NTMWD Plant Smart 2024

Baca leads East into new era for boys soccer

by | Jan 4, 2024 | Sports

Plano East enters a new chapter for their boys soccer program.

The Panthers have been coached by Rick Woodard for 27 years, but after last season, he decided it was time to turn over the program. In a statement after the season, Woodard reflected on what it meant to coach at East for all of these years.

“It was tough. For me, it’s always been about the boys,” Woodard said. “The wins and losses will come and that’s just the way my high school coach would talk to us about it — the wins and losses will come, but it’s about getting the boys ready to be successful. I’m really close with this group, lots of them. I think the last day of school when I see the boys for that last get-together, it’ll hit me then.”

Taking over for the Panthers is Taylor Baca, who’s coached at several programs over the last five years, most recently at Prosper High School. He brings a wealth of experience and success to the program, hoping to improve on an eight-win 2023 campaign.

“It’s an honor to coach a program like Plano East,” Baca said. “Coach Woodard did a great job and was here for a long time. I think it’s always a case that kids are ready for a change after a while. I told the kids from day one that we’re going to determine how things go. We’re setting the tempo and dictating the play.”

Through the start of his tenure, Baca and the Panthers have worked hard to prepare for the upcoming year. That was reflected in their opening scrimmage against Rock Hill on Friday, Dec. 8, as East came out on top with a 1-0 win.

With several new faces and a new system in place, it was a great step in the right direction for a team eager to make the playoffs.

“Over the course of the season, the team has grown a lot, better from day one,” Baca said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and compete in the postseason. Obviously, it’s a tough district were playing in, but we have high expectations for the season and what we can do.”

Part of that development from day one was the possession and pace Plano East played with in its opening scrimmage. The Panthers dominated the scoring chances and could have won by more on any other night. The team is getting better every day, and the Panthers are optimistic things will keep building with cohesion.

“Tactically we’re a lot better and more disciplined for sure,” Baca said. “The guys are learning and staying organized. They take instruction well. We played Prosper Rock Hill and dominated the game in almost every aspect.”

Leading the way for Plano East is Duncan Sullivan, a senior leader and District 6-6A’s reigning midfielder of the year. Already signed with Navy for his collegiate career, Sullivan leads a group of young players hoping to make their mark at the varsity level for the first time.

Ben Alexander, Ricardo Reyes and several other guys are showing positive signs, but coach Baca believes that the team effort is greater than their individual play.

“We’re pretty inexperienced as a group,” Baca said. “We don’t have a ton of guys with a lot of reps at this level, and it’s coming together really well for us. We’re conditioned well and we’re healthy. We feel ready to go and it’s just about putting those principles in play. Everyone is going to have to play their part this year.”

That first part begins Jan. 4-6 at the Rockwall tournament, with district play looming on Jan. 23 against Plano. To make a run at the postseason, Plano East will need to show its growth and prepare for the competitive games in just a few short weeks.

“There are games we have to believe we’re just as good as anyone in the district,” Baca said. “That belief will take us a long way and we have the talent to do it.”

By Kyle Grondin • [email protected]

For more stories like this, see the January 4, 2024 print, or digital edition of the Murphy Monitor. Subscribe today and support local journalism in your community.

Photos online

0 Comments

Public Notice - Subscribe

Related News

Plano East softball camp brings out the smiles

Plano East softball camp brings out the smiles

Ava Lamb fields the throw at first after a short hit during a fun competition on Thursday. The sun was shining, and the smiles were plentiful as the campers enjoyed their final day of the camp. (Austin Smith/Murphy Monitor) (More Photos) The Plano East softball...

read more
Future hoop stars pack PESH gym for youth camp

Future hoop stars pack PESH gym for youth camp

Zeke Benedetto dribbles the ball through a cone drill as Coach Shanda Tyler and camper Kiyn Bhavsar look on. Last week’s youth basketball camp had a terrific turnout. (Austin Smith/Murphy Monitor) (More Photos) While the future of Plano East softball was busy outside...

read more
Progress the theme to Panthers’ 7-on-7 work

Progress the theme to Panthers’ 7-on-7 work

Following the end of spring football in late-May, the Plano East’s skilled position players shifted their focus to 7-on-7. The Panthers have hit the field twice already, competing in Allen and Arlington. (Austin Smith/Murphy Monitor) (More Photos) While the calendar...

read more
Panthers close out spring with Black & Gold Game

Panthers close out spring with Black & Gold Game

Kariem Pittman (15) breaks loose in the open field for Plano East’s Black Team in last week’s spring game at Kimbrough Field. The Panthers put on a terrific showing for the crowd in their final action in pads until next fall. (Roosevelt Joubert/Murphy Monitor)...

read more
Plano East football holds spring scrimmage

Plano East football holds spring scrimmage

The Plano East football team held a scrimmage last Saturday, before concluding spring football sessions this week with the annual Black and Gold Spring Game. (Roosevelt Joubert/Murphy Monitor) (More Photos) It’s been an exciting spring for the Plano East football...

read more
PESH hunting for improvement in spring practices 

PESH hunting for improvement in spring practices 

The Plano East Panthers are several weeks into their spring football schedule, working hard in preparation for next fall. They will hold an intersquad scrimmage this Saturday, May 11, at 9 a.m. (Austin Smith/Murphy Monitor) (More Photos) Football is back at Plano...

read more
Panthers see tough season come to an end

Panthers see tough season come to an end

The Plano East Panthers have endured a frustrating spring on the baseball diamond. That season came to an end last week with a pair of losses to Coppell to drop them to 1-13 in the group. (Roosevelt Joubert/Murphy Monitor) (More Photos) The Plano East baseball season...

read more
PESH takes home district crown 

PESH takes home district crown 

The Plano East boys track team won the District 6-6A title at Marauder Stadium on Thursday, April 4. The Panthers edged out Coppell by a score of 129-113, with Marcus placing third (108 points) (Courtesy Photo) The Plano East track teams had quite the showing at the...

read more
40-0! Plano East completes perfect season with title 

40-0! Plano East completes perfect season with title 

The Plano East Panthers are the Class 6A State Champions after defeating Round Rock Stony Point 53-41. After opening the state tournament with a 61-45 victory over Lake Ridge, the guys earned their 40th victory of the season by winning the rematch with Stony Point to...

read more
Public Notice - Subscribe