After a thrilling win in overtime last Tuesday to end the regular season, the No. 5 seed Garden City Buffaloes (11-3-3) left no room for a suspenseful finish, after dismantling the No. 12 seed Hutchinson Salthawks (6-11-0), 5-0 in the first round of the Class 6A regional playoffs Tuesday night at Buffalo Stadium.
Sophomore MaKaylee Longoria played a big part in the Buffalo victory, netting three goals and assisting in another. The three goals on Tuesday gave Longoria her, 9th, 10th and 11th goals of the season, which leads the team, while also giving Longoria her first hat trick of the season.
“I think I performed really well,” said Longoria of her performance.
Head coach Joaquin Padilla was also impressed by the sophomore’s performance.
“She’s one of the team captains, so she needs to set the example for the rest of them," Padilla said. "I thought she pulled everyone up and they played as well as she did.”
Even with her stellar performance, Longoria knows that she needed her team to perform well in order for the Buffaloes to get the win on Tuesday.
“We all played really well as a team today," Longoria said. "We were just connecting really well, and we were able to get the big win.”
The first half started off slow for the Buffaloes, as the Salthawks seemed to be the more aggressive team in the first 9 minutes of the game. After about the 10-minute mark, however, the Buffaloes found their footing and took control of the game, applying unrelenting pressure on Hutchinson’s back four.
The defense finally cracked in the 20th minute when sophomore Adamaris Medina, came off the bench to put Garden City ahead 1-0. A misplay from the Salthawk goalkeeper allowed Medina to put in the rebound giving the Buffaloes their first goal of the game.
“We need to get on the board as quickly as we can, because if we don’t, we can find ourselves in a difficult situation, so we tried to get on the board as soon as we could,” said Padilla of the urgency his team felt in the first half. “We missed a few in the first half, we should have had a couple more. But we adjusted to take charge of the ball. That was the change we needed to attack the ball more.”
In the second half, the floodgates opened for the Salthawks as the Buffaleos put four goals past them in 16 minutes.
The first goal of the second half, and the second of the game, came in the 43rd minute when Longoria was fed a pass from sophomore teammate Haily Enriquez, to give the Buffaloes a 2-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Longoria payed it forward to junior Noeli Munoz, by serving up an assist which led to Munoz’ fourth goal of the season, and more importantly gave the Buffs a 3-0 lead.
Longoria converted a 52nd minute penalty kick which gave the sophomore her second goal of the game and Garden City a 4-0 lead.
The fourth and last Buffalo goal was added when Longoria scored her third goal of the game in the 59th minute, when she sent a great chip over the Hutchinson goalie’s head. This was the end of the Buffalo blitz.
Padilla knew the outside of the Salthawk defense was vulnerable which gave the Buffaloes an advantage throughout the game.
“We had the outside open to cross the ball and the plan was to get the ball wide and I thought the did a good job on that," Padilla said.
While gleefully smiling to her teammates on their big win, Longoria knows a good performance can go along way to help push the Buffs deep into the playoffs.
“I think it kind of set the tone for how the next games are gonna go. We’re just ready to compete on Thursday,” Longoria said.
Padilla is also confident the big win can carry over to the regional championship.
“Yeah. We hope the momentum carries over for Thursday,” Padilla said.
The Buffaloes will look to become regional champions Thursday when they travel to Wichita to take on the East Blue Aces for the right to advance to the state quarterfinals. The pitch is set for 6 p.m.