by Brett Marshall
You might not find Elyssa Salazar’s name often as the leading goal scorer for the Garden City High School Lady Buffs soccer team, or the leading point scorer when she was playing basketball in the winter months.
But what one will find is a scrappy, team-oriented player who gives no quarter when competing, and asks for none either. As she says, “I play to win and to win fair and square.”
The soon-to-be graduated Salazar will head off to El Dorado next fall to play soccer for the nationally-ranked Butler Community College Lady Grizzlies, taking the same path a decade later after Cindy Benitez, the most decorated soccer player in GCHS history, left Garden City for Butler and then finished her career at Fort Hays State University.
Salazar, who inked her NJCAA national letter-of-intent in December, has competed all four years of high school in soccer and her junior/senior seasons in basketball.
It was been a contrast of seasons for Salazar, she said, going from her freshman year in which she, like many others, were simply worried about making the team and keeping their spot on the varsity roster.
“You just are thinking about moving up or down, so you worry about doing things right or wrong it seems quite a lot,” Salazar said. “My sophomore year, I started to understand the team better and worked to gain the chemistry that you need to be successful.”
By her junior year on the soccer team, Salazar had been elected captain of the Lady Buffs, an honor she took to heart.
“I was happy and excited to be in that role,” Salazar said. “I felt more mature and I just wanted to do everything I could to be there for my teammates.”
Now in her final season in which the Lady Buffs were 7-1-3 overall and 3-0-1 halfway through the Western Athletic Conference schedule, the senior midfielder said the seasons and games, especially this season, have just flown by.
“The games happen so fast,” she said, noting that the team has played a game about once every 2-3 days in April. “You get finished with one game, and then it’s on to the next one, and you hardly have time to think about them individually.”
In her final season on the pitch, Salazar has moved from the forward position, where she was part of the frontline scoring attack, to now playing the center midfielder position, a place that has lots of challenges.
“You’re playing more defense and it’s just a tough place to play because there’s so many players that are condensed in the center of the field,” she said. “The only way to get out to distribute the ball is to dribble through players or get to the outside.”
As one of the senior leaders for this edition of the Lady Buffs, Salazar said she had become more vocal during the games with her teammates.
“Just trying to make sure they stay positive and focused,” she said. “I try to talk to them all the time and keep them positive on what they are supposed to do. Each spot on the field is important. All of us need to do our roles to make sure the team is playing at its highest level.”
Salazar said that while she has been a two-sport athlete the past couple of years, each has helped her become better at the other. She wouldn’t trade the experience for any other.
“The basketball conditioning really helps for my soccer because we’re always running all over the field,” Salazar said. “You’ve got five players on the court and 11 players on the pitch, so it’s important to have everybody involved in the team sport.”
Salazar’s academic plans include majoring in psychology and then eventually applying to medical school where she hopes to be a neurologist.
Her goals for the stretch run of her senior season are quite simple – win the WAC and then make the final 8 or better in the Class 6A playoffs.
“We haven’t won the WAC since I’ve been on the varsity and we want to make it past regionals as well,” she said.