Now Galway can breathe a little easier. At least until its first postseason game.
The Eagles beat Mekeel Christian Academy, 1-0, Monday to wrap up the Northern Division title and the best overall record in the Western Athletic Conference, their fourth straight one-goal win over a division rival to close a 13-1-0 league season.
“Historically, all the WAC champions have come from that group of four teams,” said second-year Galway head coach Rob Martin of the North, which included his Eagles, the Lions, Northville and Mayfield. The league went from to two to three divisions this season.
“We felt our division would be the most competitive from the start,” said senior forward Josh Bailey, whose 16 goals helped the Eagles to a 15-1-0 overall record. “It shows through the
season. The North teams didn’t lose a lot of games against the other two divisions.”
Galway, Mekeel (11-3-0) and Mayfield (9-5-0) all went 7-1-0 against the rest of the WAC. Northville, which finished 6-6-2, went 6-0-2 against the Central and South, but dropped all six division games, four of them going to overtime.
Monday’s win gave Galway a clean sweep of its six North games. But with all of the goal-scoring potential on the field — Bailey and Mekeel’s talented trio of twin brothers Kenny and Tai Aderounmu and T.K. Majekodunmi — it was a defensive misplay that decided the game, as the Lions (11-3-0) knocked the ball into their own net attempting to defend a corner kick with 15:41 to play in the first half.
“A win is a win. As long as the ‘1’ was on the right side of the scoreboard,” said Bailey, who dueled with Kenny Aderounmu all game.
“I’d rather have a game where we could play a little more,” said Martin. “The skill level of their three best players is so high that we had to play very defensively. We didn’t have much opportunity to move the ball. We were relieving a lot of pressure.
“They probably had 60 to 70 percent of play. I’d rather have a game where we could play the ball around and play more of our typical game, play the width.”
Galway surrounded Tai Aderounmu every time he got the ball, and goalkeeper Evan Ceroalo was in position to gather any shot that made it through.
“It’s not an excuse, but I think we were a little tired,” said Mekeel coach Andrew Lehning. “We only have 13 players, and we had a tough, physical game at Mayfield on Saturday night. I think, by the end, it caught up to us.”
An early-season postponement pushed both Galway vs. Meekel games to the last week of the schedule. Galway took a 3-2 overtime win last Wednesday,
the second of three such consecutive results heading into Monday’s match. The Eagles got past Northville on Saturday night in their homecoming game.
“When we finished the game Wednesday, we said. ‘OK. We have a piece of the pie,’ ” Martin said. “Then we had Saturday, and we had half of the pie. Today, we needed to come out and win to get the whole thing.
“There was an intent to want to win, but when I stepped on the field with the guys, I didn’t know if they really felt it. Obviously, Saturday was a big thing for them. We had 300 people here, and you never see that at a Galway game. That probably weighed on them a lot.
“Mayfield, Mekeel, Northville, Mekeel was not the easiest way to end the season. We kind of went through the gauntlet.”
For Bailey and the other seniors, a division title in the first year of a three-division WAC was one goal.
“We started working toward this a week or two after last season ended,” he said. “We played pickup games every weekend.”
Four straight pressure games should ready the Eagles for the upcoming Class C tournament. Galway should be one of the top four seeds when the brackets are drawn up today.
“Playing better competition helps us get better and prepares us for sectionals,” said Bailey.
“We should be a good seed, but the C’s are deep,” said Martin.
“I think what we need most it a couple of days to rest,” said Lehning. “We’ll see what happens from there.”