Eight straight for Lady Cavs

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 1, 2008

VIRGINIA BEACH – Lakeland won its eighth consecutive Southeastern District Field Hockey Tournament on Friday with a 2-1 sudden-death overtime victory against Western Branch at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center.

One hardly would’ve known it was a Lady Cavalier victory and yet another Lady Cavalier title if they had listened to Lakeland head coach Tara Worley either during match or following Kelsey Smither’s game-winning goal 9:43 into overtime.

The third-seeded Lady Bruins, who lost 3-1 against Lakeland in the team’s regular season contest, controlled healthy stretches of Friday’s final. Western Branch outshot Lakeland 4-0 in attempts on goal in the opening half and made the perennial district power sweat throughout all 69+ minutes.

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“Right now it’s just so frustrating when you know your team is so much better than the way they’re playing,” said Worley.

The opening half finished scoreless as Lakeland barely threatened the Lady Bruin arc. Lakeland’s first half included its two midfield leaders, Kaity Byrum and Smither, being relegated to the bench by Worley.

The gameplan Worley had drawn up for Western Branch wasn’t being put into play and, “just like anybody else on the team, they had to be told what they were supposed to be doing.”

“As long as I’ve been coaching, I’ve treated everyone the same in that regard. No one is too good to come off the field.”

Seven minutes into the match, Worley took a timeout to try to get her team in gear. That pause didn’t change a lot.

With 13 minutes left, Lakeland goalie Marissa Betkowski was needed for an acrobatic kick save, then another kick for a needed clearance. Betkowski came through again with five minutes left in the half, stopping a close range shot by quickly dropping to the turf to stop the shot from going between her legs.

Seven minutes into the second half, Lakeland converted on a penalty corner to take the lead. Byrum passed to the top of the arc where Morgan McCaw set up the ball for a faked shot by Kendell Combs, then a drive on goal by Smither. Taylor Young deflected Smither’s shot, sending the ball into the center of the cage.

Despite Lakeland moving in front, Western Branch continued playing toe-to-toe with the Lady Cavs and had plenty of scoring chances.

With 12:12 left in regulation, Brittany Diaz smashed a low shot just inside the right post of the Lakeland cage, tying the match and setting up an even more furious finish.

Three minutes after the Lady Bruins made it 1-1, a Lakeland timeout featured Worley letting everyone around the field, the Lady Bruins included, hear the whole fiery speech.

In the minute after the timeout, Lakeland put together a flurry of shots in front of the Western Branch cage, but in the closing minutes of regulation, the match returned to one either side could’ve won.

In 7-on-7 overtime, Lakeland kept most of the action inside the Lady Bruin half. Lakeland forced five penalty corners in the nine minutes of overtime before the decisive play.

On a restart to the left of the WB arc, Smither dribbled across the field, into the top of the arc, then sent a drive through traffic which found the back of the cage.

“Western Branch was great, I’m taking nothing away from them,” said Worley, “but I hope we learn some lessons from this and take it to regionals. That’s the best thing that could’ve happened today.”

Betkowski made seven saves for the Lady Cavs. The final shot total was 15-15 and 8-8 in shots on goal.

Lakeland (16-2) will face Granby in the first round of the Eastern Region Tournament on Tuesday at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center in Virginia Beach.