6A volleyball — Thanks to Glencoes upset of second-place McMinnville, the Tigers 3-0 victory over Tigard nails down their second league title in four years

Despite knowing a pair of wins over Forest Grove and Tigard last week would assure at least a share of the Pacific Conference championship, Newberg calmly and coolly dispatched both teams as if was still September. by: SETH GORDON - First line of defense -- Cheyenne Cochrane and Emma Voss rise for a block during Newberg's 3-0 win over Tigard Oct. 17 at McGrath Gymnasium. The Tigers clinched the Pacific Conference title with the victory and as the No. 5-ranked team in the OSAA power rankings, should play at home for the first two rounds of the upcoming 6A state playoffs.

The Tigers didn’t really celebrate, simply letting out a yell and coming together for one last time after securing the final point in a 25-17, 25-13, 25-21 sweep of Tigard.

The didn’t know at the time that Glencoe had upset second-place McMinnville to guarantee sole possession of the league title with one game yet to play, but even if they hadn’t the scene would have likely been much the same.

“If you watch us play, we’re not a hoo-rah-rah cheer type of team,” head coach Mackenzie Upchurch said. “Even when they get a huge stuff block or a kill, it’s kind of like, ‘Yes!,’ and then move on to the next point. We do that in practice, too. It’s very one-thing-at-a-time and it’s been working so far.”

The Tigers (19-2 overall, 12-1 Pacific Conference) dropped the opening set versus Forest Grove Oct. 15, but recovered to control the rest of the match en route to a 22-25, 25-16, 25-12, 25-20 victory.

Emma Voss finished with 11 kills to lead Newberg’s offense, which, as usual, was balanced. Rachel Thompson (17 digs) and Emmie Schmidt (four blocks) added 10 kills apiece, Maya Adams (seven aces) had eight, as Gaby Aihara doled out 43 assists and hit five aces.

We knew we were going to have to go out with a very consistent, very measured, very strategic approach. - NHS coach Mackenzie Upchurch

“Forest Grove came out ready to play and we started off a little slow,” Upchurch said. “They tested our patience and I’m very pleased with how the team responded in the second set.”

The Tigers were very even-keeled against a good Tigard team, with Aihara posting 33 assists and four kills in a 25-17, 25-23, 25-21 win at McGrath Gymnasium Oct. 17. Voss again led the team in kills, this time with nine, as Thompson had eight, Schmidt seven and Jade Livesay-Groark six.

“We’ve been working splitting the block, splitting the defense and opening up opportunities for either the back-row players or the front,” Upchurch said. “We’re not particularly tall, so we have to create opportunities for ourselves and that’s kind of been there. Gaby is an amazing player, very athletic and she gets the ball to a spot. As long as she remains focused on that, I think we’ll be fine.”

The team’s adherence to a point-by-point approach should be an asset in the postseason, where the pressure will increase and the quality of competition will rise.

“That’s what we built the program on and it started off in the summer,” Upchurch said. “We knew we were going to have to go out with a very consistent, very measured, very strategic approach. I’ve been very fortunate to maintain that pace throughout the course of the season.”

Newberg hosted winless Hillsboro in the season finale Tuesday (results unavailable at press time) and will be off until hosting a first-round playoff game Oct. 30. The Tigers entered the game No. 5 in the OSAA power rankings and even though their strength of schedule and ranking may dip somewhat after facing the Spartans, they are unlikely to slide out of the top eight, meaning they will also play at home in the second round if they advance.

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