Newberg plays like it could be a title contender
The Tigers are off to a 4-0 start in the Pacific Conference for the first time since the 2010 season
Newbergs quick start to the season, including league wins over Tualatin and Century last week and the title-winning effort it put in at the Sandy Tournament on Saturday, may have the Tigers poised to challenge for the Pacific Conference title for the first time since they went unbeaten in 2010.
Weve talked about that a lot and my only expectations for the team are for them to play at their best, head coach Mackenzie Upchurch said. It may not be the best, but Ive seen what they can do and as long as they can continue to compete at that level, no matter what game were playing, theyre all going to walk away happy with what theyve put out there.
Newberg rolled to a relatively easy home win over the Timberwolves Sept. 10, prevailing 25-15, 25-9, 25-21. Rachel Thompson, Maya Adams and Emmie Schmidt recorded six kills apiece in the victory. Gaby Aihara not only passed out 28 assists, but recorded 17 digs, five kills and two blocks.
Two days later Alenka Berales helped lift the Tigers to a 25-19, 25-22, 15-25, 25-8 road victory over two-time defending league champion Century with a phenomenal performance from the back row.
The libero amassed 34 digs and, according to Upchurch, was nearly perfect on serve receive for the night.
Aihara followed up with 33 assists and Adams lead with 12 kills, but once again the attack was balanced, as Thompson (eight), Schmidt (nine) and Emma Voss (six) all contributed kills.
Excelling in a supporting role was Sam Weymouth, who went 10-for-10 on serves and helped sustain several runs.
Sams role has been crucial as her ability to jump in and serve consistently and with purpose has had a great impact on our recent wins, Upchurch said. I know I can count on her every time.
The competition at the Sandy Tournament was not among the highest Newberg will see this year, but was a good opportunity to focus entirely on what it does as a team on its own site of the net.
Upchurch said Thursdays road match at Tigard will be an important test against a scrappy side, but she has been quite pleased with what her team has shown her so far this season.
From a coaching standpoint, Im able to push these girls and get the results Im looking for, Upchurch said. Sometimes its hard to draw that line between coaching and nitpicking. Theyve been really receptive so far.