BUFFS ROUNDUP: Monday, Nov. 4, 2019
The first two days of November, along with the time change from Daylight Savings to Standard time over the weekend, brought an end to the fall sports season for Garden City High School teams.
Volleyball, cross country and football all saw the curtain drop on the fall schedules as the Lady Buffs volleyball competed in the Class 6A state tournament in Salina, the girls and boys cross country ran at the state meet in Lawrence while the football team dropped its first-round 6A playoff match-up at Topeka High.
The 2019 season ended one day earlier than had been hoped for by the Lady Buffs volleyball team when they posted a 1-2 record in Pool Play at Friday’s Class 6A state tournament in Salina.
The Lady Buffs, with one of their most successful seasons in program history, defeated Lawrence-Free State before dropping matches to ranked Blue Valley North and Blue Valley to come up just short in making Saturday’s semifinals.
“One thing you notice at the state tournament is that the teams in the East just have more weapons,” head coach Trista Bailey said. “They can put the ball down on offense from different places and then defensively, it’s difficult to get the ball down on them because they’re just athletic across the court.”
Still, the difference between making Saturday’s four-team semifinals and not, in this case, was miniscule.
The Lady Buffs opened their Pool Play with a solid 25-13, 25-20 triumph over Lawrence-Free State.
“I thought in the first match we played as well as we could ask them to,” Bailey said of her team. “We’ve struggled with our first matches all season, but I thought we were really focused and played with confidence.”
The Blue Valley-North second match was the critical one for the Lady Buffs as they fell in straight sets, 15-25, 21-25. That put them in the unenviable position of needing a convincing win over Blue Valley High, the No. 1 ranked team in 6A but entered as the No. 4 seed.
“They weren’t your normal No. 4 seed, that’s for sure,” Bailey said of the eventual state champions. “In the Blue Valley-North match, we struggled with our serve-receive, but in looking at the rest of our set scores, we were very competitive and played those teams very close.”
Indeed, in that final Pool Play match vs. Blue Valley, the Lady Buffs dropped the first set 17-25 before taking the top-ranked team to a 29-31 score in the final set.
“I think we demonstrated that we were very competitive, but at the state, you really have to be at your very best to get to the second day,” Bailey said.
With a final season record of 33-5, the third most wins in a season in program history, Bailey told her team that the state performance didn’t define the team or any individual for how the season played out.
“The state doesn’t definite what we accomplished during the season,” Bailey said. “It doesn’t define their career or who they will be in the future.”
The Lady Buffs won the McPherson and Maize Invitationals, captured their fifth straight Class 6A sub-state title, and their ninth consecutive Western Athletic Conference crown. Twice, the team fashioned 14-match winning streaks.
“We were just a couple of points away from being that team that could get to the next day,” Bailey said. “This team has done things that no other Garden City teams have done before and they have left their legacy on the program.”
Five seniors closed out their careers at the state tourney – Allison Meng, Ashlyn Swan, Remi Vargas, Kelbi Richter and Reagan Karlin. Seven juniors were on the state roster and that nucleus will form the core of the 2020 team, Bailey said.
“We have a pretty solid junior class who got valuable experience,” Bailey said. “We lose a lot, but we have a core group and have a good group of middle school, freshmen and sophomores who have a lot of raw talent and have improved through the club volleyball and our summer program.”
There were high hopes for strong finishes at the Class 6A state cross country meet on Saturday, Nov. 2, for the Buffaloes at Rim Rock Farm in Lawrence.
The Buffaloes boys had captured the runner-up regional team finish the week prior while freshman Jocelyn Sosa had become the first Lady Buffs runner to claim a regional gold medal in five years.
But the competition from the east side of the state proved to be every bit as challenging at the difficult Rim Rock course itself.
Sosa finished in 23rd place, just six seconds from earning a top 20 medal finish by clocking a time of 19:50.4 over the 5-kilometer layout. She was the lone Lady Buffs to run this year at state.
On the boys side, the Buffs team took 11th of 12 teams with 247 points.
Senior Ethan Fisher had the team’s top finish, placing 38th, with a time of 16:49.3. Another senior, Santiago Nunez-Gonzalez, was next in 60th with a time of 17:15.2 while junior Brody Hoff was close behind in 62nd in 17:16.1.
Rounding out the Buffs’ placings were freshman Devin Chappel (81st, 17:46.6), senior Austin Hess (85th, 17:54.4), freshman Evan Gurrola (90th, 18:01.2) and sophomore Kenji Craig (100th, 19:00.0).
Earlier in the season, the Buffs’ boys had claimed the Western Athletic Conference team title while Fisher nabbed the individual WAC boys crown. Sosa had finished second in the individual WAC championship.
The 2019 football season came to an end on Friday with the Buffaloes on the road to face No. 3 seed Topeka High’s Trojans at Hummer Sports Complex.
The Buffs’ season struggles continued against the 8-1 Trojans, falling behind 21-0 in the opening quarter and trailing 34-6 at halftime and 48-6 at the end of the third period.
Junior running back Josh Janas, a bright spot all season for the Buffs’ offense, scored on a 2-yard TD run with 6:48 left in the first half to get the Buffs on the board.
The final score for the Buffs came late in the fourth quarter (4:26 left) when sophomore quarterback Zane Burns raced 35 yards for a touchdown and then freshman quarterback Ryan Heiman passed to Keelyn Beasley for the 2-point conversion.
The Buffs held the ball for 25:21 compared to 22:39 for the Trojans and ran 55 plays to 54 for the host team. While the Buffs managed 273 yards of offense (217 rushing, 56 passing), the Trojans accumulated 508 yards (231 rushing, 277 passing).
Burns finished the game hitting 8 of 15 passes for 56 yards with a pair of interceptions. The Buffs also lost one fumble.
With just nine seniors on the roster, and four of those who start, the Buffs’ future looks bright with strong numbers in the junior, sophomore and freshman classes. Seventeen starters will be back for coach Brian Hill when the 2020 season opens. The Buffs finished the year 2-7 and 2-2 in the Western Athletic Conference with wins over Hays and Liberal to place third.