Lady Cavs advance to region semis

Published 8:46 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lakeland’s field hockey team needed a little bit of everything on Tuesday to get through the quarterfinals of the Eastern Region Tournament with a 4-0 victory over the Beach District runner-up Ocean Lakes.

With the victory, the Lady Cavaliers (18-1) move to within one game, Thursday’s semifinal against Kecoughtan, of getting a state tournament berth for the first time in program history.

Tuesday’s match was tight through the first half despite Lakeland getting on the board only 4:48 into the match.

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On the Lady Cavs’ first corner of the match, Kelsey Smither took a hard shot from the top of the arc. The shot was saved, but the rebound created chaos in front of the Lady Dolphin goal. Kendell Combs and Breanne Langston had whacks at the ball before Taylor Young’s shot beat Ocean Lakes’ keeper.

Through the remaining 25 minutes of the first half, Lakeland had most of the possession, but only a couple more good scoring chances. Lakeland’s defense kept the 1-0 lead safe though.

“Our defense was key today. Megan (Johnson), Olivia (Graham) and Morgan (McCaw), they were truly in sync today. They broke just about everything up. Nothing in our final third (of the field) went uncontested,” said Lakeland head coach Tara Worley.

Numerous times in the first half, Ocean Lakes moved the ball out of its half of the field and seemed to have a promising counterattack chance. Nearly every time though, Lakeland’s defenders picked the ball away from a dribbler or were in the right position to intercept a long pass.

The few times Lakeland’s defense let Ocean Lakes get a shot on goal, senior goalie Marissa Betkowski was perfect with five saves for the match.

Worley and the Lady Cavaliers made adjustments to their attack during the halftime break and the result was three more goals, two scored by Combs.

Ocean Lakes crowded Smither, Lakeland’s do-it-all midfielder who won the Southeastern District Player of the Year Award last week, in the first half. Even if outnumbered in other areas of the field, the Lady Dolphins were taking their chances by making Smither pass rather than dribble through midfield and into attack.

“(Ocean Lakes) came in well aware of our patterns,” said Worley. Lakeland beat Ocean Lakes 4-0 back in September.

“They put five people on Kelsey as she started to penetrate off of free hits,” said Worley.

“Once we figured out what we had to do, that opened the game up a lot,” said Worley.

Only 2:15 into the second half, Lakeland scored again off a penalty corner. From the top of the arc, Smither flipped a pass toward the cage. Young put a shot on goal and Alyssa Chirico scored on the rebound.

As the second half moved on, even with Ocean Lakes’ strategy against Smither, she was still able to dice through midfield on the dribble and create more Lakeland scoring chances.

“In the first half, Kelsey wasn’t using her speed as much as she should. Once we talked, she started using her speed. When she uses her speed, she’s nearly impossible to defend,” said Worley.

In the 41st minute, Smither dribbled into the right side of the Ocean Lakes arc and sent a shot toward the cage. Combs corralled the shot, then poked the ball past the keeper near the right post.

Ten minutes later, Smither dribbled from left sideline, about 40 yards from goal, weaving around four or five Lady Dolphins to get into the arc. Smither passed to Kristin Buck near the right post and Buck passed back across the goal. Combs, with a dive and a jab at the ball, sent the ball into the cage to make it 4-0.

Lakeland and Kecoughtan met on Oct. 16 with Lakeland winning 1-0. Kecoughtan beat Maury 3-0 on Tuesday.

“Kecoughtan is fast. They’re in sync and they’re well-coached,” said Worley.

“They’re in the exact same position as we are. They’ve never made it to states, so they want it just as much as we do. We just have to play harder,” said Worley.

Lakeland and Kecoughtan play at 1 p.m. Thursday at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center. The regional final is set for Friday at 3 p.m.