North Cup: Lady Buffs advance to title game
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
By J. LEVI BURNFIN
The Garden City High School girls soccer team spent most of the first half of Thursday's game against Liberal in full and complete control, keeping the Lady Redskins from even a glancing shot on goal.
Yet, the Lady Buffs were unable to break through themselves, leaving the two teams in a scoreless tie at halftime of the Wichita North Cup semifinal at Buffalo Stadium.
While the Lady Buffs had several scoring chances, and three shots on goal, in the first 40 minutes, nothing was breaking through, and Lady Redskins' goalkeeper Magali Vazquez was barely challenged. So Buffs head coach Joaquin Padilla decided to make an adjustment, sending striker Amber Miller up the pitch to threaten the Redskins' back line, and then send the ball back for the trailing Megan Martinez, who would have an open area to place a ball on goal.
It worked, twice, as the Lady Buffs got a 2-0 win and advanced to the 1 p.m. Saturday tournament championship at Wichita North against Wichita Heights, which routed host North, 9-0, in the other semifinal Thursday. The victory improved the Lady Buffs' season record to 8-5.
In the 59th minute, after three more shots on goal and a pair of corner kicks, the Buffs broke through when Miller and Martinez passed back and forth to each other into the 18-yard box, where Miller dribbled towards the goal, heel-tapped to the awaiting Martinez, who kicked the ball inside the left goal post from 20 yards out for a 1-0 lead.
"It's really frustrating, know that we're in control (of the game), but our shots are not going in," Martinez said after the game. "So we knew we had to do something different, and that's what we did in the second half."
It was almost a carbon copy 11 minutes later as Miller attacked the goal, found the trailing Martinez, who rocketed the ball into the top right corner from about the same 20 yards out for the second goal assisted by Miller.
"My shots weren't landing," Miller explained about the adjustment, "so, obviously, I needed to pass it back to Megan, and I knew I could trust her, knew she would finish."
Martinez said it's something they have been working on.
"Our coach (Padilla) has been trying to get us to do that all year, but this game it actually clicked, and it worked," Martinez said.
"They can do that," Padilla echoed. "Sometimes they forget to do that. They get too anxious and try to hit the ball any way they can, but they showed one of the things they can do."
While the Lady Buffs offense broke through, the defense continued to stifle the Lady Redskins' attack, keeping them from any shots on goal until two back-to-back shots in the final four minutes with the Lady Buffs' second unit on the field.
"The chemisty has come from the middle," Padilla said about the defensive effort. "If we can control the middle, then we're good."
Buffs' starting goalie Ashlee Richman went untested, seeing no shots on goal from Liberal before being replaced by Evonni Servantes with five minutes to play and the outcome no longer in doubt.
Servantes saved both Lady Redskins' last desperate attempts late in the game.
The Lady Buffs finished with 17 shots, eight on goal, while Liberal had three and two, respectively.
Note: The game was played at Buffalo Stadium, instead of at host Wichita North, because the two teams agreed to play at higher-seeded Garden City's home field to save travel costs for both schools.
Liberal 0 0 -- 0
Garden City 0 2 -- 2
GCHS--Martinez (Miller), 59th minute.
GCHS--Martinez (Miller), 70th minute.
Shots on goal--Liberal 2, Garden City 8.
Saves--Liberal, Vazquez 6; Garden City, Richman 0, Servantes 2.