the Tigers.
Girls utilizing their speed
The Newberg girls water polo team is off to a strong start as well, but it has one blemish on its record so far. The Tigers are 10-1 with their lone loss coming to Bend on Sept. 14.
That loss was part of Newberg's home tournament, in which it went 3-1 and largely dominated its opponents. Losing to the Lava Bears was a preventable slip-up, according to Newberg girls coach Cari Blanchard.
"That's a team we should have beat and I don't just throw that around," Blanchard said of Bend. "Ability-wise, we out-matched them completely. We just didn't compete physically and had our first loss of the season."
Still, Blanchard has been pleased with what she has seen from this group.
Stella Byles has emerged as the undisputed leader of the team and a deep roster of both young and experienced players is establishing itself as a contender.
"It's been really good so far," Blanchard said. "I've seen a lot of growth throughout the season and they've been figuring out how to play together and work hard. We're still working out some kinks."
Newberg has this week to rest before it heads off to play Lakeridge and Lake Oswego along with an out-of-state tournament in Modesto, Calif.
This rest will be valuable for the team – Blanchard said – as it enters a crucial stretch of the season.
The Tigers' skills in the pool are what have stood out to Blanchard so far.
"We counter really well, we're fast and we can out-swim most teams," she said. "Our teamwork is great, too – utilizing all seven in the water and sharing the ball."
For more information on the Newberg boys and girls teams' next few games, visit www.newbergwaterpolo.com. There are separate tabs for the two varsity squads with full schedules along with team photos.
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