BUFFALO - Kylie Tierney heard the final buzzer and immediately felt tears in her eyes.
The Garden City midfielder, who scored the game-winning goal with 25:54 left, threw her stick in the air, racing to find teammates as the Trojans celebrated their state Class B field hockey state championship on Sunday, defeating nine-time defending champ Lakeland, 1-0, at Williamsville North High School.
It was Garden City’s first state field hockey title since 2008.
“I’ve never been happier,” Tierney said. “We’ve been waiting for this and working to get this done. It feels so good.”
Both teams struggled to find a rhythm early, but Garden City (19-0) came out strong in the second half, bringing pressure and setting the Lakeland defense back on its collective heels.
“We said, ‘You’ve got thirty minutes and you’ve got to leave it on the field,” coach Diane Chapman said. “[They] stuck to the game plan and really dug deep.”
Garden City pushed the ball forward in the opening minutes of the half, but Tierney finally found the back of the net just over four minutes in, chipping a shot over Lakeland goalie Kellie Smith’s head.
“I swept [the ball] in and tried to angle it,” Tierney said. “As soon as it hit, I was thrilled.”
Tierney’s goal was more than enough to give Garden City some breathing room and much-needed confidence down the stretch.
The Trojans slowed down any Lakeland (21-1) rally attempts, getting sticks into shooting lanes and blocking the Hornets’ cross-field pass attempts. Garden City held strong in the midfield and Chapman said the late-game mindset helped the Trojans maintain control.
“We got into a groove there and I was very proud of the way they stepped up,” Chapman said. “They played with some confidence and realized we were going to be able to beat them.”
Lakeland did have a chance to tie the game, on a corner with 1:28 left, but Katie Mullins came up big in net, making the save and preserving the Garden City lead.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Mullins said. “But I knew I had to do it for my team.”
It was the perfect finish for a Garden City team that had its sights set on a state title from the very first practice, but now the Trojans are ready for the next step, hopeful this is the start of their own championship streak.
“This means everything,” Tierney said. “We’ve all been working since we lost last year and we wanted it.”