Boys soccer: Baker leaves Woodburn program on top
After reaching the pinnacle achievement for the Woodburn boys soccer program, varsity head coach Stan Baker is ready to move on.
The four-year coach declined to return to the Bulldogs after the coaching position opened up following the team's state championship run in November. Baker is taking a full time position as an English-language learner teacher at the North Marion Intermediate School.
"In Oregon I've done as much as I can do, except maybe coach D1," Baker said. " I've coached D3, D2, won a state championship, won state coach of the year, won state coach of the year in youth soccer, all the way to national coach of the year."
Woodburn did not have to look far for Baker's replacement, tabbing assistant coaches Leroy Sanchez and Sean Monoghan to take over the program, giving the Bulldogs a level of stability as the team seeks to defend its 5A 2016 title while replacing 10 starters.
"It's definitely nerve-racking," Sanchez said. "There's high expectations, but just being there for four years and Sean going undefeated with the JV squad for practically four years … I'm looking forward to what puzzle pieces we put together. Where we are going to put kids with this turnover."
Sanchez will take the reins as head varsity coach after serving as Baker's assistant for the past four seasons. Monoghan will slide into Sanchez's former assistant role. Together, the duo will largely stick with the model that Baker brought to Woodburn four years ago — focusing on ball control, quick decisions and low-to-the ground play that made the Bulldogs so successful under Baker's tenure.
Baker took over the program in 2013 on the heels of head coaches Luis Del Rio and Carlos Horcos, who brought state titles to Woodburn in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Along with assistants Sanchez, Monoghan and Micah Pruss, Baker maintained the level of excellence in the program that has put Woodburn soccer on the state map.
The Bulldogs advanced to the semifinals in all four years under Baker, making championship runs in 2014 and 2016, the latter of which ended in a 1-0 victory over Wilsonville to bring the 5A title back to Woodburn.
The 2016 5A State Coach of the Year, Baker extended Woodburn's run of consecutive playoff appearances to 32 years, the longest such streak in the state among any athletic program in any classification. Woodburn never lost to a Mid-Willamette opponent under Baker, going 26-0-2 in league play to add four more conference championships to its to high school's rafters, making it seven straight for the Bulldogs.
In total, Baker finished with a record of 52-9-8 with Woodburn, and will likely take some time off from soccer before returning to the game, likely as a scout or consultant at the club level, he said.
"Right now, I would like to do work going into different clubs and offering my services as a scout," Baker said. "Someone who comes in as a scout and analyzing what they're doing in terms of their training."
With Baker gone, that leaves incoming junior defender Edwin Silva as the lone returning starter from last year's championship team to return this season. But Sanchez is not concerned with the loss in talent, likening it to the 2013 season when the Bulldogs graduated seven starters, including 2012 5A Player of the Year Michael Hobson and 2013 Conference Player of the Year Jesse Martin.
Woodburn was able to replace the lost production in 2014 and return to the state championship game, where they went on to lose 3-1 to Hood River Valley.
"It was kind of the best case scenario, so I'm having the same thought with this group, even though we're losing 11 seniors and 10 starters," Sanchez said. "I think we're just reloading again. With these guys knowing the system playing JV, I think it's going to be a smooth transition playing the same model and moving up."
A lifelong member of the Woodburn community, Sanchez attended WHS from 1998-2002, playing varsity soccer for the Bulldogs in all four years as a center midfielder. Sanchez swung between the freshman, JV and varsity teams his freshman year when the Bulldogs advanced to the 3A state championship game in 1998, losing to La Salle 3-0.
He became a full-time starter as a junior and had his best season as a senior captain in 2001, garnering First Team All-League, First Team All-State and Athlete of the Year honors.
Sanchez wants to keep the same philosophy in the program that Baker instilled, using Woodburn's natural depth of talent in the soccer community to keep the program producing the best soccer in the state. Baker gave ample opportunity for freshman players to make an impact at the varsity level, and Sanchez wants to maintain that practice, focusing on talent over seniority in the program.
"Nobody's safe in terms of their spot," Sanchez said. "If there's an underclassman or freshman coming up, working harder to win that spot, then that's what we're going to be looking at. The best 11 play in the program, and it doesn't matter if you're a ninth-grader or a senior."
Sanchez was scheduled to host the team's first summer practice session on Tuesday, giving the few returning players, the returning JV players and the incoming freshman class an opportunity to kick the ball around in a casual atmosphere before the team really gets down to business in August.
"I'm hoping to have some new faces as well in kids who are planning to come out this year," Sanchez said. "We also have a great freshman class coming in, so it speaks to the longevity of the program.
"Will it be a new team and culture? Sure," Sanchez continued. "But the philosophy is staying and the same expectations are going to be there with these kids. We're just looking for new additions, new faces and how we can build the strongest program."
Woodburn boys soccer coach
State title: 2016
Conference titles: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016
League record: 26-0-2
Playoff record: 11-3