Bringing home the bronze

Published 7:36 pm Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two Lady Cavaliers capped a summer of field hockey, just a few days before starting the high school field hockey season, by winning bronze medals at the AAU Junior Olympic Games in Des Moines, Iowa from July 30-Aug. 2.

Kendell Combs and Taylor Young, both rising juniors at Lakeland, played on the Forest Green team which put together a 5-1 record and finished third.

Getting a spot on one of the eight squads that played at the AAU Junior Olympics was the major accomplishment. Starting in early spring, players go through regional and national tryouts and tournaments to eventually make one of the Olympic teams. The AAU Junior Olympic Games is a 16-and-under tournament.

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At the national level, “there are college coaches pretty much lining the field,” said Combs.

Strangely, at the Junior Olympic Games, “it was more about having fun and playing versus good competition,” said Combs, and not nearly as many college scouts were on hand.

The field hockey tournament was held at the University of Iowa’s field hockey complex in Iowa City. Grant Field had just completed a renovation, with the main part being a brand-new artificial turf field. Iowa is one of the top powers in collegiate field hockey Young and Combs were both sporting “Hawkeye Field Hockey” tee-shirts at Lakeland’s practice on Thursday morning.

The Hawkeyes have won the Big Ten Tournament championship three straight seasons and reached the NCAA Final Four for the 11th time in program history last season.

Combs and Young helped their 15-player squad sweep three straight group games. On the first day of the tournament, Forest Green defeated Periwinkle 3-0, then rallied from a 3-1 halftime deficit to beat Black 4-3 with the go-ahead goal coming with 1:10 remaining.

Forest Green kept going until losing a semifinal game to Black 2-1. Forest Green finished the tournament with a 2-0 win over Royal.

For all of the Lady Cavaliers who play for head coach Tara Worley, the field hockey “season” is really a year-round calendar. The schedule to get to the AAU Junior Olympic Games, then the trip to Iowa, and now with Lakeland’s practices underway before its first match on Aug. 23, means the offseason for Combs and Taylor consisted pretty much of the ride home from Iowa.

“There’s no time off,” said Young.

“Yeah, maybe two or three weeks after the high school season,” said Combs.

“I think maybe we have time off for Christmas,” said Young.