As the weeks went by and the pressure kept mounting, the question remained.
Could the Mission Prep boys soccer team run the table and finish undefeated?
The question was answered Feb. 26 when the Royals defeated Woodlake 1-0 on a Noah Munds goal to win the CIF-Central Section Division 5 championship, capping a spectacular 23-0 season.
Behind the goalkeeping of standout Joey Miller and the offensive creativity of Neal Hetzel and Aryan Eslambolipour, Mission Prep outscored opponents 91-12.
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Miller collected 14 shutouts on the season.
The Royals could have been content to sit on their perfect season, but they didn’t.
Receiving an invite to play in the Southern California Division III regional championships, Mission Prep accepted the challenge of Animo Leadership of Inglewood. The Aztec Eagles featured three players with U17 national team experience.
After a scoreless first half, the Royals opted to play more aggressively. The strategy backfired as Animo Leadership scored three second-half goals to win 3-0.
After the loss, coach Bob Galarneau stressed to his players to remember the banner season, the first undefeated campaign in program history.
“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.”