Tigard is edged by South Eugene at the state event

by: DAN BROOD - TIGER AT THE TOURNEY -- Tigard sophomore Avery Branen (left) is smacked by South Eugene senior Lauren Esrig during Friday's state tournament match.BEAVERTON — The Tigard High School girls water polo team says it was a fun season.

And the Tigers battled all the way to the end of that season — at the state tournament.

Tigard saw its season come to a close with a 10-4 loss to South Eugene in a fifth-place semifinal game played Friday at the Oregon High School Water Polo State Tournament, held at the Tualatin Hills Aquatic Center.

“It was a pretty good season,” Tigard sophomore Liz Irving said following the match. “We all learned a lot, we played well as a team and we had a lot of fun. Something just brought us together this year.”

It was season that saw Tigard, which lot a group of strong players from the 2011 squad that placed fourth at the state tournament, rebuild in a hurry to place third in the Pacific Conference standings and make it back to the state tourney.

“Not bad,” Tigard coach John Ruzicka said. “This was a great team-building year. And these are competitive kids.”

Those competitive kids came out strong in Friday’s match with South Eugene, which was the No. 2 team out of the Southern Valley Conference.

South Eugene took a 1-0 lead on a goal by senior Leah Coates coming with 5 minutes and 47 seconds left in the first quarter. But Tigard took charge right after that.

The Tigers tied the game at 1-1 on a close-range goal by Irving coming with 5:32 left in the period. Tigard then took a 2-1 lead with 4:47 remaining in the period when Irving scored off an assist from junior Kayla Wagenhofer.

Less than a minute later, Tigard pushed its early lead to 3-1 when junior Taylor Roth, after taking a pass from Irving, scored on a long-range shot, with the ball hitting the left post and bounding into the back of the net.

“We tried to get pumped up before the game,” Irving said of Tigard’s fast start.

South Eugene, getting goals from Coates and senior Meaghan Young, came back to tie the game at 3-3 by the end of the first DAN BROOD - SHOT AT STATE -- Tigard High School sophomore Liz Irving (left) looks to take a shot past South Eugene senior Meaghan Young during Friday's fifth-place semifinal game at the state tournament.

The Axemen then scored four unanswered goals, including two by senior Erika Johnson, in the second quarter to take a 7-3 lead at halftime.

The Tigers had a number of close calls in the period, including a lob shot by senior Emily Pfieffer that barely caught a part of the crossbar of the South Eugene goal.

Tigard cut into the South Eugene early in the third quarter, as Roth scored on a lob shot from the right side of the pool, trimming the margin to 7-4 with 5:56 left in the period.

But the Tigers couldn’t score again in the quarter. South Eugene, getting a pair of goals by senior Lauren Esrig in the period, took a 9-4 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Axemen got a goal from Young with 3:56 left in the game to wrap up the scoring in their 10-4 victory.

Tigard seemed to have more than its share of near misses in the second half, including shots by Pfieffer and Roth that hit the crossbar of the South Eugene goal.

“It wasn’t our day,” Irving said.

Irving and Roth each scored a pair of goals to pace the Tigers in the match. South Eugene, which advanced to Saturday’s tourney fifth-place game with the victory, got three goals apiece from Esrig and Young.

The loss marked the final high school game for Tigard’s two seniors, Pfieffer, who served as one of the team’s captains, and goalie Clara Dunklee.

The Tigers should have a strong group of returnees next year, including Irving, Wagenhofer and Roth, who all earned all-league honors.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” said Irving, who was a first-team all-league pick.

“Liz was solid all around,” Ruzicka said. “She was like having a coach in the water. We were really young this year. If we can find a goalie next year, we should have a good chance at getting back here to state.”

Other members of Tigard High School’s state tournament team include junior Andrea Patru, junior Laurel Nave-Powers, sophomore Melia Gering, sophomore Quayone West, sophomore Tate Keeley and sophomore Avery Branen.

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