Boys' soccer program left without an offseason rudder for second straight year

   After just one season as the leader of boys' soccer in St. Helens, Oscar Monteblanco has decided not to return as the Lions' head coach. Monteblanco made the decision over the winter break, when he and his wife decided to sell their Beaverton home. In a letter last week, he let his players know he would be leaving and moving to Wilsonville.

“But not to take the Wilsonville job,” said Cyndy Miller, Athletics Director at St. Helens High School. “I made sure of that.”

The loss is a frustrating one for Miller, who said bringing in coaching talent to a rural school like St. Helens can prove difficult, as many of the coaches aren't willing to make the drive. The hard part is to get a coach to commit for three to four years, at which point they've had enough time to get the struggling program off the ground.

Even more frustrating is the fact that, though the Lions didn't pick up any victories in 2013, they were making definite progress. Games that, in previous years, had been lost by eight or nine goals were far more competitive.

“In most of those games, they were right in it,” said Miller.

The change is a huge turnaround from the previous season, and Monteblanco seemed to have captured the interest of the boys and stirred up the motivation to pursue soccer outside of the fall season. In an earlier interview, he spoke excitedly about several of the players that had committed to playing club soccer for groups in the Beaverton area in efforts to raise the overall “soccer IQ” of the team.

“Their hard work on and off the field forced me to be a better coach, and it was very well noticed by the entire league,” said Monteblanco. “I hope that my kids learned that it’s possible for a little school like St. Helens to compete with the big schools. It is matter of desire, dedication, and hard work. They proved to me that they can do it, and now they must continue to do it again.”

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens Athletic Director Cyndy Miller sits back and watches the action during the boys' basketball game against Liberty on Tuesday evening. Miller will now have to find a new boys' soccer coach, which isn't an easy task. However, though the team made significant progress and Monteblanco stated his reason for leaving was strictly to do with the logistics of his commute, things weren't exactly peachy during his stay in St. Helens. In a previous interview, Monteblanco expressed discontentment with the lack of priority time and space given to the St. Helens varsity boys' soccer team. The field would often be so torn up after junior varsity football practice that it was difficult and dangerous to play on, prompting him to wonder if games would be better off played at a different location. It didn't make sense, he said, to let the junior varsity football team use the field and make it un-playable just before a varsity game in another sport.

The focus on football during the fall and a relative lack of a “soccer culture” in St. Helens adds to the difficulty in finding a good coach for the Lions that will stick around, according to Miller. Coaches tend to stay only one or two years before moving on, making a stable program not much more than a faint possibility.

Miller said she asked Monteblanco to help her in her search for a new coach, knowing that he has connections around the state at the high school and college levels. Miller also mentioned that Monteblanco may be a candidate for the head mens' soccer position at Chemeketa Community College in Salem, a school and program Monteblanco is familiar with, as he was the coach enlisted to build the womens’ soccer program in 2008. Chemeketa Athletic Director did not return request for comment on Monteblanco's candidacy, but Monteblanco did mention in an email that he would be sitting down with the college to discuss the possibility.

“I will be meeting with Chemeketa Community College soon to talk about the mens' (soccer coaching) job,” he said. “I worked at CCC in the past with the womens’ program, and I had a great time and experience there. Again, there is nothing official at this time.”

One person is definitely off the list of possible coaches for the boys' team: the head coach of the girls' program, Simon Date, who is in his second year. Date confirmed that he had been approached regarding his interest in the position, but turned it down, saying he had “zero” interest.

“I'm two years into a 10-year project,” he said.

Date said he would be helping Miller in her search for a new coach, as did Monteblanco, who mentioned a desire to remain in contact as a soccer resource for his former team for years to come.

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