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Garcia returns as head coach for North Medford girls

North Medford didn't have to look far to find a replacement for Lu Crenshaw as head coach of its girls soccer team.

The school landed her stepfather, Rich Garcia, who served as an assistant to Crenshaw during her three years at the helm, to keep the program headed in the right direction.

It also got someone with a good bit of experience: Garcia built a glossy record as the North boys coach for 13 years before stepping down after the 2004 season.

"I'd been doing it for so long, I really didn't think I'd get back into it," said Garcia following the announcement of his hiring Friday.

But a neighbor's daughter's 8-under team needed a coach in the spring of 2005, and there he was back on the sidelines. Although he hasn't been a high school head coach since leaving the Tornado boys, he has been on the sidelines each year, giving him nearly 30 years of mentoring at some level.

"I kind of got the bug again," he said.

Garcia takes over a team on the rise. Under Crenshaw, a former North player, the Tornado had two conference runner-up finishes, then won the Southwest Conference title this past fall. She was named coach of the year.

A solid group of core players will return, and Crenshaw wanted to make sure that what she started remained in good hands.

Back will be two-time all-conference goalie Kendra McMillen, second-team all-leaguers McKenna Storey and Sarah Chambers and Kate Folsom, who received honorable mention. There are a couple other veterans returning along with four players — Chambers among them — who started this past season as freshmen.

"It makes for a very seamless transition," said Tim Sam, North athletic director, "and the good news is there's just a lot of support in the girls soccer program for Rich. I heard from a lot of the girls, parents and community members, and that made it a really easy choice."

There were five applicants for the position, said Sam.

Crenshaw told her team at season's end of her decision. She and Garcia had discussed him taking over, and they told the team he would be applying.

"She was really happy I said yes and that I'd keep on with the girls," said Garcia, who admitted he gained much perspective on how to coach and relate to girls as Crenshaw's aide.

Under Garcia, the North boys made it to the state finals in 1996 and the semifinals in 1995. They were in the playoffs 10 times, won conference titles in 1994 and 2003, and he was named Southern Oregon Conference coach of the year in 2003.

Garcia has worked at North for 17 years, most of them in campus security.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com