The Tigers keep it close with South Eugene and win the first set, but fall in four sets on the road Oct. 30

After one of the more successful seasons in recent program history, the Newberg volleyball team saw its appearance in the OSAA playoffs as an overall success. While the No. 17 seed Tigers lost in four sets to No. 16 South Eugene on Oct. 30, the competitive fire they showed in the match was indicative of what they brought to the court in 2019.

Newberg won the first set 26-24, before dropping the final three sets by scores of 25-19, 25-21 and 28-26. Coach Mackenzie Upchurch's team kept close with South Eugene despite facing a hostile environment on the road and an opposing team that was much taller than they were.

While both teams were relatively even in the talent and experience departments, South Eugene prevailed in large part due to its size.

"That first game we got off to a really strong start," Upchurch said. "They have some strong hitters who put up a big block and we had to be really smart with our ball placement. We did that early on, but it got more difficult as the match progressed.

"I think we went in well-prepared and executed to the best of our ability. Ultimately, it was a matter of momentum and we just had too many unforced errors. We were point-to-point in the different sets and they were a really good team."

Newberg finished the regular season at 16-7, 9-3 in the Pacific Conference – good enough for a second-place league finish behind McMinnville. The Grizzlies finished ranked No. 15 and beat No. 18 Lake Oswego before dropping a second-round match to No. 2 Central Catholic.

With the loss, the Tigers lose eight seniors to graduation: Tori Petersen, Kaylie Duckworth, Lauren Griswold, Lia Reid, Becca Upchurch, Morgan Lemen, Olivia Ranum and Madison Brumbaugh. Becca is coach Upchurch's daughter and many of her fellow seniors played with her from a young age.

"I couldn't be more proud of Becca and her teammates," Coach Upchurch said. "I've been working with or coaching them since they were in the fifth grade. To watch them grow up and become mature, competitive and persistent in their work, that's the reason why you coach.

"The seniors that have been in the program will leave a large impact. They worked hard to change the culture of the program and how we view our team and how we represent our community. Because they've been part of the program for so long, they're leaving a big space to fill for the underclassmen next year."

Returning from this year's team will be current juniors Sydney Johnson and Brynna Geibil, along with talented freshman Sophia Gregoire-Salagean. Upchurch said there will be big shoes to fill with the senior class departing, but she is confident that the trio of varsity returners – combined with some players currently on junior varsity team or below – will be competitive next year as they make the transition from experienced team to young team once again.

"The seniors that I'll have contributed at a high level this year," Upchurch said. "We will lean on Sophia to carry the load on offense and we have plenty of spots to fill around her."

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