Head coach Luis Del Rio wanted his troops to have a singular focus last fall: team achievement. A change in philosophy was necessary as Woodburn had piled up plenty of individual accolades over the years, but they failed to translate it into postseason success.
“I never saw [a full team effort] in previous teams,” says the third-year coach. “It’s not about single players. We tried to put that in their heads all year.”
The move paid off as the Bulldogs qualified for the postseason for the 24th consecutive season and advanced to the Class 5A championship game. After coming up short in three previous trips to the finals, Woodburn erased its past struggles with a thrilling 2-1 victory over Corvallis.
So what’s the plan for this season? With a team-first mentality firmly ingrained in the minds of the returning players, the coaching staff will shift its attention to increasing the competition level for a repeat bid. That effort begins with Del Rio’s son Luis Angel and senior classmate Juan Martinez.
The younger Del Rio was tough to beat in net last season and continued his stellar play in the finals, taking home ODS Player of the Game honors after recording 11 saves. His 6-foot-3 frame and athleticism was a factor for a squad that allowed 14 goals and posted seven clean sheets last fall. Martinez was the team’s leading scorer (19 goals) and netted Woodburn’s first tally just 17 minutes into the finals. Several younger players will be expected to fill voids across the roster, but coach Del Rio is confident his seniors can get them on board in time for another deep postseason run.
“We have that pressure on us to respond to the competition and defend our championship,” he says. “We will do the best we can and represent the school the best we can.”