With high expectations, Woodburn boys soccer again aims for title
Over the past eight years Woodburn's boys soccer team has been among the very best at both the 4A and 5A levels. In 2016 and 2017 the Bulldogs claimed the state title at 5A with victories over Wilsonville and Corvallis; then at 4A in 2018 and 2019 they bested North Marion and Stayton for gold, respectively.
While last year's season was curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Woodburn still managed to return to 5A with an impressive campaign against top notch competition. The Bulldogs authored a 5-1-2 Mid-Willamette Conference (MWC) record. It's been part of the team's impressive league history since 2013 -- in that time Woodburn has compiled a 35-2-6 record against MWC competition.
Though still expected to be great, only four players left on the roster have helped raise a state championship trophy: senior midfielder Bryan Hernandez, junior defender Jairo Perez, senior defender Noe Gonzalez and senior midfielder Victor Barajas. Woodburn head coach Leroy Sanchez expects those four to set the tone and let their teammates know what is expected.
"We are relying on their leadership and experience to help propel the team this year," Sanchez said. "They know what it takes to be a state champion. We also have a young core of players who are stepping up and we are excited to see how their skill level and teamwork develops. Our current younger players will need to step up and play at their best. They will need to strive for a championship mentality if we want to be successful this year."
The competition in the Mid-Willamette Conference will be fierce. Corvallis, North Salem and West Albany all received votes in the OSAA preseason coaches' poll as teams to watch out for at 5A. Woodburn received the most, but Sanchez won't rest on past laurels.
"Every year we expect to be in the running for a league title and we will do all we can on the pitch to make that happen," Sanchez said. "We play in one of the hardest leagues, if not the most competitive league in 5A. It's not an easy task, which means our boys will need to search and find our team chemistry, to work as a team, to fight for each other, to be there for one another when things get hard."
Woodburn's first game of the season will be against Northwest Oregon Conference's Putnam on Thursday, Sept. 2, in a home game at 6 p.m. The first league competition will be on Tuesday, Sept. 28, in a road game against South Albany at 7 p.m.
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