By BRETT MARSHALL
For the first three weeks of the 2013 bowling season, the Garden City Buffaloes boys and girls teams had not seen a home lane.
They had bowled in Wichita, Liberal and Great Bend, before finally finding their way home on Tuesday at the Garden Bowl for a Western Athletic Conference dual against rival Dodge City.
Both boys and girl teams made the most of the home alley advantage, each downing the rival Red Demons, 10-1, in a combination three-game individual/team series and a three-game Baker format where each team has five bowlers roll two frames each.
Senior captain Vicki Newell was the emotional and scoring leader for the Lady Buffs in their dominating victory, as she finished with a 618 individual series on games of 222-220-176, while freshman newcomer Tristan Funk paced the Buffs' boys with a 628 series (197-213-218), as three GCHS boys broke the 600-pin barrier.
Theron Kells rolled a 615 (187-224-204) and senior captain Juan Ramirez was close behind at 612 (235-186-191).
For Newell, one of just two returners from the 2012 fourth-place Class 6A team, finding her mark at home was just what the confidence doctor ordered.
"Being at home, bowling this way is just what I needed," Newell said. "The team needed this to get our motivation. It's been really difficult being on the road, bowling on strange lanes because sometimes you just don't know what you're doing when you've never bowled at those places."
Newell said being the veteran bowler on the team had carried both responsibilities and burdens to her in the early part of the year.
"It's been a bit stressful to begin with," Newell said. "I take my role personally. I want to be the role model and be able to tell the younger girls what coach (Kip Nichols) expects."
The GCHS senior said she had practiced at home on Monday and found what she was looking for and it paid dividends on Tuesday.
"I found my line and I didn't have to move it around," Newell said. "I was able to keep my speed up and that was what worked so well."
Sophomore Alexa Hemmert also had a strong outing, finishing with a 579 series on games of 180-198-201. No other Lady Buffs bowler cracked the 500-series barrier.
For the rookie Funk, returning to the home lanes was also a welcome relief after spending the first three weeks on the road.
"It's just easier to play on the lanes here because you know the boards you want to use," said Funk. "I bowled pretty good today, but I was hoping to get a 700. I didn't accomplish that, but the team did well and that's what counts."
Funk said it had been an adjustment to switch from competing in individual tournaments to bowling for a team.
"This is a lot different because you're now being part of a bigger group, rooting for your teammates," Funk said. "The Baker format has been hard to get used to, but I'm getting more comfortable with it. You just have to cooperate with your teammates."
For Nichols, finally getting to compete at home was also the right medicine for his teams.
"I thought the kids bowled well today," Nichols said. "They didn't bowl great, but I thought Vicki bowled out of her mind, and she was ripping the ball and was dialed in. It was nice to see her focused and when she and the others do that, they can do amazing things."
Nichols was especially pleased with the contributions of nearly every bowler on the six-man boys team.
"We had a lot of balance in the games today with the boys," Nichols said. "It's a sweet victory going against Dodge City."
The Buffs will be back on the road Saturday when they travel to Wichita for the prestigious 24-team Great Plains Invitational.
Results in Scoreboard, Page B2.