Perfect 10 for Lady Cavaliers

Published 10:45 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lakeland’s field hockey team made it a full decade of dominance over the Southeastern District on Wednesday. The Lady Cavaliers’ 3-0 victory at Nansemond River finished a 9-0 season through the district and gave Lakeland its 10th straight regular season championship, all coming under head coach Tara Worley.

The Lady Cavaliers haven’t lost a district match since 2002. In the nine matches this season, Lakeland outscored its SED opponents 69-1.

After nine straight championships, the thought of the 10th going to Worley and the Lady Cavaliers seemed automatic all season long. Coaches never think along those lines though and the district title is still meaningful, even as bigger goals wait for Lakeland in the postseason.

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“Of course it still means something, and you always have to be careful not to look ahead. Today’s game meant a lot,” said Worley.

“It definitely feels good, that doesn’t change and we don’t take it for granted,” said Worley.

By district standards, Wednesday’s match against the Lady Warriors was a test for Lakeland. Nansemond River, playing on its Senior Day, played good defense and created a few chances in the Lakeland arc that could’ve tied the match early on or brought NR within a goal at a couple points in the second half.

In the opening minutes, or actually seconds, Lakeland looked ready to run away with the match.

The Lady Cavaliers gained a corner 20 seconds into the match. Off the corner, and a pass by Breanne Langston, Kelsey Smither fired a drive in from the top of the NR arc, scoring 42 seconds into the match.

NR had a flurry of action in the Lakeland arc a couple minutes later and had the chance to make it 1-1, but Lakeland got the next goal, coming in the 10th minute.

Smither sent a hard drive in from midfield, about 35 yards from NR’s goal, and Kendell Combs redirected the ball, without taking any of the pace off Smither’s blast, past NR goalkeeper Stephanie Tarafas for a 2-0 lead.

Tarafas, a senior who has committed to a field hockey scholarship from James Madison, was outstanding the rest of the way to keep NR within shouting distance. Tarafas finished with 17 saves as Lakeland outshot NR 20-4 in shots on goal.

NR put more pressure on Lakeland’s goal in the final couple minutes of the half, but Lakeland keeper Marissa Betkowski came up with kick saves against shots by Hannah Meinertzhagen and Brittany Frame.

With about 15 minutes left in the match, NR got two more tries toward goal and a big scramble practically right on the Lakeland goal line, but to no avail.

Lakeland clinched the match in the 55th minute, scoring for the second time on a corner. Megan Johnson knocked in a rebound, with a deflection, in effect, chipping the ball over Tarafas and a couple other NR players and into the cage.

Frame, Meinertzhagen, Tarafas Alisen Spruill, Meghan Folden and Heather Costen were the six seniors honored by NR head coach Darryl Yandle before the match. Combined, those six seniors have 22 varsity field hockey letters for the Lady Warriors.

“They will be sorely, sorely missed, and irreplaceable,” said Yandle.

Despite the loss, Nansemond River (11-4, 7-2) will still be in the four-team Southeastern District Tournament that starts Wednesday in Virginia Beach. The Lady Warriors have one more regular season match, against the Beach District’s First Colonial on Thursday in Va. Beach.

Lakeland (15-1, 9-0) clinches a spot in the Eastern Region Tournament with the season title. The Lady Cavaliers will be the top seed in the district tournament and looking for their ninth straight SED Tournament banner.

“I feel pretty good. We’ve still got some bad habits we’re working on, but all-in-all, we’re really playing good hockey right now and thankfully, the rest of our games will be on (artificial) turf,” said Worley.