Jim Todd took a moment to himself to wade through the emotions following a season-ending loss to Colfax.
As the girls swirled around him, unlacing their boots and packing their bags, the longtime girls soccer coach at East Union dropped to a knee and fought back the tears.
Finally, Todd thanked the players for their effort and accomplishments over the years and challenged the non-seniors to continue a culture of winning.
See, that loss to Colfax in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV semifinal round last Wednesday wasn’t just the last for the senior class.
It was the final chapter for Todd and assistant coach Juan Sandoval. The two had said this would be their last season at the helm of the program before the Lancers’ postseason run, and as the lights at Dino Cunial Field dimmed, they kept their promise.
“It was like a dream come true,” Todd said. “It’s been a lot of fun; been quite a run. But it’s just time. Both us looked at where we were at in our lives and decided it was time. We both love coaching.”
East Union athletic director J.J. Ramirez said Todd had hinted at retirement last spring, but stayed on to see this senior class through.
“Soccer has taken away from his job – the ministry,” Ramirez said, “and he wanted to spend more time with that as well as his grandkids.”
It’s been a brilliant run.
In seven seasons under Todd, East Union won 67 percent of its games and accumulated an overall record of 110-36-19. In that time, the Lancers were 66-24-10 in the Valley Oak League, arguably the section’s deepest and toughest field.
“He’s meant a lot to this program,” Ramirez said of Todd. “He’s put together a string of successful seasons where expected a lot of the girls, building it from what it was to what it is now.
“A lot of girls come to East Union and want to play soccer. We’ve always been good and I think it has a lot to do with him as to why they’ve been so successful.”
Ramirez has already received inquiries about the opening and will field letters of interest and resumes over the next 10 days. After that, he’ll begin the interview process with his top candidates. Ramirez has asked that coaches e-mail him their information at email@example.com.
“We’re looking for someone that has coached before, has a lot of knowledge of the game and that will get them to the next level,” Ramirez said. “The core that is coming back is strong and they get Regina Dias back; she was a big part of what they did the season before. Someone coming in, there’s a lot of expectation on them.”
(Dias is a junior midfielder who tore the ACL in her left knee during the final game of the 2012 Valley Oak League season. She did not play this spring.)
Todd set the standard.
East Union has been the model of consistency since Todd was elevated from the junior varsity team in 2007 to replace Vince Meyer.
Todd and Sandoval had just one losing season in 2009 (9-13-3), but rebounded with four straight years of 16 wins or more. The Lancers’ 20 wins this spring were the most during Todd’s tenure.
The last two seasons have been among the most productive in program history.
East Union reached the Division IV tournament’s semifinal round this spring, hosting a pair of playoff games as the No. 1 overall seed. The Lancers finished 20-2-2 overall, 11-1-2 in VOL play with its only loss a 2-1 decision to eventual champion Kimball.
East Union won its only VOL championship under Todd and Sandoval in 2012, amassing a 13-0-1 record in league.
“The program has improved since he’s been in there,” Sierra coach Manuel Pires said. “… Rivalry or not, I think he’s a good guy and he did everything he could to bring that program up.”
Ramirez attributed some of the program’s success to Sandoval, Todd’s assistant and longtime friend. In recent years, Todd pushed hard to make Sandoval – a tactician – a co-head coach, realizing his impact on the program.
“Juan has been a big part in all of this,” Ramirez said. “I know they’ve always wanted to be called co-head coaches. Juan has been one of those guys who got girls where they needed to be. They teamed up and did a great job doing it.”