The Timberwolves edge Lincoln to claim the Class 6A state championship

by: DAN BROOD - CHAMPIONSHIP SMILE -- Tualatin senior goalie Kate McDonnell (right) is all smiles as she hugs Zoe Linford following the Wolves’ title game win over Lincoln.CORVALLIS — It was a year in the making.

It was a year of hard work.

It was a year of motivation and dedication.

And it was a year’s time that ended with the Tualatin High School girls water polo team celebrating a state championship.

The Timberwolves, who said that they took aim at the 2013 state crown immediately after they fell 15-6 to Newberg in the 2012 title tilt, claimed this year’s state championship by scoring a hard-fought 7-5 win over Lincoln in the title game of the Oregon High School Class 6A Water Polo State Tournament, played Saturday at the Osborn Aquatic DAN BROOD - READY TO GO -- The Tualatin girls water polo team gathers before the start of its state championship game against Lincoln.

“Way back, at the beginning of the season, we said we’d do it — and we did it,” Tualatin senior goalie Kate McDonnell said during the Timberwolves’ victory celebration. “We worked so hard for this. We worked all year, ever since last year, and we knew we could do it. I’m on top of the world right now. I’m so happy.”

“This means so much to us,” said Tualatin junior Madison Berggren, who was named the state tournament Most Valuable Player. “Right now, I’m speechless. I’m so proud of everyone. It feels so unreal now. I’m on Cloud 9.”

by: DAN BROOD - TAKING AIM -- Tualatin sophomore Zoe Linford looks to fire in a shot during play Saturday at the state tournament championship game.Saturday’s title game victory marked Tualatin’s third state championship in the past four years, and sixth-straight appearance in the title contest. The Timberwolves won the state crown in both 2010 and 2011 before losing to Newberg in last year’s championship game.

This year, the Wolves made sure they wouldn’t be denied.

“We had to win,” Tualatin sophomore Zoe Linford said. “The whole team thought we had to win it for the seniors. It was all determination, and this means so much to us.”

by: DAN BROOD - MVP -- Tualatin junior Madison Berggren was named the Most Valuable Player at the state tournament.“It was a great win,” Tualatin coach Ryan Deahn said. “The girls played so hard, and they worked so hard for this. This means so much to be because of all the effort the girls put in. I’m really proud of them.”

With the title-game win, Tualatin finished its season with a final overall record of 22-0, which didn’t include in-season tournament play — where the Wolves also went unbeaten.

“To have an undefeated season with a state championship is all I can ask for,” McDonnell said. “This more than makes up for last year.”

“This means so much,” said Tualatin junior Emily Breyer, a first-year water polo player who scored what very well could have been the key goal for the Wolves in Saturday’s game. “We worked so hard for this.”

And, going up against a talented Lincoln team, which Tualatin had to come from behind to beat 7-6 during regular-season play, the Wolves had to keep working hard until the final horn sounded.

by: DAN BROOD - GOOD ADVICE -- Tualatin coach Ryan Deahn gives some advice to the Timberwolves during a time out in Saturday's state championship game.Tualatin took a quick 1-0 lead when Berggren scored on a give-and-go goal coming off a pass from junior Marisa Lovos coming with 5 minutes and 37 seconds remaining in the seven-minute first quarter.

The defenses took over from there. For Tualatin that meant a lot of McDonnell.

The Timberwolf keep blocked three shots on goal in the final 5:19 of the period. Lincoln also had a shot by junior Julia Page hit the crossbar of the Tualatin goal with 2:23 remaining in the opening period.

The Wolves then started to take charge in the second quarter.

McDonnell, after blocking a shot by Lincoln senior Sage Smiley, quickly threw the ball deep to a sprinting Berggren, who scored on a breakaway shot to give Tualatin a 2-0 lead with 6:04 left in the period.

Tualatin seemed to take off from there. Lovos scored off an assist from Breyer and senior Emily Watt scored on a shot from the left side — with her shot being deflected, but still having enough steam on it to get into the goal — to up the Timberwolf lead to 4-0 with 3:22 remaining in the second quarter.

Tualatin then upped the margin to 5-0 when Lovos scored on a short-range push-shot attempt coming off a heads-up pass from Linford, coming with 2:28 remaining in the period.

by: DAN BROOD - BIG SHOT -- Tualatin junior Emi'y Breyer (right) shoots over Lincoln's Kayla Lanker for a key fourth-quarter goal in the Wolves’ 7-5 victory. But, just when it looked like Tualatin was going to take a shutout into halftime, Lincoln got the scoreboard in the finals seconds of the half. Cardinal junior Colleen Cameron’s shot from the left side of the pool, coming with just five seconds on the clock, hit the left post of the Tualatin goal and bounded past the line, making the score 5-1 at halftime.

Lincoln seemed to take that bit of momentum it gained at the end of the second quarter and run with it in the third quarter.

The Cardinals got goals from junior Elise Cugnart and senior AJ Gravatt, 30 seconds apart, to trim the Tualatin lead to 5-3 with 4:27 left in the period.

Lincoln got even closer, at 5-4, when Cameron scored on a breakaway off an assist from Page with 3:22 remaining in the quarter.

Tualatin got shots from Berggren, Linford and Breyer in the final 2:30 of the period, but the Wolves couldn’t convert on any of those attempts, leaving them clinging to a 5-4 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“That was definitely a little scary,” Breyer said. “We had to keep our mindset on playing our game.”

“It was like ‘oh, they’re coming to get us,’” Berggren said.

“We got ahead of ourselves,” Linford said. “We were a little nervous, but we knew we’d pull through. We just had to calm down and be more patient.”

by: DAN BROOD - GOOD TIMES -- The Tualatin girls water polo team begins to celebrate at the end of Saturday's championship contest.Still, going into the final stanza, it seemed like Lincoln had momentum totally on its side while Tualatin had gone 9:28 without scoring.

That Timberwolf scoreless span hit 11:57, but Breyer ended that in a very big way.

The first-year player scored on a skip shot from nearly 10 yards away, from right of center, to up the Tualatin lead to 6-4 — seeming springing life back into the Timberwolf attack.

“Every year, there’s an underdog who steps up, and this year it was Emily,” McDonnell said.

“I wanted to cry,” Berggren said with a smile. “I was so proud of her.”

“Coach always says that we need to score,” Breyer said. “I had confidence, and it felt really good.”

“I think that goal was the difference in the game,” Deahn said. “It was a momentum-shifter.”

Tualatin needed that goal, as Lincoln scored just 19 seconds later on a shot by Cameron to get back within one, at 6-5, with 4:12 remaining.

The Wolves pushed the margin to 7-5 when Lovos scored off an assist from Berggren with 3:16 left to play.

The Tualatin defense wrapped things up from there.

Berggren and Lovos each had a steal in the final 2:23, and McDonnell had a pair of saves, including a Lincoln shot at the buzzer that McDonnell grabbed with a smile — a state championship smile — on her face.

“It was a completely satisfying feeling,” McDonnell said. “All of the hard work we put in paid off.”

“It was like ‘yes!’” Linford said of her feelings at the end of the game. “It was an emotional ending. I’m so happy.”

“I was so excited, that I think my face just went blank,” Berggren said. “I wanted to cry, but nothing would happen.”

by: DAN BROOD - TITLE TEAM -- The Tualatin High School girls water polo team gathers with the state championship trophy following its victory in the title game.Lovos led a balanced Tualatin scoring attack in the win with three goals. Berggren had two goals while Watt and Breyer added one goal apiece.

Meanwhile, the Tualatin defense, with sophomore Ashley Elisara turning in a strong effort at that end of the pool, kept Lincoln in check most of the contest.

“We were able to keep our composure,” Berggren said of the key to victory. “We kept our heads. And we’ve had great team chemistry all year.”

“We had to keep fighting,” McDonnell said. “Lincoln really wanted it. To win a game like that makes this even better.”

Cameron led Lincoln with three goals. Gravatt and Cugnart added one apiece.

Tualatin earned a spot in the state championship game by posting a 17-3 win over Reynolds in a state tournament semifinal game played Friday at the Osborn Aquatic Center.

Berggren scored 10 goals in that contest for Tualatin. Lovos had three and Ashely Elisara scored two. Linford and sophomore Arielle Elisara added one goal apiece.

Lovos and McDonnell joined Berggren on the all-tournament first team. Linford was an all-tourney second-team selection and Ashley Elisara was an honorable mention pick.

Other players on the state champion Tualatin girls water polo team include freshman Rachel McWhirter, freshman Kayla Barrea, sophomore Hannah Karsseboom and sophomore Kailey Lenneham.

Nick Kish is the team’s assistant coach.

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