Lakeland gearing up for state title runPublished 11:00pm Wednesday, August 21, 2013
As the talented core of Lakeland High School’s field hockey team enters its senior year, head coach Tara Worley has begun to approach it in a manner similar to the 2010 squad that won the state championship.
“The ones that were on the 2010 team, our freshmen, they want to feel that again,” said senior Jamee Albright.
Five of the nine seniors on the 2013 team were a part of that squad: Albright, her twin sister Alexis Albright, Summer Parker, Kasey Smith and Kristen Vick.
This year’s Lakeland team features the most seniors Worley has ever had.
Combined with a Virginia High School League realignment, which removed the Lady Cavaliers from post-season competition against schools much larger than Lakeland, a team that already had perennially excelled now has expectations about as high as they can go.
“My expectations are for us to definitely go to state and win state,” Alexis Albright said. “I think that now that we’re in a new division, it’s our time to prove something, that we can (beat everyone).”
Worley had no argument on the matter: “My expectations are rarely different.” She said taking it all the way is “what we work towards, that’s our ultimate goal.”
She said she was not, however, in favor of the realignment, because “I like to beat the best, and I feel like we were competing at that level.”
“I don’t feel like us having less numbers than them was having any weight on our success,” she said.
Last year, Lakeland ended up 17-2, reaching the quarterfinals of the regional tournament.
Worley is working with her team to make the most of the realignment by transitioning the team to a challenging formation it has not used since 2010. The new setup requires experienced, conditioned players of a high skill level.
“I think that we’re back to the point where we can play this,” Worley said. “It will really put a strong offensive attack on the other team, but it’s a harder defense for us to run.”
In this scheme, even Lakeland defenders will be a threat to score, a role Jamee Albright may take on, though positions have not yet been set.
Worley said defenders will “have to really work together. They really have to be on the same page.”
Kristen Vick, last year’s Southeastern District Player of the Year, has long been a facilitator from the back, but her position may be changing, as might Kasey Smith’s.
Summer Parker was by far the team’s leading goal-scorer last year, and Worley expects her to continue shining offensively.
“She’s definitely one that I look to, and I rely on, and she’s got to find her rhythm and get in it and stay in it,” Worley said.
Senior Kelsey O’Leary will likely be an important defensive presence.
“Honestly, I’m expecting a lot from all my seniors,” Worley said. “I‘ve got a strong group of girls that committed to this a long time ago, and they equally have to pull their weight to make it happen.”
The group also includes Jessie Cox and Megan Smith.
The challenge Lakeland will face this year is playing against less experienced competition during the season and possibly growing complacent, Worley said. The goal will be to keep the team playing at a high level throughout the year so it will be ready for the post-season.
The Lady Cavaliers visit Great Bridge High School on Monday.