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With championship expectations and a tight familial bond, the Bulldogs faced a tough reality in postseason defeat

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Woodburn junior Giovanni Lopez presses the attack in the second half against Parkrose, searching for an equalizer. Woodburn lost to Parkrose in the first round of the playoffs 2-1 on Nov. 1.

When the Woodburn boys soccer team lost to Parkrose 2-1 in the opening round of the 5A playoffs on Nov. 1, it was an upset and heartbreaking to the players and coaches. Not simply because of the fact that the Bulldogs were seeded fourth overall and the visiting Broncos 14th, but the standard of excellence that Woodburn has set over the years is championship or bust.

After all, this is a soccer program that hasn't missed the postseason since first appearing in the bracket all the way back in 1986, reaching the quarterfinals that time. The team hasn't failed to get out of the round of 16 since 2009, the year before Woodburn went on a run to capture seven state championships in 10 years.

The expectation has always been greatness, which makes the loss to Parkrose sting all the more.

The Bulldogs went up early on Parkrose 1-0 after a Spencer Karsseboom goal courtesy of a Giovanni Lopez assist. But Parkrose found a way to answer thanks to a brace from senior Mustafa Daggig.

"We did everything that we could: we watched film, we practiced what we needed to practice, we had a gameplan, we had it going with that 1-0 score," Woodburn boys coach Leroy Sanchez said. "Parkrose came back, they upped their intensity, they did what they needed to do to get their goal. They looked in behind into space, and they just beat us in intensity to get that second goal. By that time, we don't finish in the second half, we don't finish goals. If we don't finish those chances that we have, then it's going to stay 2-1."

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Woodburn defender Julio Gasca battles for control of the ball against Parkrose. Woodburn ultimately lost to Parkrose 2-1 on Nov. 1.

The three first half goals told most of the story. Woodburn went into the half trailing and came back out trying to find a way to equalize. The uphill battle got worse when senior Woodburn defender Jairo Perez Santiago was given a red card less than nine minutes into the second half, forcing the Bulldogs to play down a man.

It was a heartbreaking moment for Perez Santiago. He was the last member of the program to have been on a championship winning squad, doing so as a freshman when the team won its second 4A championship against Stayton in 2019.

"Unfortunately, the red card I got, I don't know," Perez Santiago said. "I feel like it's my fault. I hope they can forgive me, I hope that this doesn't kill their mood, and I hope that next year they can strive for greatness again, and hope they can put another banner up there soon."

While Woodburn pressed the attack with 10 men, creating chances on goal and moving the ball aggressively on a Parkrose defense that had bunkered down to hold onto its lead, the score didn't change in the second half. Woodburn was ousted from the playoffs after just 80 minutes.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Woodburn senior Spencer Karsseboom scored the Bulldogs only goal against Parkrose to open up scoring. Woodburn would ultimately lose to Parkrose 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs.

After winning nine games, finishing second in the Mid-Willamette Conference, and entering the season as the No. 4 seed, Woodburn was heartbroken. The team, mobbed by their family and friends after the game, mourned what was and what could have been.

According to Perez Santiago, the team felt like family, bonds built early on in the 2022 athletic calendar. The team traveled to Pacific City for a bonding retreat and came back as a "ride or die" squad.

"At that moment, I thought this was going to be the year," Perez Santiago said. "This was going to be the year we were more connected that ever before. We felt like an actual family, and I felt like this was going to be the year …We just hung out, climbed the sand mountain, went to go eat, just chilled."

The bond is what makes the hurt all the greater. Because despite the wins, the ranking, the expectation remained the same all year: championship.

"That's absolutely the expectation, if you do not win a state championship here, you have not done … there's no consoling I can give them," Sanchez said. "Great job, great season, but in playoffs winning is what matters. And you have to have complete games in order for that to happen. I don't remember the last time we came out in the round of 16. It's really disheartening to see us go out this early because I really thought we had a team to compete for a title."

The team graduates three seniors: Perez Santiago, Karsseboom, and goalkeeper Alexis Gutierrez.

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