After dropping a competitive match in three sets to McMinnville on Senior Night on Oct. 22, Newberg volleyball wrapped up its regular season with a four-set victory over Glencoe on Oct. 24. Now, the No. 17-ranked Tigers (16-7, 9-3 Pacific Conference) look ahead to a 6A playoff matchup at No. 16 South Eugene on Wednesday night (Oct. 30).
"We played a really tough game against Mac and what I appreciate most is the tenacity the girls had in that one," NHS coach Mackenzie Upchurch said. "That game against Glencoe started slow on their Senior Night, and they had early momentum, but our girls stayed focused and kept after it. Their discipline and tenacity were really impressive last week."
Upchurch noted that senior setter Lauren Griswold has taken control of Newberg's offense with her vocal leadership and play on the court. That has allowed many of Griswold's teammates to shine down the stretch as Newberg finished second in the Pacific Conference.
Through it all, the Tigers overcame a lack of height and won games thanks in large part to their defense. Quick feet and strong reaction times have lifted Newberg in games that it might have been outmatched size-wise. The size disparity will definitely be a factor in the South Eugene game, Upchurch said, but she expects that to play into Newberg's style.
"As long as we focus on ourselves and prepare the best we can, we'll be in a good spot," she said. "They've got a strong setter and a couple big outsides, which is no different than what we're accustomed to. It actually lends well to how we like to play, with pressure on our defense.
"I'm guessing it's going to be competitive based on our rankings and league scores. I know they have a couple key contributors on their team that could be dangerous, so we're going to have to bring it. This is what we've been working for all season."
The Tigers have eight seniors on their roster who want to finish their high school careers strong, Upchurch said. If Newberg can advance past South Eugene, it will likely face a tall task with a road game against No. 1 Jesuit on Saturday.
But first the Tigers have to advance. Upchurch said it won't be easy against the Axe, who are similar to Newberg in terms of their performances this season. The 16-17 matchup is often a toss-up, but South Eugene will have home court advantage and Newberg will have to travel far.
Upchurch expressed confidence in her team's abilities and looked forward to Wednesday's playoff game – the culmination of what this team has been working for to this point.
"I'm guessing it's going to be competitive based on our rankings and league scores," Upchurch said. "I know they have a couple key contributors on their team that could be dangerous, so we're going to have to bring it.
"It has been the prevailing goal of the season to get into the playoffs. Finishing second league is a testament to the girls' hard work, and this is a reward they've been looking for."
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