The Mission Prep boys soccer team could’ve been content to not play this week.
But the Royals, who won the CIF-Central Section Division V championship Feb. 26 to polish off a 23-0 season, wanted to take on one more challenge. They got one Monday afternoon, falling 3-0 to Animo Leadership of Inglewood at St. Joseph High in the opening round of the Southern California Division III regional postseason.
“It was a little deflating,” second-year Mission Prep coach Bob Galarneau said of the defeat. “But we put our unbeaten record on the line, rather than just saying we were done (after sectionals).”
The sixth-seeded Aztec Eagles (25-6-2), who feature three players with U17 national-team experience, got all three of their scores in the final 15 minutes of play.
“This team was able to break us down like nobody else could,” Galarneau said.
For the earlier portion of the game, third-seeded Mission Prep (23-1) played in a 4-5-1 formation to try to stave off Animo Leadership’s attack, but in the second half opted to press matters instead of conservatively playing for a regulation tie, going to a 4-4-2 alignment.
“You can lose 3-0 that way or 1-0 sitting back,” Galarneau said of going for the win. “They were able to exploit us being aggressive.”
Goalkeeper Joey Miller made 12 saves in defeat, eight of which came before halftime.
After the loss, Galarneau stressed to his players to remember the banner season, the first undefeated campaign in program history. The Royals, who finished the year having scored 91 goals against just 12 allowed, and had a handful of players amongst the Central Section statistical leaders all season, will be moving to the Southern Section as an independent in all sports next year.
This season saw Mission Prep claim five victories over nearby Los Padres League opponents and two over PAC 7 foes. The Royals also won the Silver Division “A” bracket championship at the loaded Garces Holiday Soccer Festival in Bakersfield in December.
“I said, ‘This is gravy, coming to this (regional) tournament,’ ” Galarneau said. “They had so much opportunity and potential, and they didn’t squander it one bit. They should be proud of themselves. Going 23-0 for the first time in school history, winning (a divisional championship), all that stuff, it may never happen again.”