Lakeland’s bid for states ends one match shy

Published 9:51 pm Thursday, November 6, 2008

VIRGINIA BEACH – In past seasons when Lakeland’s field hockey had come up barely short of a state tournament spot in the Eastern Region Tournament, heartbreak had been the primary emotion in the moments after the final whistle.

After a 3-1 loss to Beach District champion Princess Anne on Thursday put Princess Anne into the state tournament and the Eastern Region championship match, there certainly was disappointment in coming up short in a hard-fought match. More so for Lakeland and head coach Tara Worley, however, was the sense that this season, even at its conclusion, was more a beginning rather than an end.

With midfielder Kaity Byrum, who played a critical role for the Lady Cavaliers from end-to-end of the field all season, as the only Lakeland senior, it’s easy for Worley to already have excitement for next season.

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“I don’t think the team really knows what they’ve had to overcome. We lost five seniors last season. A lot of this team was on the JV team last year, now we were in the second round of the regional tournament against one of the top teams in the state and we gave them a battle,” said Worley.

Princess Anne’s most potent forward, senior Maartje Van Rijswijk, was the main opponent Lakeland couldn’t stop. Van Rijswijk put Princess Anne up 1-0 with 8:05 remaining in the first half, then sealed the victory with a goal to give Princess Anne a 3-1 cushion with 2:42 left in the match.

Neither team had many clear scoring opportunities in the opening half. Any possession Lakeland had going through midfield and into attack came via the dribbling ability of midfielders Kelsey Smither and Byrum. Smither and Byrum often moved past one or two Princess Anne players, but when players three and four converged, it was tough for Lakeland’s attack to keep moving forward.

Van Rijswijk’s goal came as she had space to take a big shot from a couple steps inside the top of the Lakeland arc.

Six minutes into the second half, Princess Anne converted on what turned out to be its only penalty corner of the match. The Beach’s Lady Cavaliers moved the ball crisply from the left side of the arc, around the arc to the right post, where Blair George crossed to Torrie Jackson in the goalmouth, who poked the ball in from point-blank range.

Lakeland had most of its best chances in a comeback attempt in the final 12 minutes and after a couple good chances, Alyssa Chirico’s deflection off a shot by Smither made it a 2-1 match with 8:45 left.

The goal started with a corner, put into play by Byrum to the top of the Princess Anne arc. Morgan McCaw and Kendell Combs set up Smither and a hard, low shot by Smither was tipped past the Princess Anne keeper by Chirico.

The big blow to Lakeland’s comeback effort was a great individual play by Van Rijswijk. Advancing into the Lakeland arc moving to her off-side, her left, Van Rijswijk swept a hard backhanded shot on goal, goalie Marissa Betkowski kicked away that shot, but the rebound went straight to Van Rijswijk, who sent the same type of shot on goal and past Betkowski.

“Our finishing plagued us all season,” said Worley.

“We had our chances and I think we controlled a decent amount of the game. I don’t think they were a better team, but they did finish better than we did.

“I’m extremely proud. I know they don’t feel any better right now because they wanted to win, but I don’t think the team really knows what they’ve had to overcome.”

Lakeland (17-3) finishes the season with its ninth straight Southeastern District regular season championship and its eighth straight district tournament title.