After getting off to a rather unfocused and undisciplined start in a recent win over Lincoln, the Newberg boys water polo team made it a priority to start each game with more energy.
That wasn't a problem Sept. 5, when the Tigers hosted longtime rival Southridge at the Chehalem Aquatic Center.
Newberg bested the Skyhawks in the state championship game last year to win its third consecutive Class 6A title, but thanks in part to a fast start last week, the Tigers made a statement about the pecking order in the state by sailing to a 20-5 victory.
"I think we definitely came out hard," senior captain Dalton Paskett said. "I think we definitely knew that we had to pick it up. No more of that. That's kind of what our mentality is, to come out hard. We knew it was Southridge, so I think that helped. We knew it would be a challenge and in the end we just kind of kept rolling them over."
Powered by three Zach Jordan goals, Newberg (6-0) jumped out to a 6-2 lead after the first quarter, then added five goals and pitched a shutout in the second to go up 11-2 at halftime.
Jordan added two goals in the second and two in the third to finish with a game-high seven, with Dane Findley adding six tallies.
Newberg effectively smothered the Southridge offense with its pressure defense and forced the Skyhawks to settle for outside shots. The Tigers took advantage to score most of their goals on the counter-attack.
"The set-up offense is our biggest weakness," Paskett said. "We rely a lot on scoring by beating the opposing team down the pool. When we got set up, a lot of times we couldn't run anything, so that's what we'll work on, organization. (Coach Jim McMaster) was saying a lot of times we call two different plays."
Perhaps the biggest difference in the game was in the cage, where the Tigers feature third-year starter Wilson Johnson, while Southridge was breaking in a new goalie.
"We knew they are probably going to be our main competition this year and we came out hard, finished hard," Paskett said. "We took advantage of their weaknesses."
The Tigers went on to pound Sunset 17-4 on Sept. 6, getting three goals apiece from Findley, Jordan and Paskett, but got a better test Saturday, when they traveled to play at South Eugene.
Newberg led 4-2 at the half and created a little bit of breathing room by pushing the score to 6-3 after three quarters, then pulled away in the fourth to notch a 9-5 win. Jordan led the offense with five goals and one assist, with Findley scoring twice and handing out three assists. Johnson was big in net, making ten saves and registering three steals.
The Tigers then opened this week with an easy 17-3 home win over Hillsboro on Monday.