By BRETT MARSHALL
At Dodge City on Saturday, none of the other four Western Athletic Conference schools were going to make a three-peat easy for the Garden City Lady Buffs volleyball team.
And they didn't.
But, in the final analysis, the Lady Buffs left Dodge City with their third consecutive WAC championship by winning all four of their matches.
"The girls played pretty well, and I'm extremely proud of them," GCHS coach Shandra Sanders said. "There were a couple of times during the day where the nerves got to them, but they calmed down and regrouped and got back to playing really good volleyball."
It didn't come without a fight from Great Bend, Liberal, Dodge City and Hays.
In their opening match of the day, the Lady Buffs fell in the first set to Great Bend 25-15 before answering with set wins of 27-25 and 25-22 over the Lady Panthers.
Taylor Linenberger was one of the key performers for Sanders with 9 kills and 4.5 blocks. Erika Schafer had 8 kills, while Erin Kuneyl and Jacksenie Tornero led with 9 and 8 assists. Jaymie Bernbeck and Taryn Tempel had a pair of aces in serving. Jamie St. Clair and Tempel led with 11 and 9 digs.
In their next match, another three-set thriller, the Lady Buffs once again lost the opener 24-26 before answering with 25-19, 25-18 wins in the final two sets.
Schafer led in kills with 11, while Bernbeck added 9. Linenberger and Bernbeck had 3 aces each and topped the blocks effort with 3 and 2. Tornero led with 17 assists. St. Clair was high in digs with 8.
Then, taking on host Dodge City, the Lady Buffs rolled to a 25-9 first-set win, but then dropped the middle set 25-19. They responded with a 25-19 triumph to move to 3-0 before their final match with Hays. Tornero and Bernbeck each had 3 aces against the Lady Red Demons. Linenberger and Schafer topped the kill effort with 9 and 7, respectively. Tornero and Kuneyl had 14 and 9 assists. Tornero, Bernbeck and Tempel had 6 digs each.
"We knew that everybody was out for us," Sanders said of the tough matches. "The only team we hadn't beaten handily before was Great Bend. The first set against Dodge City we were firing on all cylinders. The way we played today was about our team and how they played together."
In their final match, after assuring themselves of the title by virtue of wins over the other three schools and Hays with more than one loss, the Lady Buffs finally swept a match, topping the Lady Indians 25-20 and 25-21.
Linenberger led the team with 9 kills while Schafer and Tempel added 6 each. Linenberger and Bernbeck each had 2 blocks. Kuneyl had 13 assists to lead the Buffs in that category while Tempel led the digs category with 8.
For the four matches, Bernbeck led in aces with 8, Linenberger was tops in kills with 34 while Schafer was close behind with 32. Linenberger had 10.5 blocks to lead GCHS while St. Clair and Tempel topped the digs effort with 29 and 27, respectively. Tornero and Kuneyl led in assists with 49 and 41.
The Lady Buffs will be on the road Tuesday for a just-recently scheduled dual match at 5 p.m. with Maize South. That will be their final regular-season match before traveling on Saturday to Hutchinson for the Class 6A sub-state. They improved their season mark to 23-11.
At Maize on Saturday, the Garden City Lady Buffs tennis squad had its Class 6A state tournament experience short-circuited early as both the doubles team of Claire Schmidt and Shai Cartmill, and singles player Jannette Martinez, lost both of their respective matches one day after the start of the tournament was delayed by rain and cold temperatures on Friday.
Schmidt and Cartmill fell in their opening match, after receiving a first-round bye, to Wichita East's Erin Courington and Alea Surender 6-4, 6-1.
That dropped them into the consolation side of the bracket where they lost a heartbreaking tiebreaker to Lauren Benjamin and Amanda Rebori of Shawnee Mission Northwest 9-8 (9-7).
"In their first match, they just didn't play like they had been," said GCHS coach Rod Robinson. "A little nerves of being at state, not being patient in some cases. But they played so much better in the second match, but just couldn't quite get that winning point."
But the Lady Buffs' doubles team will return next year as Schmidt will be a senior and Cartmill a junior for the 2014 season. They finished the year with a 29-10 record and a regional championship medal.
It also was a tough day for Martinez, a senior making her second state appearance. She lost in straight sets (6-0, 6-0) to Katy Fries of Blue Valley West. That dropped her into the consolation bracket where she was dropped 9-3 by Tessa Ziu of Olathe Northwest.
"I knew it would be a tough draw and I just went out and tried my best," Martinez said after her first match. "I'm glad I made it to state. That was one of my goals."
Martinez finished the season with a record of 24-15.
The Buffs soccer team finally had its crazy week's schedule catch up with them in the championship game Saturday of the Wichita North Cup.
After taking a 2-1 halftime lead, the Buffs yielded two second-half goals to the Wichita East Blue Aces, falling 3-2 in the title contest.
The second-half letdown came due in part to the fact that it was the fourth game in six days for the Buffs, three of those in the Cup event and one against Hays High.
"We just kinda lost the middle in the second half," GCHS coach Joaquin Padilla said. "That's the area where we usually control it better in the second half. But we kinda got flat. You can't play four games in six days no matter how good of condition the kids are."
Facing East, which had knocked off the top-seeded Berean Academy in the semifinals, the Buffs got off to a strong start Saturday afternoon at Wichita North's soccer complex by getting two goals from junior Eric Barragan. One was unassisted in the 36th minute after trailing 1-0, and the other came on an assist from David Amaro in the 36th minute.
East's goals came in the 15th, 55th and 60th minutes.
East, though, seemed to take the initiative in the second half as the Buffs were playing their fourth game in six days, all on the road. And they just appeared to not have the energy, the legs, to continue their high-level play of the past two weeks when they had run off a seven-game winning streak.
Garden City had nine shots on goals to seven for East. Buffs' goalkeeper Israel Reyes had six saves to five for East. The Buffs also had five corner kicks to four for East.
The Buffs (10-4-0) still have little rest as they return to action at 5 p.m. today at Buffalo Stadium when they face TMP-Marian. They close out their regular season schedule on Tuesday with a 4:30 p.m. home game against Hays High. A win over the Indians will assure the Buffs of no worse than a tie for the Western Athletic Conference title with Dodge City. Dodge was playing Liberal today and a Liberal win would provide the Buffs with a chance to win the WAC title outright.