Newberg nabs pair of league wins
The Tigers open the season with thrilling victories over McMinnville and Glencoe
BEAVERTON Part two of the Mackenzie Upchurch era of Newberg volleyball got off to a rousing start last week, as the Tigers pulled out a pair of close victories over McMinnville and Glencoe.
The season opener at home Sept. 3 against the rival Grizzlies was a tense affair as the first three sets came right down to the wire.
The visitors grabbed the first set 31-29 by grabbing the final three points, but Newberg showed its resolve in taking the next two sets 25-23 and 25-22.
As a team before every play we take a deep breath and thats how we get into our zone, senior middle blocker Emmie Schmidt said. If we ever mess up, its okay, weve got the next play and were going to do it together.
There was far less drama in the final set as the Tigers raced out to a 14-2 lead and never looked back.
The game was a nice welcome back to the sport for Schmidt, who played water polo the past two seasons.
I was very nervous at the beginning, but I think as soon as we got into the game our team just clicked, she said. Weve been practicing so long together and have been through so much in just a few weeks, so as a team we just really came together. We played well.
McMinnville relied heavily on junior outside hitter Madison Vicknair to generate offense, while on the other side of the net sophomore setter Gabi Aihara spread the ball around judiciously to keep the Newberg attack balanced.
Junior outside hitter Rachel Thompson led the effort with 15 kills, with Maya Adams adding nine and Schmidt racking up six to go along with her six blocks. Thompson also went 15-for-15 on serves with five aces.
I really challenge my setter to utilize her team for kills, Upchurch said. We changed our rotation a little bit so that we add a back-row attack and that benefitted us in this match as well.
The Tigers had to step up their game for the road trip to Glencoe Sept. 5 and gutted out another pressure-packed victory, 20-25, 25-20, 22-25, 25-17, 15-13.
Aihara once again orchestrated the attack, dishing out 38 assists to go along with three kills and 13 digs. Thompson hit .480 en route to a team-high 18 kills and also collected 18 digs. Adams finished with 10 kills and six digs, with Alenka Berales leading the defense with 35 digs.
There was a vast difference in the momentum and intensity of this match versus what we put out there against Mac, Upchurch said. We play well at home but we will need to focus on eliminating distractions, increasing communication and working for the win on the road in the future. Consistency will be key.
Newberg participated in the Southridge tournament on Saturday, falling 25-21, 20-25, 17-5 to McMinnville in the consolation finals to finish 10th.
Upchurch, who used the tournament as an opportunity to tinker with various lineups and spread out playing time, was not concerned with the finish as the team is focused on Pacific Conference play. The Tigers began the week with a home match versus Tualatin Tuesday (results unavailable at press time) and will travel to play two-time defending league champion Century Thursday.