On Thursday, the Garden City Buffaloes girls soccer team was on the pitch in Great Bend at 5:30 p.m., and eventually prevailed in a 4-0 shutout of the Panthers.
The weather Thursday was about as picture perfect as one could ask for in the usually unpredictable western Kansas spring weather. The temperature hovered in the low 70s, there was nary a breath of wind and the sun shined brightly.
Less than 24 hours later, with a home game scheduled with Wichita Trinity, the Buffs’ soccer team faced not only a different opponent, but a wildly different weather experience.
With a game-time weather report of 32 degrees, 24 mph wind from the northeast and a wind chill of just 20 degrees, the weather was such that not even ducks would be able to enjoy being outdoors.
But despite the inclement weather conditions, the Buffs found a way to continue their strong performance in the early weeks of the season with a 5-0 shutout of Trinity at Buffalo Stadium.
The victory improved the Buffs’ record to 5-1 overall, extended their winning streak to five games, and provided them with another jolt of confidence.
They will return to action at 5:30 p.m. on Monday with a road trip to Liberal for a Western Athletic Conference matchup with the Redskins.
“You gotta play in whatever the weather is,” said GCHS head coach Joaquin Padilla. “Our schedule is such that there is no room for adjustments (postponements, reschedules). It becomes a mental thing, and I think the girls handled the situation as well as one could hope.”
It proved to be a big day for sophomore midfielder Haily Enriquez, who had a hat-trick of three goals, including the opening goal in the first half that proved to be the game-winner. That goal came against the stiff northeast wind that was howling across the turf at Buffalo Stadium.
She would tack on two more goals in the second half to provide enough comfort space for the Buffs, who won their fifth consecutive match after a season-opening setback to Goddard.
“It was exciting to get the goals, and it was freezing out there,” a happy but shivering Enriquez said minutes after the conclusion of the match. “The first goal, I was able to get it into the upper 90 (high right corner).”
Enriquez has been perched on the left side of the goal box when she got the ball from a defender to put the Buffs on the board in the 34th minute to break the scoreless deadlock with the Knights.
“I was just able to drop it in there,” she said. “It was super tough at first, but then we got loosened up and were able to connect on some good plays.”
The 1-0 lead remained that way to the end of the first half, and then with a shortened intermission of five minutes, the teams were right back at it in hopes of beating what had been forecast to be drizzly wet conditions and falling temperatures.
In the 47th minute of the second half, Enriquez stole a pass from the Knights, side-stepped a defender to the left and then broke free and booted the ball into the low left side of goal where it hit the post and bounced into the net.
“I think the girls continue to play aggressively and we’re not relying on just one player to score,” Padilla said. “We need to build on the current play, and correct the little mistakes we’re making. Haily played well and the girls just believe in each other.”
Makaylee Longoria tacked on a third goal in the 54th minute with a nifty assist from Noeli Munoz. Then, it was Enriquez’ turn again as she fired in a free kick from the left 20-yard line which eluded goalkeeper Alex Bearup in the 58th minute.
Munoz closed out the scoring for the Buffs in the 69th minute when she drilled the shot into the upper right side of the goal, where it hit the crossbar and caromed into the net.
For Enriquez and her teammates, it was the fourth consecutive match where they’ve tallied three or more goals, a rarity of sorts over the past several seasons.
“I think we’re just a much better, a much stronger team,” Enriquez said. “We’re communicating really well and have been putting it all together. We’re playing for each other, and it shows with the results.”
Next week begins the crunch time for the Buffs schedule where they will play six games in an 11-day span. They will have home games on Tuesday against TMP-Marian and on Thursday against Dodge City.
“We’re doing a better job of getting the ball down the field, especially down the sides, and we just need to sharpen things,” Padilla said. “As long as we keep improving, and get good ball movement and put pressure on the other team, we’ll see good things happen.”