After finishing tied for second place in 2016 and 2017, the Garden City Buffaloes (10-3-3,5-1-2) finally broke through to win the WAC conference outright in stunning fashion, after junior Emeline Gomez’ 88th minute overtime golden goal not only gave Garden City a 1-0 win over the Liberal Redskins.
The victory provided the Buffaloes their first WAC championship since 2015, Tuesday night at Buffalo Stadium on senior night, after having shared the WAC runner-up position with Hays the past two seasons behind Dodge City.
“I thought the team played consistent with what we’ve been doing all year," said head coach Joaquin Padilla of his team’s performance on Tuesday. “Our emphasis was to play the way we’ve been playing, don’t change anything and the win will come.,”
The game started off physical in the first half half, as neither team could get past the other’s stout defense. Garden City also saw the extra challenge of running against the wind in the first half. Neither team scored and took a 0-0 tie in to halftime.
Garden City took control for most of the second half, with a couple of exceptions. Liberal had two opportunities to score, but the consistently solid play of the back four for Garden City kept a clean sheet for the Buffaloes.
“I thought our defense played well,” said Padilla.
Although most of the second half was spent on the Liberal side of the field, the game turned into a stalemate as Garden City couldn’t get past the Redskins' defense. Padilla agreed, “We tried to get the ball out wide, but they had six defenders which is really really tough to get the ball over.”
The Buffaloes got to work early in the extra period, as the pressure from the second half continued into overtime. After a couple close calls in the 81st minute and a missed penalty call for the Buffaloes in the 85th minute, Garden City finally broke through eight minutes into overtime, when Gomez’ shot hit the back of the net, giving the Buffaloes the win and the conference championship.
“Amazing” was the feeling Gomez felt went she put the winning goal past the Liberal keeper. Gomez’ first goal of the season came at the most opportune for the Buffaloes as they were working extra hard to close out the game on Tuesday.
“We were just trying to push each other and get to that goal. We really needed it, and we were really working for it and we ended up getting it after so much hard work,” said Gomez. "We told each other that we had to push ourselves, it was the last ten minutes we had to do everything possible just to get the win, because we were wanting it for so long."
The break between regulation and overtime also gave Padilla and his staff time to encourage the girls to continue to keep doing more of the same.
“We told them to keep shooting, and it’ll come. I know after the first two 40s, the girls felt down a little bit, but we kept telling them there was a lot at stake, because we knew that by winning this game we would win the WAC outright,” said Padilla.
Padilla was really happy for his team’s conference title this season, especially knowing how tough the road getting there was. “I’m happy for the the kids. They worked hard, they overcame some injuries and today was the best win that they have had, mainly because they were able to come back after all those tough games and injuries,” said Padilla.
The Buffaloes now await their opponents as regional parings for Class 6A will be announced on Saturday. While Garden City prepares to host a regional game on Tuesday, Padilla thinks that what won his team the WAC title is working, and isn't messing too much with the winning formula.
“Were gonna stick with what we’ve been doing," Padilla said. "We’re gonna have the players we have and that’s how that s how we’re going to play because that’s how we got here and see how far we can last.”