Boys soccer team looks for a return to the playoffs

The Sandy boys’ soccer team saw its 2012 season come to end when it fell to eventual-state champion, Woodburn, by two goals in the first round of the playoffs, and a wide array of emotions followed for the players who knew they would be back. They first felt disappointment that their season, which had its highs and lows, was over. Eventually, disappointment and depression gave way to a sense of accomplishment for what they were able to do. Finally, Sandy’s emotional roller coaster settled on optimism for what the next season would hold.

That next season has arrived, and that optimism has not flamed out. Sandy’s upperclassmen have harnessed the pain of last year’s playoff exit and have turned it into motivation. Led by that veteran group, the Pioneers have an opportunity make it back to the state tournament.

“We have a core of five or six seniors who have really made a big impact since they came into the program as freshmen,” head coach Garet Luebbert said. “A few of them played varsity right away, but they were all playing varsity by the time they were sophomores.”

That kind of experience will be huge for this Sandy team which will have some stiff tests throughout the year. Sandy opened the season on Friday at Corvallis, who went 7-4-3 last year. Corvallis is one of six schools on the Pioneers’ schedule that participated in the state tournament last year.

Sandy fell in that opening game at Corvallis, 3-0. The Pioneers’ main issue in that contest, and in many others in years past, was that they played decent defensively, but failed to take control offensively.

“Since I’ve been here, we have able get some athletes out there that can compete,” Luebbert said. “Usually we have been able to keep teams off the scoreboard, for the most part, but we just haven’t been able to score.”

The Pioneers are hopeful the shutout in the opener was just first-game rust. Their offense this year is seasoned and ready to turn things around.

“We have every single offensive player back but one,” Luebbert said. “We will be better on the offensive side of the ball.”

If Sandy is able to score with more regularity, and stays consistent defensively, it will have a chance to be in several close matches. How the Pioneers do in those one-goal contests will define their season.

The Pioneers did well in that department last year, going 5-1 in matches decided by one goal. They know how to win close matches. If they can keep more of them close this season, they are a group who could be dangerous in Northwest Oregon Conference play, and maybe in the playoffs.

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