Lady Cavalier to spend Turkey Day on the fields of Palm Springs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 20, 2002

For many, Thanksgiving is a time for family togetherness, gorging oneself on turkey, cranberry sauce and sweet potatoes, and lounging in front of the television, trying not to dose off before the NFL games end.

But this year, Lakeland sophomore Katelyn Smither will be spending her Turkey Day doing something slightly different: playing field hockey.

The Lady Cavalier will be the only Suffolk representative on the Beach Premier 16-and-under field hockey team, which will take part in the National Field Hockey (NFH) festival in Palm Springs, Calif. next week. The team will play three games on Thursday and two on Friday.

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When Lakeland field hockey coach Tara McClenney first took her to Virginia Beach’s Brandon Middle School back in May, Smither didn’t get off to the best of starts. &uot;We were doing the same things that we did in practice at Lakeland,&uot; she said, recalling the team that she has helped to the Southeastern district title the past two years. &uot;We did a lot of drills, and then they separated us into teams, and we played against each other. I didn’t do very well the first day.&uot;

Unfamiliar surroundings might have been a problem for her, explained her coach. &uot;I only wanted to take one player down there, because there were between 90 and 100 girls playing, and most of them were from the beach, so they had more visibility in that area that Katelyn did,&uot; said Mc-Clenney, the 2001 Eastern Region coach of the year.

After school kept Smither out of the second day of tryouts, she returned with gusto on day three. &uot;By then, I was more familiar with the girls I was playing against, and I was more comfortable.&uot;

Her work paid off; Smither became one of 16 girls to be selected for the team. &uot;It really boosted my confidence,&uot; she said, &uot;but I’m really nervous, because I’ve never been off the East Coast.&uot;

She wasn’t the only one. &uot;I think she’ll gain a lot of exposure,&uot; said McClenney, who sent her first-ever student to the Premier team. &uot;College field hockey coaches don’t have a lot of time to recruit during their own seasons, but by the time (the NFH) rolls around, most college seasons are over, so coaches have a chance to do some recruiting.&uot; With 193 teams competing at the festival, they’ll have much to see.&uot;

However, there’s still the matter of Smither missing Thanksgiving. Thankfully, she planned ahead.

&uot;I’m going to celebrate with my family in Suffolk this Sunday,&uot; she said, &uot;and when I get to California, I’ll be celebrating with my teammates, so I’ll have two Thanksgivings!&uot;