COSTA MESA — Orange Coast College sophomore Sara Gomez said she woke up one day late last summer and realized she missed playing soccer.
Orange Empire Conference goalkeepers have likely had trouble sleeping ever since.
Gomez, who said it had been a couple of years since she was healthy enough to torment opposing netminders, scored three goals to lead the Pirates to a 5-0 triumph over visiting Golden West College in an Orange Empire Conference women's game Friday.
Gomez, who grew up in Costa Mesa, played AYSO and club soccer with the Newport Beach-based Slammers, and attended Mater Dei High, had surgery after high school to shave down a bone in her knee, in order to relieve inflammation of her patellar tendon.
"It's my first year back and I'm just really enjoying it," said Gomez, whose hat trick against the Rustlers allowed her to take over the team lead with eight goals in nine games this season. She entered the game one goal behind sophomore Sarah MacArthur, who has six.
Gomez, who just missed a handful of other scoring chances, put Golden West behind in the third minute. She used the outside of her right foot to beat a defender and the keeper by redirecting a through ball from Courtney Garrity to open the scoring.
OCC (9-2, 4-2 in conference) doubled the lead in the eighth minute when sophomore Jessica Amaral deposited a cross from sophomore Emma Pridmore inside the far post.
Gomez, who said she hadn't had a hat trick since her AYSO days, netted an unassisted goal after dribbling around both a converging defender and goalie in the 52nd minute. She then converted an Amaral assist for an easy third goal in the 59th minute and exited the game not long after.
The Pirates, who have outscored teams by a combined 37-1 in their nine victories, capped the scoring in the 89th minute when Garrity headed in a corner kick from sophomore Madeline Edwards.
Freshman Emily Harrier made two routine saves to preserve the shutout, the eighth of the season for OCC.
Golden West (6-6, 4-3) was bested, 21-3, in shots as the Pirates maintained relentless pressure.
"The girls are playing hard and we've got a pretty intense team," OCC Coach Kevin Smith said. "We've been starting games strong and we're kind of putting the opponent on its back foot, which has been nice. We're on a little bit of a roll right now and, hopefully, we're going to carry that into the second half [of conference play]."
Smith praised Garrity and fellow midfielder Kiley Leshin, another sophomore, for winning virtually every 50-50 ball to help OCC control play.
Smith continually urged his team to exploit a speed advantage Gomez enjoyed over Rustler defenders.
"She has a speed advantage on 90% of the people she plays against," Smith said of Gomez, who sat out the previous game, a 7-0 romp against Fullerton on Tuesday, in order to rest her knee. "And Golden West was there to scout our game against Fullerton, so I think [Gomez] might have caught [the Rustlers] by surprise a little bit. She's got a very, very quick first step."
The Pirates play Santa Ana and Fullerton next week. They will then get the chance to avenge first-round conference losses to Cypress, ranked No. 6 in the state (at home on Oct. 16), and at No. 2-ranked Santiago Canyon (Oct. 19).