Wholehearted Whiteman: A Look Into The Golden Age Of Woodburn Soccer And The Woman Leading The Charge

Woodburn — Unlike their male counterparts, Woodburn has struggled to become an established program throughout their soccer history, which have been defined by a mix of mediocrity and being in the cellar. In the 2017-18 season, the Bulldogs got a new coach, one who had been doing work with soccer at a local middle school within the Woodburn SD and decided to take a crack with the broken program. Her name would become one forever enshrined in Woodburn history as the woman who took them from nothing to the top of the world, Andrea Whiteman. Before becoming a Bulldog legend, Whiteman ran Philomath’s JV program for two years and the head job for a single year, eventually taking a teaching job in Woodburn. Whiteman was also a member of Philomath’s 2008 state championship soccer team, the only state title for the Warriors to this day. Her winning pedigree as a player and brushes of coaching experience would be tested as the head honcho at Woodburn from the get go!

When she first arrived, the program was coming off a 3-9-2 season where they finished near the bottom of their conference like had become customary at Woodburn. It wasn’t really her program when she started, as she had to develop relationships with the existing players and get them to buy into her as a coach and her system of play. Whiteman had much work to do and it started by developing a new attitude and culture for the program, with the results on the field to come with it. As the team started to believe in their new leader and her system, it brought an opportunity to play-in to the state playoffs and a 6-8-1 record. The defense was improved, but the offense still endured a five game scoreless streak mid-season, hindering the momentum built from their 4-2 start. Key players Bailey Castro and Carla Zamora began to blossom in their new roles and it was setting up for breakout junior seasons for the pair, which led to their position as program leaders the next two years.

The 2018 season was the breakthrough moment for Woodburn, bringing success that had not been seen in years and showing the mental toughness of a program that had some low moment matches in the year, including being blasted 8-1 by rival North Marion and a 5-1 defeat to conference rival Philomath. However, they fielded a massively improved team that was competitive in almost every game, resulting in their first playoff berth in a long time. They would fall 3-1 to Valley Catholic, but the experience and inspiration of the 2018 campaign prepared them for what would happen in 2019, something that would stun all of 4A and every preps journalist in the state.

Their highest point of this golden era started with an awful low, as they got rolled 7-0 by rival North Marion due mostly to an illness and injury ravaged team to start the season. However, as they healed back to health, the results started to come in the form of a seven match winning streak and nine consecutive games without a loss. After a sobering 4-2 loss to Stayton, the Lady Bulldogs never looked back, going undefeated into the state playoffs while taking out Valley Catholic and #1 Gladstone. In the semifinals, they faced a rematch with rival North Marion, except this time it was in front of a packed stadium in Woodburn and it was a beauty of a game. After a scoreless first half, Myranda Marquez delivered the first goal early in the second half, giving the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead. Litzy Gonzalez drilled another three minutes later, making it 2-0 Woodburn, then Yahaira Rodriguez put the nail on the coffin with a goal making it 3-0 before winning 3-1 and advancing to their first state championship in school history.

Rodriguez took advantage of a defensive mistake by Marist about ten minutes in to the state title game, allowing her to put Woodburn ahead 1-0 in a tight state championship battle. In the second half, Woodburn was facing increased pressure when star goalie Carla Zamora was injured, forcing Bailey Castro into the net in such a high stakes scenario. Not only did she make the save of the night while in the net, but it ultimately set the stage for Zamora’s return and Woodburn’s ultimate victory, defeating Marist 1-0 and winning their first state championship in school history. Whiteman’s leadership, development skills, and investment in the Lady Bulldogs finally paid off with a state title, three years into inheriting a bottom of the barrel program. With their first title, it has cemented Woodburn as a power in the soccer arena for the first time, and forced the rest of the state to take notice.

After an 18 month hiatus from competition, Woodburn got put in a mixed 4A/5A slate with schools around the Valley, resulting in 4-3-2 campaign entering the state tournament. In the playoffs, Woodburn was paired with rival North Marion in the opening round, with the Huskies getting revenge on the Bulldogs from the 2019 4A Semifinals, winning 3-2 and ultimately a state title over Marist for their first title in school history. It was a surprising exit for Woodburn, but the fall came and Whiteman’s program was back in business seeking their second ring in three years. Once again, defense took center stage and an undefeated regular season commenced as the Bulldogs took home the Oregon West Championship for the first time in 20 years, another milestone reached by Whiteman as the lead Bulldog. After surviving North Valley in PK’s along with shutting out La Grande and upsetting #1 Gladstone again, Woodburn finds themselves battling for a state title on Saturday evening in Hillsboro against the Hidden Valley Mustangs. For the Bulldogs, they believe in themselves to pull it off and take home another ring, and Whiteman has been adequately preparing them for this moment all season. She is already a Woodburn legend, one that deserves credit for rising them from the ashes and into glory, with a second title likely making her arguably the best coach in Oregon. No one does more with what she has than Coach Whiteman, and that alone deserves a statue outside Woodburn High School with a plaque of everything she has done for the program in such a short time.

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