BUFFS ROUNDUP: Thursday, April 30, 2020
Note: This is the 8th and final profile on a Garden City High School senior student-athlete, who had to miss their final season due to the outbreak of the COVID-19.
Little did she know that on May 16, 2019, the Class 6A regional championship would be the final time to don her Garden City High School Lady Buffs uniform. That was the day Hailey Enriquez and her Lady Buffs played host to Topeka High for a chance to land a berth in the state quarterfinals.
But a late goal on a penalty kick by the Lady Trojans would result in a heartbreaking 1-0 setback that ended a season in which Enriquez and her teammates captured the Western Athletic Conference championship with a 5-0-3 record and an overall 11-2-5 mark.
It was Enriquez and five of her teammates/classmates who were going to provide the senior leadership for the 2020 season, with many other returners set to make a strong run for the WAC and postseason laurels.
But that all came to an end back in mid-March during spring break when all spring sports seasons were canceled due to the coronavirus-19 outbreak hit with a sudden fury across the United States. The Kansas State High School Activities Association had already canceled the final 2 days of the state basketball tournaments on March 12, and it was the following week (spring break) when the finality of the spring season became a reality.
“I was going to play my final year at the high school with a lot of my friends and teammates,” Enriquez said in a recent telephone interview. “I wanted to get ready for college with my classes and enjoy one final year in a Lady Buffs’ uniform.”
The preseason practices got a late start due to the school’s late hiring of Jose Vital-Caro as the new soccer coach, but Enriquez was excited about how things had progressed in such a short period of time with the new coach.
“We were able to show him how we had been doing things before, and we were making some changes that I thought were very positive,” Enriquez said. “He was very understanding and patient with us. He was vocal with us when he needed to be, but he was also very understanding because we didn’t know him that well, and he didn’t know us either.”
The 2020 season would have been her fourth year as a varsity player for the Lady Buffs, coming off that strong junior year after her sophomore season had been interrupted early with an ankle injury. As a freshman starter, Enriquez had been on the backside of the defensive before moving up to play in the mid-field.
“I definitely thought we’d have a good season this year, with most of our team being made up of our traveling (summer) team,” Enriquez said. “We had some freshmen coming in who were very talented and with six seniors, we had a nice mix of experience and young talent.”
Enriquez said she remembers her final day of the spring semester, a Friday (March 13) where she was job shadowing at the local cancer center.
“We then met for practice in the afternoon and it was so cold that we just took pictures for the seniors and for the jumbo Tron (scoreboard),” Enriquez recalled.
It was two days later when Vital-Caro sent a message to the team that is was likely spring break would be extended, and then two more days later was when the finality of the spring season was learned.
“I always have my notifications on for KSHSAA and Buffs athletics,” Enriquez said. “Turns out, we got that further notice that the entire season was canceled. At first, I was very depressed because I had been so excited for our season. Having a chance to be a senior leader, have Senior Day. I think it’s been hard for me and the other seniors. I think back to our last game last year and it makes things even more difficult.”
Enriquez said that despite the topsy-turvy spring finish to high school, she will have fond memories of her time playing for the Lady Buffs.
“Definitely, the thing I’ll remember the most will be the friendships I’ve made,” she said. “There are lots of memories and the people who have pushed me to be better. I have my coaches, my teammates, my family and friends. My parents have been especially important because they’ve been behind me since I started playing.”
While she originally had planned to go away to college and play soccer, she has opted now to remain in Garden City and attend Garden City Community College where she will play with several of her teammates with the Lady Broncbusters in the fall of 2020.
“I will play here two years and see what happens after that,” Enriquez said. “It all happened at the last minute (decision to stay at home). I think we all decided we wanted to stay and help build the program at GCCC because they haven’t been good for some time. It’s going to be a change, but I think staying close to home is the best thing for me right now.”
Enriquez said the pandemic outbreak had a big role in her decision.
“It’s a big reason and we all decided to stay here because of the crisis,” Enriquez said. “We can stay here and we’ll have closer communication in case something happens.”
When she was making plans for her final semester at GCHS, she enrolled in five classes to meet requirements for the Kansas Scholars Program. But once the soccer season was wiped out, she dropped all but one class to lower her stress levels.
“It just got all messed up and was stressful,” Enriquez said. “I like that I can do my homework on my own time. I like sleeping in and not having to be at school so early. But the online class is working out okay. It’s just kind of weird. There are many times when I don’t remember what day it is. I’ll do my homework when I wake up.”
If there’s anything she hopes will be able to take place, it will be graduation ceremonies.
“I’m not worried much about prom, but graduation would be awesome because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Enriquez said.
Enriquez said she stays in touch with her friends and teammates through social media and has been working out on her own to stay in condition for the fall season at GCCC.
“I just want to make sure I stay productive and stay focused on what’s ahead,” she said.
One of her little side activities is taking her car “Rosa” for a spin every now and then.
“I have to keep her running smoothly so she won’t break down,” Enriquez said with a laugh.
Time with family has also been a big change, with family dinners more regular. Enriquez said she finds that she is helping her little sister with online school classes because it’s a much harder way to learn for those students who haven’t experienced distance learning.
There has been plans and construction on a trampoline for the family to utilize, but for the most part Enriquez said she wishes for things to be the way they were.
“There are pros and cons to what is going on, but there is way more cons,” Enriquez said. “We just have to make the best of the situation and make good decisions.”