Bill Galka knows first hand the challenges of taking over for a legend when he succeeded Hall of Famer John Millar as Kearny’s boys soccer coach in 2006.
In the 18 seasons since, Galka has not only proven capable of handling that difficult task, but has created his own stellar resume with the Kardinals. The latest example came on Wednesday when Galka won his 300th career game as head coach with a 4-0 victory at North Bergen.
During his 18 years as head coach, Galka has won seven Hudson County championships, four North 1, Group 4 sectional titles and a pair of Group 4 state championships in 2017 and 2021.
Galka’s career record now stands at 301-57-21.
Win No. 301, a 6-0 victory over Memorial in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals on Saturday, has Galka and the Kardinals one win away from another county title.
That opportunity comes on Thursday at the state’s grandest soccer stage – Red Bull Arena.
For the third year in a row, Red Bull Arena will host the Hudson County Tournament finals for both boys and girls soccer. And just like in those previous years, the Kardinals out of nearby Soccertown U.S.A. will be in both games.
The Kearny boys will become the first team to win three-straight titles since the true county tournament format began in 2009 when it squares off with St. Peter’s Prep at 7:30 p.m..
St. Peter’s Prep, ranked No. 14 in the state by NJ.com, won the HCIAL American Division regular season title. The two teams split the regular season series with the Marauders pulling off a 1-0 overtime upset on Sept. 13 while the Kardinals responded with an equally surprising 5-0 thumping two weeks later.
St. Peter’s Prep defeated fourth-seeded Harrison, 1-0, in the semifinals on Saturday with the long goal coming in the 10th minute on a controversial free kick goal by Matt Sobreiro that some felt occurred without a whistle signaling the start of play.
On the girls side, Kearny has never lost the girls tournament as it aims for a 14th-straight title at 5 p.m. against top-seeded Bayonne. But unlike many of those previous champions, where there was little doubt that it would be a Kardinals coronation, this year’s matchup may be the most evenly-matched showdown between Kearny and Bayonne.
The Bees (12-2) have posted five consecutive games and steamrolled its competition by a 70-4 margin. Kearny, however, has plenty of momentum, winning four in a row after starting the year 0-7. The most recent of those wins was a 1-0 victory over North Bergen in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals with Olivia Covello’s first half goal being the difference.
The Kearny boys and girls are the only Observer-area soccer teams still standing in their respective county tournaments.
In the Essex County Tournament, Bloomfield defeated Glen Ridge, 2-1, in the first round on Wednesday, but saw its playoff run end two days later by a 4-0 margin to a Montclair team ranked 10th in the state. Belleville defeated Technology, 3-0, in the preliminary round before dropping a 1-0 decision at Montclair Kimberley in the first round. Nutley’s run ended in the preliminary round with a 5-1 loss at West Essex.
North Arlington’s run in the Bergen County Cup ended with a 2-1 loss at Emerson Boro in the semifinals on Wednesday.
In the Essex County Girls Soccer Tournament, 14th-seeded Bloomfield saw its upset hopes dashed when it lost a 1-0 overtime heartbreaker at third-seeded Montclair in the first round on Thursday. Two days earlier, the Bengals blew out Payne Tech, 6-0. Nutley got a huge 7-0 win over Newark Tech in the preliminary round before falling, 7-2, at West Orange, who is ranked No. 12 in the state. Belleville was defeated 6-0 in the preliminary round at Caldwell.
Lyndhurst’s Bergen County Invitational run ended in the semifinals with a 4-2 loss against Park Ridge on Sunday.
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Jason Bernstein | Observer Sports Writer
Jason Bernstein joined The Observer as its sports writer in March 2022, following the retirement of Jim Hague. He has a wealth of sports-writing experience, including for NJ Advance Media (nj.com, The Jersey Journal, The Star-Ledger.)