By BRETT MARSHALL
All it took for the Garden City High School Lady Buffaloes volleyball team to get itself back on track was to see the Western Athletic Conference tournament on its schedule.
Saturday, the Lady Buffs went 4-0 for the second straight year to defend their 2011 championship, which was the first such title in five years.
For coach Sara Stecki, the unblemished mark came about as her team improved its defense throughout the one-day tournament, contested in Liberal this year.
"Their blocking finally clicked," Stecki said of her team's defense. "Everything had been going between them in the two weekend tournaments before, but Saturday, they were in position, moving and were doing a great job. I'm very proud of the team."
Host Liberal took runner-up honors, going 3-1, while Great Bend went 2-2, Hays 1-3 and Dodge City was 0-4.
The Lady Buffs opened with a 25-17, 25-12 straight set victory over Great Bend and then followed it with a hard-fought, three-set win over nemesis Dodge City, a team that had beaten them earlier this season in Garden City. Match scores were 25-17, 22-25, 25-19. Next up was Liberal, and the Lady Buffs took two close sets, 25-22, 25-22. In the final match of the day and the clinching title decision, the Lady Buffs dropped Hays in straight sets, 25-17, 25-17.
"Just all around, the girls were better," Stecki said. "They showed a lot of mental toughness, and even when they made some mistakes, didn't get down this time. It didn't bother them. They really played together as a team and when you do that, it makes things easier."
The Lady Buffs are now 18-12 overall and will play host on Tuesday to Goddard Eisenhower and Maize South at the GCHS Gymnasium. They will face Maize South at 4 p.m. and Eisenhower at 6 o'clock with the other teams playing at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the Lady Buffs will host the Class 6A sub-state tournament which will begin at 2 p.m.
On Saturday in Wichita, the Buffaloes boys soccer team claimed the fifth-place finish by whipping Berean Academy, 6-1.
The tournament was a late schedule addition for the Buffs and they did not compete in the opening round, thus automatically dropping them into the consolation bracket.
Win Ko scored two of the goals for the Buffs as they opened up a 3-0 halftime lead over the Warriors.
Erik Barragan opened the scoring for the Buffs with an unassisted goal in the eighth minute. Joel Sanchez made it 2-0 on another unassisted goal in the 15th minute. Ko, taking a cross from Joel Sanchez, upped the margin to 3-0 with a goal in the 25th minute.
The scoring onslaught would continue in the second half as David Fuentes got an unassisted goal in the 48th minute, Michael Reyes tallied a penalty kick in the 60th minute and Ko capped it off with an unassisted goal in the 70th minute.
The Buffs finished with 14 shots to Berean Academy's six. Carlos Luquin had four saves and Cesar Solorzano added two as the Buffs utilized their two goalkeepers.
The regular season finale for the boys was slated for today at 5:30 p.m. with a road trip to Hays to face TMP-Marian. After that, they will await pairings for the Class 6A state playoffs, which begin the week of Oct. 22. The GCHS boys are now 13-2 overall and recently went unbeaten in claiming the Western Athletic Conference championship.
In late Friday matches at the Class 6A state tournament in Prairie Village, the Lady Buffaloes' Claire Schmidt lost her consolation match, 9-4, to Kristen Fraley of Manhattan while the doubles team of Jannette Martinez/Kaylee Keller also fell in their consolation match, 9-1, to Malaina Piyassaphan and Irene Nicolae of Topeka-Washburn Rural.
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.