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Newberg comes up short in quest for sixth consecutive water polo state championship

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Sophomore goalie Nick Helikson makes a stop in the Tigers' loss to Lakeridge in the 6A finals of the boys state water polo chapionship at the Osborne Aquatic Center in Newberg.

CORVALLIS — From the outset on Saturday, the Lakeridge boys water polo team was in control of the 6A state

championship game. It's a situation that its opponent, Newberg, hadn't seen much over the past few decades.

The Tigers, after all, were the winners of five consecutive state championships before Saturday's 14-6 loss at Osborn

Aquatic Center. They've had quite a few more in coach Jim McMaster's tenure and a loss in the big game is an

unfamiliar feeling for McMaster and company.

After the game, Newberg's coach was straightforward in his analysis of a difficult loss for his team.

"They were better than us," McMaster said. "We beat them before, but we weren't ready to beat them tonight. They

played well and we didn't play as well as we're capable of."

After one quarter of play, Lakeridge led 4-3 on the back of star player Brody Veater, who scored three goals in the first

frame to lead his team to an early advantage. The pace of play was far quicker than these two teams' previous

matchups, with physicality being replaced by speed and offensive success.GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - The Newberg bench could only sit and watch as Lakeridge earned the 6A state water polo championship on Saturday in Corvallis.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, their scoring success ran dry in the second quarter. The Pacers won the second quarter 3-0 to take a 7-3 lead into the halftime break and Newberg appeared shell-shocked. Veater scored two of the three goals in the quarter and navigated the pool with ease, facing minimal resistance from his Newberg opponents.

"The difference was defense," McMaster said. "We just let them shoot. We graduated five starters last year, they have a good team and we just didn't show up tonight on that end."

Veater continued his offensive onslaught with a goal in the third to make it 8-3 and his teammates picked up the slack

with two more to make it 10-3 Pacers entering the fourth.

Nathan Waldal's score on a penalty shot early in the fourth quarter made it 10-4, but Newberg only managed two

goals for the rest of the game compared to Lakeridge's four as the Tigers slowly began to rotate substitutes into the game.

When the final buzzer sounded, Lakeridge players slapped the water with joy as their program achieved its first state

title in boys water polo. The Tigers left the pool with an unusual feeling for a historically great program: Defeat in a

big moment.

The Tigers were, admittedly, a young team. McMaster acknowledged it after the game and pointed to the size and athleticism the team graduated last year after its fifth consecutive state title.

McMaster said he is not sure what next year's team will look like and who will come out, but that he's looking forward to it.

"We graduated a lot of experience from last year's team," McMaster said. "When you graduate all that experience and have a lull between your freshmen and your seniors, it's tough. We'll see who comes out next year and go from there.

"We had a good year. We beat every team in Oregon except (Lakeridge) once before this championship game."

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