Second place

Published 10:57 pm Saturday, August 29, 2009

VIRGINIA BEACH – For the second straight fall, Lakeland’s field hockey squad came in as runner-up in the Salem Invitational Tournament and for the second straight year Sacred Heart Academy of Louisville, Ky. topped the Lady Cavaliers. A goal with 7:04 remaining in the match gave the Valkyries a 1-0 victory.

On Friday and Saturday at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center, Lakeland went through three of the Eastern Region’s top teams to get to the championship game of the 16-team tourney.

On Friday, Lakeland shutout Kempsville 3-0 and beat Maury 2-1. Last year, Maury defeated Lakeland in overtime in a regular-season game in Norfolk.

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On Saturday morning, Lakeland prevailed in a semifinal match against Tallwood, but needed penalty strokes to get there after Tallwood tied the score, 1-1, with a goal in the final 90 seconds.

In the 10th minute, Lakeland used great ball movement from one end of the field to the other to take the lead.

After a spell of Tallwood putting pressure on in Lakeland’s half of the field, Morgan McCaw moved the ball out on the dribble and took it all the way through midfield before passing off to Kelsey Smither. Smither drove toward the Tallwood arc and just shy of the top of the arc, Smither sent a drive in toward the cage. Kristin Buck stopped the ball, turned and swept a shot past Tallwood’s keeper and into the cage for a 1-0 Lakeland lead.

Lakeland didn’t register another shot on goal in the last 40 minutes of the match. Lakeland controlled most of the possession, but neither side had any clear scoring chances until late in the game, and it was offensive chances for Lakeland that set up Tallwood’s tying score.

The Lady Cavaliers earned three straight penalty corners with the clock running down from 3:00 to inside two minutes left. On the third corner, Smither tried to get a hard shot on goal, but it deflected away, Tallwood cleared the ball, and suddenly the Lions had a 3-on-1 breakaway going to the Lakeland goal.

Lakeland goalie Marissa Betkowski tried to break up the attack with a sliding effort to knock away a pass, but the ball went through leaving an easy tap-in goal with 1:28 left in regulation.

With best-of-three penalty strokes serving as overtime, Kendell Combs, Alyssa Chirico and Smither went 3-for-3 for Lakeland. Betkowski came up with the big play by saving Tallwood’s second penalty stroke and Lakeland advanced 3-1.

Sacred Heart came into last week with a nationwide-best winning streak of 87 matches, but had lost a game in Kentucky on Tuesday, then lost on Friday to Cox, the three-time defending Group AAA state champions, in a game that wasn’t part of the Salem Invitational.

Lakeland had a good amount of possession through the first half, but managed only two shots and no shots on goal. Sacred Heart relied largely on fast counterattacks, with four or five Valkyries sprinting forward to try and catch the Lady Cavs outnumbered. Lakeland needed four saves by Betkowski to keep the first half scoreless.

Lakeland had its best stretch of attacking through the first 10-15 minutes of the second half. Lakeland earned a couple penalty corners and but three shots on goal, but couldn’t get on the board.

With 12 minutes to play, Smither, Lakeland’s midfield leader, clashed heads with a Sacred Heart player and went down with a bad cut above an eye. Smither stayed down for a couple minutes, but was quickly back on the field with a bandage wrapped around her head.

Sacred Heart converted a penalty corner for the game’s only goal a few minutes later. The goal came on Sacred Heart’s only shot on goal in the second half.

“Finishing,” was the main ingredient missing for Lakeland said head coach Tara Worley.

“We had good opportunities, just not good shots. I think we played them even and controlled the ball just as much as they did,” said Worley.”

“Kelsey’s injury was just before the goal. I think we were just a little shaken up for a few seconds there and that’s all (Sacred Heart) needed to score,” said Worley.

Right after the final handshakes, and before the tournament trophies were awarded, Smither left to be taken to a hospital.”

“This (tournament) helps expose our weaknesses. Now we know what we need to work on,” said Worley.

“Since we play a wide range of skill levels during the season, this is good because it shows us, at the end of the season, what it will be like,” said Worley.

Lakeland (4-1, 1-0) returns to Southeastern District play on Wednesday, hosting Western Branch at 5 p.m.

Lakeland in the Salem Invitational field hockey tournament

At the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center, Virginia Beach

Friday

Lakeland 3, Kempsville 0

Kendell Combs scored twice and Kristin Buck scored for Lakeland.

Lakeland 2, Maury 1

Alyssa Chirico and Taylor Young scored once each for the Lady Cavs. Maury defeated Lakeland 4-3 in overtime last season in Norfolk.

Saturday

Lakeland 1, Tallwood 1 (Lakeland wins 3-1 in penalties)

Buck scored Lakeland’s goal. Tallwood scored with 1:28 left in regulation. Combs, Chirico and Kelsey Smither scored in penalty strokes while Marissa Betkowski saved Tallwood’s second stroke.

Championship game – Sacred Heart (Ky.) 1, Lakeland 0

Sacred Heart scored the winning goal with 7:04 remaining.