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WYTHEVILLE –– When Galax boys’ soccer coach Troy Barkley asked his team to come up with a list of goals at the start of the season, ‘reach state tournament’ found its way somewhere on the list. The team winning its first 20 matches did not.
They got that one anyway.
Galax improved to 20-0 and punched its ticket to the Group A tournament with a dominant second-half effort, overwhelming Giles 5-1 at George Wythe High School’s Pendleton Field.
The Spartans scored a tying goal three minutes into the second half but the deadlock only seemed to energize the Maroon Tide, which found the net twice in the next eight minutes to take any comeback winds out of the Spartans’ sails.
“Not taking anything away from Giles but that was poor defense by us,” Barkley said of the Spartan goal. “Sometimes it takes a kick in the rear-end to get us going, and we start playing.”
Garrett Lee kept control of the ball amid a trio of Galax defenders in front of the Galax goal, eventually scoring on a left-footed grounder.
Four minutes later, a Galax corner kick sailed through and resulted in a Tide throw-in near the opposite corner. Felix Medina fed Junior Espinosa in front of the Giles goal, and the Tide forward put it away for the go-ahead goal.
Four minutes after that one came a beauty of a scoring play as Oliver Gonzales sailed a long lead from some 40 yards forward to Andres Medina just inside the 18. Medina deftly skipped the ball off his head and past a helpless Carson Journell for a 3-1 lead.
Barkley agreed that Galax picked up the intensity following the Lee goal. In addition to the four goals, the Tide put five more shots on goal in the second half after managing just three in the first 40 minutes, it cut the offsides calls from four to one and was whistled for nine of its 10 fouls after intermission.
“We talked about that in the second half,” he said. “We’re trying to get where we’re playing consistently for 80 minutes. We can play good soccer, but when you get into these later rounds, you have to play for the whole 80 minutes. That’s what we’re constantly talking about.”
Andres Medina struck again with 17 minutes remaining. Espinosa chipped ahead to Medina near the top of the 18, and Medina dribbled among two Giles defenders before placing a soft shot off the outside of his right foot and just inside the right post.
Gonzales capped the scoring with nine minutes showing, receiving a Medina centering pass and one-timing the ball from about 25 yards out, using the right post to ricochet the shot into the goal.
“This bunch is just resilient,” Barkley said. “They won’t quit. We’ve been down a couple of times, and even when we’ve played poorly we’ve found ways to win games. I think we’re peaking at the right time, and I think a lot of it has to do with all the injuries we’ve had to face. Now we’re getting people healthy again, and it’s just starting to click. I’m real proud of my boys.”
Next up is everybody’s favorite nemesis, Radford, in the region finals. That match is set for 12:30 today (Friday) in Wytheville.
Galax 5, Giles 1
Halftime – Galax 1, Giles 0.
Scoring: Gx – M.Carranza 17’ (unassisted); Gi – Lee 43’ (unassisted); Gx – Espinosa 47’ (F.Medina); Gx – A.Medina 51’ (Gonzales); Gx – A.Medina 63’ (Espinosa); Gx – Gonzales 71’ (A.Medina).
Shots (on goal) 5(3) 21(12)
Fouls 11 10
Corner kicks 0 4
Offsides 0 6
Yellow cards 1 0
Red cards 0 0
Saves 7 2
Yellow cards – Journell (Giles).
Saves – Journell (Giles) 7, Solis (Galax) 2.