By BRETT MARSHALL
The good news for the Garden City High School girls soccer team is that it has a wealth of experience returning for the 2014 season.
The not-so-good news is that there simply is not enough of those good players to provide bench depth to a team that finished 9-7-1 in 2013 and made an early exit from the Class 6A state playoffs with a 1-0 loss to Wichita North.
But veteran coach Joaquin Padilla will go with his experienced roster when they open the season with a 4 p.m. road game Tuesday at Wichita Northwest.
"I wish we had more time to prepare, but you gotta play now, or you gotta play later," Padilla said Saturday. The Lady Buffs have only had a little more than two weeks of preseason drills to ready themselves for the 16-match schedule that will run through the second week of May before postseason play begins. "We need about five more players of the caliber of players we have returning, so we're going to need some of the freshmen and a sophomore or two to step up."
Two first team all-Western Athletic Conference selections headline the list of returners for Padilla.
That would be junior Megan Martinez and senior Maria Rodriguez, both of whom are mid-fielders. Martinez was the team's leading scorer in 2013, notching 13 goals and 5 assists. Rodriguez had two goals and an assist from her position, where she also plays as a defender.
In addition, the Buffs return a pair of honorable mention all-WAC selections in junior defender Alyssa Martinez and sophomore goalkeeper Ashlee Richman.
Richman was impressive in her rookie year in goal for the Buffs, registering five shutouts, seven games in which she gave up just one goal and she recorded 140 saves.
"I think she'll be even better," Padilla said of Richman. "She's learned some things in the off-season and just has a better knowledge of playing the position. She's learned the goal area and just improved her awareness of where everybody is and how to play there. We're hoping that we get some games where we can get her out on the field. She's very athletic and we'd like to allow her to play some in the field."
Of the 38 goals scored by the Lady Buffs in 2013, 27 of those goals return. Only the graduated Haley Brennaman's 11 goals are missing from the offensive side of the field.
"We're hoping to have games where we can have two strikers, but a lot of the time, we're gonna just have one," Padilla said. "We've got good speed, individually, and we need to transition that into our overall team speed. We'd like to be able to force the other team with some pressure when we get the ball."
Padilla said he felt the Lady Buffs would be strong in the middle with seniors Cecelia Alvarez and Evelyn Rodriguez and sophomore Tiffany Butler returning. Rodriguez had three goals a season ago while Alvarez and Butler scored two each. Sophomore forward Amber Miller returns on the offensive front after scoring five goals last season.
Padilla said Northwest will pose the usual tough test coming out of the Wichita City League.
On the defensive front, the Buffs return seniors Lauren Walz and Enneliese Alcantar along with Alyssa Martinez.
"Wichita teams are always good because they play a lot of the good teams," Padilla said of the Lady Grizzlies. "I think we'll be able to compete with them. We'll get an idea of where we are right from the start."
After Tuesday, the Lady Buffs will have nearly a week to prepare for the Goddard Invitational, which begins on April 1. They won't play at home until an April 15 game with TMP-Marian of Hays.
March 25--at Wichita Northwest; April 1,3,5--at Goddard Invitational; April 10--at Great Bend; April 14--at Liberal; April 15--TMP-MARIAN; April 21--HAYS HIGH; April 22--GREAT BEND; April 29--at Dodge City; May 5--at Hays High; May 6-10--at Wichita North Cup; May 12--DODGE CITY: May 13--LIBERAL.
Evonni Servantes, Fr.; Ashlee Richman, So.; Jasmyne Bacquera, Fr.; Alexa Garcia, Fr.; Fernanda Canal, So.; Priscilla, Gomez, Fr.; Gonnetti Mendez, Fr.; Maria Rodriguez, Sr.; Cecilia Alvarez, Sr.; Amber Miller, So.; Megan Martinez, Jr.; Evelyn Rodriguez, Sr.; Tiffany Butler, So.; Alyssa Martinez, Jr.; Andrea Loza, Jr.; Sayra Rivas, So.; Lauren Walz, Sr.; Enneliese Alcantar, Sr.