Marching on: Buffs soccer moves closer to WAC title.
By BRETT MARSHALL
It said a lot about the potential of this Garden City High School Buffaloes boys soccer team when opposing Liberal coach Lori Navarro walked over to the Buffs' bench after their 3-1 Western Athletic Conference victory over the Redskins on Tuesday night at Buffalo Stadium.
It said even more when you consider what Navarro said to the Buffs.
In essence, Navarro told this group that they reminded her of her own 2011 Class 5A state championship team, the first soccer state title from a team west of Wichita.
"I've never had the other coach come over and say that," said an amazed GCHS senior goalkeeper Cesar Solorzano. "It says a lot about her, and says a lot about us. We need to take that to heart and play our best the rest of the season."
Indeed, this group of Buffaloes seems to be on a mission.
And it was never more apparent than the way they played against a team that had slipped past the Buffs 2-1 on Sept. 13 at Liberal.
"I had watched our junior varsity come out flat in their game and I told our varsity kids that we couldn't do that in this game," GCHS head coach Joaquin Padilla said. "They chose the wind, but I thought we did a very good job defending. This time, the big difference was the shots we had went in. Down there, we outshot them, but couldn't get anything in the goal."
Sophomore forward Erik Barragan got the Buffs on the board first, scoring on a nifty cross by Emilio Castillo in the 13th minute.
"He just ran it down, crossed it and I just shot it," Barragan said of the assist from Castillo. "We talked about a lot of things and the important thing is making passes quick to the open man. This is a big win. Puts us one step closer to the WAC championship."
Liberal, long a nemesis for the Buffs, answered with a tying goal in the 26th minute when Jason Rios scored on an unassisted goal when he got the ball at the front of the goal box, cleared it past a defender and knocked it in.
The teams continued to struggle to find ways to score over the next 10 minutes before the Buffs broke through with the go-ahead and eventual winning goal.
Barragan broke free at the front of the goal box, slipped past one defender and took on Liberal goalkeeper Jose Alonso and stuffed it in. That came in the 36th minute and the 2-1 lead held to halftime.
Getting the wind in the second half seemed to give the Buffs added momentum, too.
After having given up nine shots to the Redskins in the first half, the Buffs' defense tightened in the final 40 minutes, holding them to just three shots.
The final goal, giving the Buffs a little breathing room, came in the 56th minute when Castillo got the ball inside the goal box, faked one way, went the other and scored.
"Our defense has really picked things up and we're doing more at the outside wings," said GCHS goalkeeper Cesar Solorzano, who played the first 70 minutes before giving way to Carlos Luquin. "We've improved in a lot of areas, we have a good team with a lot of potential. We want to remain undefeated at home, this is our new home and we don't want to lose here."
Barragan said the team had perhaps been overconfident when it traveled to Liberal for the first meeting. Not this time, though.
"Our back line cleared the ball out for us better and that's giving us a chance to do more," Barragan said. "Everybody's doing their part. We didn't finish off the last game with them. This time we did."
Padilla was especially pleased with the way his defense played.
"Defense, like many other sports, dictates the rest of the game," Padilla said. "The back line did what they're supposed to do, then that translates to the mid-fielders and to the forwards. We have worked on a lot of drills — one, two touch passes — to get the open player and it all helps."
The victory improved the Buffs to 9-2 overall and 5-1 in the WAC. They are back in action on Thursday with the pitch scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Buffalo Stadium when Great Bend comes to town for another WAC contest. The Panthers trail the Buffs by one game and a Garden win would give them the outright WAC crown. Liberal falls to 3-7-1 overall and 1-5 in the WAC.
Liberal 1 0 -- 1
Garden City 2 1 -- 3
GC--Erik Barragan, assist Emilio Castillo. 13th minute.
L--Jason Rios, unassisted. 26th minute.
GC--Erik Barragan, assist Joel Sanchez. 36th minute.
GC--Emilio Castillo, unassisted. 56th minute.
Goalkeepers--Liberal (Jose Alonso), Garden City (Cesar Solorzano, Carlos Luquin). Shots on Goal--Liberal 12, Garden City 8. Saves--Alonso 1, Solorzano 7, Luquin 1.