By BRETT MARSHALL
All season long, the Garden City Lady Buffs golf team has been chasing the Maize Lady Eagles.
On Monday, at the Class 6A regional tournament at Hutchinson's Carey Park Golf Course, the Lady Buffs made another run, coming within five shots (345 to 340), good enough for a runner-up finish, and qualify for next Monday's state tournament on their home course at Buffalo Dunes.
Leading the way for the Lady Buffs was senior Abbi Shaddix, whose 1-over-par 72 claimed the top individual honor by six shots over Maize's Taelyn Entriken (78). They were the only two golfers to break 80 on a day characterized by gusty wind, intermittent rain showers and a short downpour.
"All in all, it was a great day," said GCHS coach Melinda Base. "We beat our best score by three shots here the last time we played. It was just cold and windy and not an easy day to play."
Shaddix fired nines of 37-35 at Carey Park, and said that the round was solid, but nothing special.
"I was able to place the ball well off the tee and I didn't put myself into any bad positions," Shaddix said. "The weather was a factor, but everybody had the same conditions."
Shaddix, who was sixth individually a year ago at the state tournament at Rolling Hills Country Club in Wichita, said she had four birdies in her round, countered by some misplaced shots as well.
"I hit some close ones but with four birdies it could've been better," Shaddix said. "It's a very happy feeling, especially with the team qualifying. Lindsay (Bradstreet) and Kendra (Martin) had their personal bests and that helped us out a lot."
The Lady Buffs were buoyed by the play of freshman Daniell Gaspar, whose 88 was good for sixth individually while Bradstreet, a sophomore, was right behind with an 89 for seventh place. Martin's 96 was the final score to count in the Lady Buffs' total. Megan Steward and Hannah Leiker had scores of 101 and 111.
"I'm real excited to have a chance to play the state tournament at home my senior year," said Shaddix, the two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year. "There is some pressure, but it's exciting at the same time. I'll have family, friends there and they get to experience it with me."
For Base, it was near-miss of overtaking Maize. The Lady Buffs had a six shot lead on the Lady Eagles after nine holes, but Maize answered with an 11-shot rally over the final nine holes.
"The girls are playing with more confidence and I'm looking forward to seeing that carry over to the state tournament," Base said. "The girls can draw on the experience of last year's state tournament."
All but Gaspar competed in the 2012 state tournament when the Lady Buffs finished fifth.
The Buffaloes' boys soccer team continued its torrid play on Monday, defeating host Wichita North in the opening round of the North Cup at the Wichita Soccer Complex.
The Buffs got two goals from junior Eric Barragan, the first on an assist from David Amaro in the 20th minute, putting them up 1-0.
North answered in the 45th minute with an unassisted goal from Andre Van Es, making it 1-all at halftime.
The Buffs came out strong in the second half, getting what proved to be the game-winner from Barragan in the 70th minute on an assist by Alex Vasquez. Marco Morales put icing on the victory with an unassisted goal in the 76th minute.
"It's always important to get the first win in a tournament," said GCHS coach Joaquin Padilla. "That puts you in the semifinals."
That will be at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday against either Wichita Trinity Academy or Wichita West, which were scheduled for a later game on Monday.
"I think we played better than when we started the season and we're moving in the right direction," Padilla said. "We want to peak at the right time, getting ready for the last couple of weeks of the season."
The game was played on natural grass and rain had softened the field prior to the pitch.
"We do play better on turf, but we've played on grass lately, too," Padilla said. "As long as we're winning, we're OK. We can play on either surface."
Padilla said he liked the way the team came out and competed from the outset.
"We played aggressive as a team, moved the ball well and outshot them," Padilla said. "Some of the little changes we made are paying off. We're trying to move people around and getting people in the right positions."
A win on Wednesday would put the Buffs into the 3 p.m. Saturday championship game at North High School. A loss would drop them into the third-place game at 1 p.m.
Garden City 1 2 -- 3
Wichita North 1 0 -- 1
GC--Eric Barragan, assist David Amaro, 20th minute
WN--Andre Van Es, unassisted, 45th minute
GC--Barragan, Alex Vasquez assist, 70th minute
GC--Marco Morales, unassisted, 76th minute.
Shots--Garden City 11, Wichita North 9. Saves--Israel Reyes 7, Edgar Torres 5.