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Tigers struggle with little things in key league loss, though they remain strong overall.

PMG PHOTO: RYAN CLARKE - Junior Sophia Gregoire-Salagean (center), a verbal commit to the University of Oregon, leads the Tigers in most statistical categories.

In a high-level Pacific Conference match, the Newberg high school volleyball team (14-5, 5-3 Pacific Conference) lost in three sets to the Sherwood Bowmen (15-3, 8-1) on the road Wednesday night, Oct. 6.

It was a pivotal match for the surging Tigers, but unforced errors, struggles on the serve and a few breaks Sherwood's way led to their demise. A raucous home crowd supporting the Bowmen didn't make things easier, either.

"They've played tough all season," first-year Newberg coach Thomas Salness said of his team. "They're a good group, and we work well together. It's just tough when we make some silly mistakes and silly errors. When you miss seven serves in a set, it's going to be tough to win against a good team. Sherwood is a great team. They're No. 7 in the state for a reason."

In the first set, Newberg fell behind 9-4 and called a timeout, during which Salness urged his team to "calm down" in the hostile and high-pressure environment. He called another timeout when the Tigers were down 20-13 in the set, but they ultimately lost it 25-14.

Newberg responded with some additional energy in the second set, taking an early 6-3 lead behind fired-up screams from its senior leadership. The screams of victory ended up being for the other side, though, as a packed Sherwood student section erupted following a thrilling 27-25 second-set victory for the Bowmen.

"We've been clicking, finding our groove and trusting each other to do our jobs," Salness said. "The team chemistry has been great, too. It's a great group of kids that love each other and play well together. Sometimes we just lose focus, and that's when we start losing points. If we can get over those mental errors here and there, we'll be fine." PMG PHOTO: RYAN CLARKE - The NHS volleyball team is close-knit with strong chemistry, a trait its coach says has led to the Tigers' success so far.

Technically, the home team was sound throughout the match, and it proved the difference in the end. Sherwood sprinted out to an 8-2 lead in the third set and didn't look back, taking it to 25-10 to wrap the match up.

Following their second consecutive league loss after previously winning 11 matches in a row, the Tigers look ahead to four more Pacific Conference contests (three at home) before the postseason. Newberg was ranked No. 12 in the state as of Wednesday night and aims to make some noise in the 6A playoffs with an experienced group.

"It's a growth process," Salness said. "The road is long. It's going to take some bumps in the road, we'll be fine, and I think we can make a great postseason run."


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