The Buffalo High School girls soccer team entered the 2019 3A state tournament having lost to one team all year. The Lady Bison also ended the 3A state tournament having lost to only one team all year – another tough loss to the state champion Cody Lady Broncs.
Buffalo shut out two more teams, a hard-fought 2-0 win over Lander and a physical 3-0 victory over a surging Riverton team, to set them up with a rematch against the Lady Broncs in the 3A championship game. Cody would eventually end up beating the Lady Bison 3-0 to remain the only undefeated 3A team in the state and the only 3A team that could beat Buffalo.
The Lady Bison entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed from the East. They had a 1-0 lead against Lander on Thursday off a Jessica Kenney goal before a 45-minute lightning delay stopped whatever momentum the Lady Bison had.
“The first game of the tournament is always the hardest one to just get going,” coach Mike Sauers said. “There are a lot of nerves and anxiety.”
After the long intermission, a Teaghen Sweckard score off a free kick had Buffalo in good shape and up 2-0 and playing a little keep away with the Lady Tigers.
“We talked a lot on the bus while we were waiting during the lightning delay,” Sauers said. “We tried to get them into the mode where they were just starting the game when it felt like we were just finishing one.”
The Lady Bison finished off Lander, which pitted them against a physical Riverton Lady Wolverines team in the semifinals.
“Riverton was much improved from where we saw them earlier in the season,” Sauers said. “We weren’t quite ready for their physical style of play.”
The Lady Bison defense, however, seemed ready for whatever kind of play Riverton was willing to throw at them. Defenders Kenli Bauer and Eli Olsen combined with keeper Chelsa Evans to send back whatever came near their end of the field.
A Sweckard corner kick resulted in a Kendra Schultze volley into the back of the net. Sweckard would score later on a penalty kick after Emma Patik was taken down inside the penalty box.
“The third goal was with time winding down,” Sauers said. “We were just about to yell at Teaghen to pass it back to a defender and then she shoots and scores. That worked out just fine.”
It worked out fine enough for the Lady Bison to earn a spot in the 3A state championship game against the only team they had lost to all season, the Lady Broncs of Cody – the No. 1 seed out of the West.
“We were in the game we wanted to be in,” Sauers said. “We were playing great, we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Again the Lady Bison defense smothered the Lady Broncs offense. Goalie Evans finished with 10 saves against Cody.
“We don’t let teams shoot typically,” Sauers said of a Lady Bison defense used to shutting teams out. “We just asked Chelsa to make three saves a game throughout the tournament. She ended up making 10 saves against Cody, seven against Riverton and four against Lander. That is way more than what we asked of her.”
The rest of the stellar Lady Bison defenders did way more than asked of as well.
“If there is one name that popped up that wasn’t a goal scorer it was Kenli Bauer,” Sauers said. “She probably had her best weekend ever for us.”
Sweckard finished her Lady Bison career in fine form as well, helping lay the foundation for the younger players who continued to shine for Buffalo on the biggest stage.
“Jessica Kenney stepped up and played really well as an outside mid-fielder for us,” Sauers said. “She and Olivia Zink really stood out on the JV team along with Emma Patik who was already starting for an injured Addy Sweckard. Those two got to see the kind of speed they need to get familiar with for the next couple of years.”
While it may be a little anticlimactic losing to one team all year long and finishing second at state, it’s hard to overstate just how good the Lady Bison were all season. Buffalo shut out 14 teams and were the only 3A East team to make it out of the opening day of the state tournament with a win.
The Lady Bison finished the season with seven all-conference players, four all-state players and the 3A East coach of the year in Sauers.
Defenders Luci Riddle, Bauer and Olsen, mid-fielders Teaghen Sweckard and Addy Sweckard and forwards Kendra Schultze and Maggie Olsen were named all-conference.
Olsen, Bauer, Addy Sweckard and Teaghen Sweckard finished with all-state honors.
Olsen finished 3A Co-Senior Player of the Year.
“We had our chances,” Sauers said. “We had an all-state player in Addy Sweckard who had been injured and wanted to play. We just explained to her she had a different role now. It was hard for her. But what it comes down to is we only lost to one team all year. We just happened to lose to the same team twice. But these girls have a lot to be proud of.”