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Both the girls and boys teams dominate the competition in their first two games of tournament

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - NHS player Hailey Day applies stringent defense in Thursday's 20-7 win over Grant in the first round of the 6A water polo playoffs.

While it was essentially a foregone conclusion that both Newberg water polo teams would be heading to state in Corvallis, they each had a pair of playoff games to take care of first. With the first and second round games played at Chehalem Aquatic Center in Newberg over the weekend, the Tigers added home pool advantage to their long list of superiorities.

The girls got things started on Friday with a pair of victories against Grant and Reynolds. The No. 1 seed Tigers won 20-7 over Grant and 21-5 over Reynolds, dispatching lesser opponents with ease.

"I'm excited for them," NHS girls coach Cari Blanchard said. "I think us being ranked first is super accurate, because we're one of the best teams in the state and have more depth than a lot of other teams. I'm feeling confident for them going into the semifinal game on Friday.

"My girls went into the tournament with an eye on getting to state the next weekend. I told them where they needed to be mentally, how they needed to prepare, and they delivered. They needed to set the precedent starting with that first game."

Consider the precedent set. Newberg now looks ahead to a semifinal matchup on Friday against No. 4 seed Summit. In their previous matchup, the Tigers won handily.

"I think every game at state will be competitive," Blanchard said. "Everybody has had the whole season to train and get better and I don't expect Summit to be an easy win for us. I am confident that we will beat them again, though.

"They have two really solid players. Between the two of them, it's going to take our ability to double team or match up correctly with their biggest threats."

The Storm beat Tualatin 14-2 and Lakeridge 7-6 to get to this point. If Newberg wins as expected, they will face the winner of Barlow vs. South Eugene in the state championship game, going for the Tigers' second title in three years.

Last year, Newberg finished third at state – a solid achievement but far from the goal set by Blanchard at the start of the season. Now, Blanchard is confident this team's depth and experience should prove insurmountable for Newberg's opponents.

"When I have all my girls together, we don't seem to have a problem," Blanchard said. "Stella Byles, Natalie Kisling and Hailey Day have been leading the way this year and I am so proud of everyone. Those three really bring it every game."

Newberg vs. Summit is scheduled for 7:20 p.m. Friday at Osborn Aquatic Center in Corvallis. If the Tigers advance to the title game, that will be at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Boys expect a title date with Pacers

At this point, it appears the Newberg and Lakeridge boys water polo teams are destined to face again. Their two matchups during the regular season were dramatic and competitive, and Newberg boys coach Jim McMaster expects more of the same in the seemingly inevitable title game.GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The Tigers, including NHS' Nathan Waldal, applied stifling defense in their two wins Friday versus Gresham and Lake Oswego.

The No. 2 seed Tigers have already played, if you want to call it that, a couple playoff games and await a semifinal matchup they expect to win. They beat Gresham 18-1 and Lake Oswego 14-2 to earn a semifinal matchup with No. 3 Beaverton.

"I think we were just more experienced, quicker and understood the game better than the other teams," McMaster said. "So that helps … we scored pretty well-rounded. By halftime or the third quarter, we had our JV playing. It was good for those guys to get experience. Everybody got in and played and some of them even scored."

Newberg beat Beaverton in both of its matchups this season, the first a 19-5 shellacking in favor of the Tigers. McMaster expects more of the same in the semifinals, but said they aren't taking the Beavers lightly.

"We've played them before and were pretty dominant against them," he said. "Things can go haywire, though, so we're not taking anything for granted."

Newberg vs. Beaverton starts at 6:10 p.m. Friday in Corvallis. The matchup McMaster is more than likely focused on is the title bout with Lakeridge, which will be at 5:45 p.m. Saturday.

All the games were close between the Pacers and Tigers this season, with Lakeridge pulling out a 9-8 win the last time these two teams played. There were a number of factors at play for Newberg in the loss, however, not the least of which was an ejection of star player Nathan Waldal.

"We have to make sure all of our guys stay in the game," McMaster said. "Nathan was out in the middle of the third quarter, so when you have your main guy out that tends to hurt you. We just have to make sure not to get anyone ejected this time around.

"They're a good team, we're a good team, and we just have to play hard and avoid mistakes. I've got some guys that understand the game pretty well, but they have a great team so we're going to have to be prepared for that."

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