Lakeland asserts control of district yet again

Published 12:12 am Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Lakeland High field hockey team was awarded a goal it didn’t score Friday and missed putting in another it should have done so with ease. But neither play mattered, for the Cavaliers proved during their 5-1 shellacking of Western Branch that they remain the class of the Southeastern District.

While Lakeland hasn’t technically clinched its ninth consecutive district title, the idea that it will somehow lose to both Great Bridge and Grassfield in its final two district games and be overtaken by second-place Nansemond River is fantasy. The Cavaliers last dropped a district contest in 2002.

Coach Tara Worley wasn’t happy when Western Branch took a 1-0 lead in the fourth minute, but the ultra-intense coach didn’t yell and stomp like she might have in a different situation.

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“I’ve learned not to overreact early,” said Worley, whose team improved to 11-2 overall and 7-0 in district play. “I wanted our players to pull out of it on their own. Then we reorganized some things at halftime and (Western Branch) barely got the ball over midfield after that.”

Lakeland tied the game eight minutes after it went down, off a penalty corner feed by Kaity Byrum. Morgan McCaw dropped her stick horizontal to the turf, Kendell Combs faked a shot attempt and stepped aside and a trailing Kelsey Smither smashed the ball home.

The Cavaliers’ second goal was awarded on a strange play four minutes after their first. Smither smacked a low ball from outside the arc and to the right of the Bruins’ goal. It rolled past half a dozen players and inside the far post without being touched, but a referee stationed near Smither ruled Kristin Buck had tipped the ball just before it crossed the goal line.

Leading 2-1 at halftime, Lakeland put the game away when Smither smashed in a low shot from the left side just 42 seconds after intermission.

Combs tipped in two more tallies to close the scoring and Byrum somehow missed a pass that rolled through her legs as she stood next to an open goal with 10 seconds remaining. There were giggles all round after that play and Worley was left happy but resigned to life with an up-and-down squad.

“Our issue is consistency and that comes with our team being mostly sophomores,” she said. “We have one senior and four juniors and that’s good for the future, but we have some work to do right now.”

Western Branch dropped to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in district play. The game was played at the former U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center in Virginia Beach.