Split decisions for Suffolk teams

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, October 29, 2008

VIRGINIA BEACH — It was a split decision Wednesday for Suffolk teams in the Southeastern District field hockey tournament semifinals at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center. Lakeland High defeated Hickory and advanced to Friday’s final, where it will face Western Branch, a semifinal victor over Nansemond River.

Lakeland’s 3-0 triumph came on a trio of Kelsey Smither goals off penalty corner plays. Nansemond River lost 2-0 on two tallies out of regular play. The Cavaliers (15-2) and Bruins (11-4) will continue their seasons in next week’s regional playoffs, while the Warriors ended their campaign at 10-4-1 and the Hawks at 9-7-1.

“It wasn’t our day,’’ said Nansemond River coach Darryl Yandle, whose team played its first game on turf this season. “We got panicky and tried to take the ball straight up the middle, even though Western Branch was packed in there.’’

Email newsletter signup

The Warriors finished second in the district’s regular season and peaked earlier this month with a brilliant 1-0 road victory at Western Branch. But the team that spread the field and exploded up field in transition that day was nowhere in evidence Wednesday.

“Western Branch did a good job of pressuring us and getting us frustrated,’’ Yandle said. “When you’re frustrated you don’t think as well.’’

The Bruins’ Ashton Cox opened the scoring four minutes before halftime, capping a rush into the Warriors’ arc by slamming home a Jessica Diaz crossing pass at the right post. The second goal, by Marlene Lichty, came with two minutes remaining in the game.

Lakeland’s victory featured a standout performance from Smither, a sophomore who not only slammed in her team’s goals, but put on a dribbling clinic amongst flailing Hawks. Lakeland coach Tara Worley was quick to credit Smither’s supporting cast, but admitted she has a star in the making.

“She has the ability to break down a defense all by herself,’’ Worley said. “She beats two or three defenders, leaves them in the dust and then we have a numbers advantage. Not many coaches get what she gives us from a sophomore.’’