By KEVIN THOMPSON
It's been mid-March since they played on their home turf, but they made the most of their return.
The Garden City soccer girls opened conference play at home Thursday, taking care of Great Bend 7-1, outshooting the Lady Panthers 30-7.
Up just 2-0 at halftime, the Lady Buffaloes broke away in a big way in the second half, wearing down the Panthers with five goals.
Sophomore Megan Martinez had a hat trick with the first, third and final goals of the game.
Amber Miller added two goals for Garden City as the Buffaloes bumped their record to 2-3 (1-0 in the Western Athletic Conference).
Coach Joaquin Padilla said this game was a good way to get back on the winning track.
"We missed quite a few shots in the first half. We should have had three, maybe four goals," he said. "But other than that, I thought we played pretty well."
Garden City converted just twice on 15 attempts in the first half, but made five in as many attempts in the second half.
"I'd like to see us with more energy at the beginning," Padilla said. "But I thought the midfields played well, our goalie played well. We just need to be a little more 'up' early for our next game."
Freshman Ashlee Richman stopped all but one shot, and that one snuck by with just 6:05 left in the game.
"She's not afraid," Padilla said of Richman in goal.
It also helped her that the Buffalo defense kept Great Bend away from the net most of the game.
The bulk of the action took place near the Lady Panther goal as Garden City controlled the tempo of the game from start to finish.
The Lady Buffaloes took a while to find their groove. They already had seven missed shots on goal before Martinez zeroed one in over the the outstretched hands of the Great Bend keeper. The Lady Panthers misplayed a corner kick from their own end. Haley Brennaman maneuvered the ball down the field before finding Martinez 20 yards out, dead center for the first goal of the game.
With 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Tiffany Butler centered a corner kick, and Amber Miller was there to net the rebound for a 2-0 Garden City halftime lead.
Martinez scored her second goal of the game following an injury stoppage in the 52nd minute, and Miller scored her second in the 58th minute.
Cecelia Alvarez and Evelyn Rodriguez added goals for Garden City later in the half before Martinez finished the scoring late.
"Megan usually plays midfield and attacker, but we moved her around a little. Haley delivered the ball well to Megan, so maybe we found a way to attack," Padilla said.
This was a good win for his girls, he added, and they play their next three games at home, which should work to their advantage.
"We'll be okay. The kids will play with more confidence and more energy, and that will make a difference," Padilla said.
Great Bend 0 1 -- 1
Garden City 2 5 -- 7
GC — Megan Martinez, 24th minute
GC — Amber Miller, 40th minute
GC — Martinez, 52nd minute
GC — Miller, 58th minute
GC — Cecilia Alvarez, 62nd minute
GC — Evelyn Rodriguez, 68th minute
GB — Kinzie Sinclair, 73rd minute
GC — Martinez, 76th minute
Keepers — Great Bend (Alondra Garcia) , Garden City (Ashley Richman, Haley Brennaman). Shots on goal — Great Bend 7, Garden City 30.