Lakeland blanks challenger to its hockey crown

Published 8:07 pm Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It’s still very early in the high school field hockey season, but Lakeland took a major step to its 10th straight Southeastern District regular season championship on Wednesday afternoon at home, defeating Western Branch 2-0.

A two-goal victory is a close shave by district standards for the Lady Cavaliers, who haven’t lost a district match in the regular season or the district tournament since 2002, but Western Branch took Lakeland to overtime last season in the SED Tournament final. Wednesday’s contest figured to be one of perhaps two or three truly competitive district games Lakeland faces in the regular season.

Lakeland scored twice in the first 10 minutes and dominated throughout the first half. That was good enough to get by the Lady Bruins and move to 2-0 in the Southeastern.

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Western Branch had some early success keeping the action in midfield rather than around its own goal, but a couple quick attacks with sharp passing paid off for Lakeland.

Lakeland’s first tally started 60 yards from the goal with Kendell Combs sending a long pass down the right sideline for forward Jennifer Hedrick.

The Lady Bruins momentarily gained possession, but Hedrick regained the ball and dribbled into the right side of the WB arc. Hedrick sent a low cross toward goal, Taylor Young kept the ball moving past the WB goalkeeper and Brittany Milteer finished the goal with a shot into a mostly unguarded cage, putting Lakeland up 1-0 in the ninth minute.

Lakeland continued pressing right from the ensuing restart, stealing the ball from WB and moving in on goal. Only 1:13 after Milteer’s goal, Hedrick put a shot on goal and Milteer followed on the rebound, putting a shot on goal that hit a WB defender and resulted in a penalty stroke for Lakeland.

Kelsey Smither took the penalty, whipping her shot high into the cage to the keeper’s right, making it 2-0 Lady Cavs. The goals were the fourth of the season for Milteer and Smither’s third of the season.

Western Branch’s most dangerous scoring chance came a couple minutes after halftime. The Lady Bruins broke down the field on a counterattack and forced Lakeland defenders into back-to-back goal line clearances after Lakeland goalie Marissa Betkowski came off her line in an attempt to check away a WB pass.

For much of the second half, Lakeland controlled possession and kept the Lady Bruins well away from scoring. Another goal or two to put the match out of reach never came though as Lakeland managed only three shots on goal in the second half. The Lady Cavaliers still finished with a 10-2 shot on goal margin and a 9-1 penalty corner advantage.

Lakeland (5-1, 2-0) is off for a week before facing Great Bridge on Wednesday in Chesapeake.