TOPEKA — Underdog Garden City got off the bus after a five-hour bus ride and took No. 3 seed Washburn Rural down to the wire in Thursday’s Class 6A soccer regional final before Rural prevailed 1-0 in penalty kicks.
The Buffaloes kept Rural (15-3-0) off the scoreboard through 80 minutes of regulation and four overtimes, before the Junior Blues finally put Garden City away with a 4-1 edge in PKs.
“We knew we could play with them,” said Garden City coach Joaquin Padilla, whose team finished the season 11-7-0. “We had to get our kids up to their skill level and I thought we showed today how we could play. We’ve got to play like that every game. We’re proud of them and you’ve got to accept that sometimes the ball bounces the other way and it doesn’t bounce your way all the time. I thought we played to win and we just didn’t.”
Washburn Rural had lost a tournament game in PKs earlier in the season, but took control early in the extra session against the Buffaloes.
Junior Jadyn Hickel made his PK to get the Junior Blues off to a good start before Garden City senior Jesus Genaro Macias answered to tie things at 1-1. Rural (15-3-0-) went on to add successful penalty kicks from senior Matt Wolfe, sophomore Hayden Beck and senior goalkeeper Collin Freking while Garden City had a slip and a mis-kick on its second attempt and Freking came up with a save on the Buffs’ third PK attempt before Freking ended things with his kick.
“As a team we felt pretty confident,” Freking said. “We were put in this position earlier in the year in Iowa and it didn’t turn out in our favor that time but I think we were all ready and in the right state of mind this time.”
Rural coach Brian Hensyel agreed.
“We went to Iowa and our first game we played the No. 3 team in the nation and went to PKs with them,” Hensyel said. “We didn’t do well, kind of choked under the pressure and got beat, but I think that experience kind of showed us who were the right guys to pick and we’ve kind of dealt with those emotions. I just went with the experienced guys and the guys who wanted to do it and when it came down to Collin you usually don’t have your keeper take one, but we knew that kid is money. We knew it was going to be good.”
Both teams had trouble manufacturing offensive opportunities in Thursday’s game, which was played in cold, windy conditions.
“The things we’ve been doing well all year we just didn’t do offensively tonight,” Hensyel said. “Give Garden City a ton of credit, they played awesome They were really good, but our saving grace all year has been our defense. We haven’t given up a goal in seven games and the defense came through again tonight.”