|Boys Oregon 6A State Champions - four consecutive years|
|Girls Oregon 6A State Champions - second time in the past three years|
Newberg has been dominating Oregon water polo since its inception in 1983. Jim McMaster, the genius who started the program in 1983, is STILL the head coach of the boy's team and the assistant coach of the girls' team. He has coached his teams to 37 state championships in 34 years. Let that sink in for a minute.
Grant has grown up in the culture that is Newberg Water Polo. The coaches place a high value on hard work, teamwork, and mentoring. The older kids help coach the elementary teams and mentor the younger players. All players are expected to volunteer at home tournaments, keep their grades up, and abide by a code of conduct that honors Newberg High School and Newberg water polo. The bar is HIGH for these athletes and they willingly step up to meet the expectation. These athletes know they are a part of something unique. They are part of a dynasty.
The year Grant started high school Newberg had just graduated an all star group of seniors from their water polo team. It created a unique opportunity for Grant and four of his friends to all earn varsity letters as freshman and help their team win an unexpected state championship with a roster full of freshmen. They earned themselves the nickname the Fab Five and it stuck. The following year, each of these boys earned a varsity letter again and played a larger role in another state championship title.
|Fab Five after their junior year banquet|
This year was different. All but one of the Fab Five's mentors graduated. It was time for our boys to step up and lead the team - both in the water and mentoring the younger players coming behind them. The first game of the season Grant had a hat trick (three goals in one game) and a big cheering section. The article in the newspaper mentioned every single one of the Fab Five and a role they played in the victory. The season was setting itself up to be epic.
|Grant with his little buddy Payton.|
Our boys rolled through the first half of their season, beating every Oregon team they played and only losing once in the championship game of a tournament to the reigning Washington 6A state champions. Then, the unthinkable happened. Our boys went to Lakeridge High School and got beat 6-4 by a very strong, capable Pacer team. It was the first league loss for the Newberg boys' team in FIFTEEN years. It was humbling and just the reminder the boys needed that complacency is not an option.
We played Lakeridge again at home in the last game of the regular season. For the first time since I've been watching high school water polo, Newberg fans - and even cheerleaders - came out to support the athletes. They PACKED the pool deck and stands, cheering wildly and creating an electric atmosphere. It was obvious this game should be a preview of the state championship. The game was tense and close. Grant scored a goal with one second left on the game clock to help his team win 7-4, settling the score with Lakeridge.
The win by the Tigers secured a tie for the League Champions and forced a play off game to determine which team would get the number one seed going into the state tournament. Newberg scored the first goal and controlled almost the entire first half, but the Pacers scored at the end of the second quarter and the momentum shifted. The two teams battled back and forth through the last two quarters, but Pacers all-star Terran Walker put the game away with a goal in the last minute to earn a 6-5 Lakeridge victory. Both teams knew the showdown at state would be a good one.
As the season progressed, Grant's strength morphed him into a defensive specialist. He was assigned to shut down the opponent's 2 meter/hole set position. It was exciting (and a little scary) to watch him battle it out against some of the toughest and scrappiest players in the state. The stuff that is considered "legal" in water polo is cray cray. Grant had a memorable and incredible performance in the semi-final game, scoring four goals and playing flawless defense. It is a bit surreal to watch him play every second of these important games and hold his own against some of the best players in the state.
As expected, the Pacers and the Tigers both played their way into the state championship game. Both teams were hungry for victory. The Pacers were playing for their first ever state championship. The Tigers were playing for revenge and to keep their championship streak alive.
|team captain getting the fans pumped|
|Grant being announced before the championship game.|
|jumping in the water before the game started.|
|Raleigh winning the jump ball|
|Then scoring seconds later to set the tone for the game.|
|my boy doing his thing|
|getting ready for the second half|
|It was a tough, physical game. Well played by both teams.|
|final minute of the game - just before G scored to put them up by 3.|
|You did it!|
|one happy boy|
|State Champions (but missing a ton of our players in this photo)|
I had a Media Pass that allowed me access to the entire pool deck to take photos. It was pretty cool to be able to record the excitement of another championship for our boys and their parents. Their senior year is going to be an emotional roller coaster for all of us. Just take a look at this little video clip that shows the emotions that go into the semi-final and championship games!
Well done boys. Four-peat State Champions. You earned it and we are so proud. Until next year....