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Finberg to guide Woodstock Academy boys prep soccer program in 2023-24

The numbers that Owen Finberg has produced as head coach of the boys soccer prep program at South Kent School in Western Connecticut have been phenomenal.

Since 2015, the Cardinals have a 132-6-13 record on the field.

They were named national champions by for a third consecutive year in 2022, the sixth time overall the Cardinals received it since it was initially awarded in 2011.

Just as importantly, for the last 15 years, Finberg’s players have achieved 100 percent college placement including 11 playing for Division I programs in 2021 and ’22.

Beginning this fall, he will bring that elite level soccer program to Woodstock Academy.

“I’m really excited to continue to build on the program that I’ve been working to establish as one of the best in the country for the last 20 years and I think Woodstock Academy is the ideal place to continue that growth,” Finberg said.

There is a difference between South Kent and Woodstock Academy.

The Cardinals are a New England Prep School Athletic Council member and, as such, the soccer season takes place in the fall.

At Woodstock Academy, the prep soccer program is independent and can train and play year-round.

“One hundred percent,” Finberg said when asked if that was one of the primary reasons why the Woodstock Academy prep program attracted him.

“I purposely didn’t look at any NEPSAC schools as I looked for my next job and next career opportunity. I had some professional opportunities, some MLS Next sporting director roles and certainly some other schools that I looked at as well, but the opportunity to train and compete year-round and to have the type of program that a high-level student-athlete is searching for, not only domestically but internationally, was key for me to choose this role. The independent nature of it is a real benefit,” he added.

Finberg was chosen the National Coach of the Year by the National Soccer Coaches of America in 2015 and was named the Small School Prep Coach of the Year 10 times during his tenure at South Kent. He has also worked with numerous other soccer entities such as U.S. Soccer’s Olympic Development Program.

The Woodstock Academy head of school Chris Sandford couldn’t be happier.

The school began an association with Global Education Sports Partners two years ago and it has been a successful venture.

“We’re taking the next step,” Sandford said. “I want to thank those who have been involved with the program for the first two years and got it going. We owe them a lot of gratitude and credit. Now, we’re ready to take the next step in the soccer world.”

What is the next step?

“It’s the caliber of student, the diversity of the student population and what happens when that student leaves the Academy,” Sandford said. “Wins and losses are important, I will be the first to say that, because if you win, you get a better caliber student. It’s in the cycle. The legacy that they will leave in their life based on our school, our program, our academic program, what we have provided them and how we’ve helped them be more successful.”

Finberg echoes those sentiments.

“I’m very excited to give student-athletes a very high-level., year-round soccer program combined with an excellent education to prepare them to be a high-level collegiate student-athlete. I’ve shown a great deal of success in doing that and I think the support and environment at Woodstock Academy is only going to help that to continue to grow and flourish,” the veteran coach said.

The competitive schedule likely will not change all that much from what it has been for the last two years.

The Centaurs will continue to play primarily prep and independent programs in the fall and then play more club competition against MLS Next programs, other top-level clubs, and college showcases and tournaments in the winter and spring.

“The path for the majority of our guys is going to be to move to NCAA institutions but we’re certainly going to have guys with the capability and desire who can, ultimately, achieve their desire of playing professionally as well,” Finberg said.

He has coached 18 players who have done so including the No. 4 pick in the 2023 Major League Soccer Superdraft, Joshua Bolma, who was chosen by the New England Revolution.

“I think the future (of the program) will be dictated by some forces from outside the Academy, obviously, but in reality, once Owen comes on campus and becomes part of our community – he’s building a program from afar at the moment- I think the future is boundless. I think we can do almost anything. Could we start hosting tournaments ourselves? Do we become a mecca for soccer? Like people who move to the area for our academic program, do people move to the area to become part of the soccer program? Parents travel based on the athletic prowess of the student. I don’t know what the future holds but I’m excited for it,” Sandford said.