Lakeland dominates for a decade

Published 11:35 pm Friday, October 29, 2010

From left, Lakeland’s Alexis Albright, Kendell Combs, Brittany Milteer and Jennifer Hedrick celebrate the first goal of the match, scored by Summer Parker, just over seven minutes into Friday’s Southeastern District Tournament final in Virginia Beach. Lakeland won its 10th straight district tournament title with a 6-0, mercy-rule win over Western Branch.

Lakeland’s dominance of Southeastern District field hockey wouldn’t really change even with one loss, even a loss in the final of the district tournament.

The Lady Cavaliers (17-0) made it absolutely official Friday with a 6-0, mercy-rule victory over Western Branch to claim their 10th consecutive district tournament championship to go with making it 11 straight regular-season championships this season.

With the regular-season contest taking place early in the season on Western Branch’s grass field. Lakeland beat the Lady Bruins 1-0, the closest by three goals any other district opponent came to the Lady Cavaliers.

Email newsletter signup

On the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center’s artificial turf, the Lady Cavaliers cornered Western Branch, literally, at least by field hockey terms.

With constant attacks on the Lady Bruin circle, Lakeland earned 13 penalty corners and scored on three of them in building a 5-0 halftime lead.

Crisp, clinical ball movement kept the offensive pressure building, and it took just over seven minutes for it to pay off.

Kelsey Smither, who won Southeastern District Player of the Year honors Thursday, dribbled out of a double-team and into the top of the arc before sending a hard pass toward the right post.

Alexis Albright, with a half-dive, half-lunge, poked the ball back across the goal and Summer Parker finished the goal near the left post.

Three minutes later, Lakeland put together a virtual instant replay off a corner. Off of Kendell Combs starting the play, Smither received the ball outside the top of the arc and sent it toward the right post. This time it was Albright to Combs and Combs volleying a deflected pass into the cage for a 2-0 Lakeland lead.

Lakeland doubled its lead in a hurry in the 21st and 24th minutes. On corner plays, both goals were Combs to Johnson who stopped the ball for Smither. Smither slammed big drives straight into the back of the cage for both tallies.

Albright, Combs and Brittany Milteer combined for a lot of fancy dribbling and eventually a goal by Milteer in the 28th minute.

Smither completed a hat trick, to go with the one she scored in Wednesday’s semifinal win, with a goal, coming at the end of 70 yards worth of dribbling starting from just outside the Lakeland circle. Smither’s goal in the 47th minute brought up the final whistle.

“We definitely teach, if you feel you aren’t going to get a clean shot away, then go for the corner,” Lakeland head coach Tara Worley said.

Worley’s coached Lakeland through all 11 season and 10 tournament titles.

“(Western Branch) was covering Kelsey well, especially on the corners, early on, so we had to adjust from using her on our corners. Others stepped up really well and they kept our attack strong,” Worley said.

The Lady Cavaliers finished with a 25-3 advantage in overall shots. Senior Marissa Betkowski made two saves, both in the second half, in Lakeland’s goal.

In the 11 district matches this season, Lakeland outscored its opponents 75-0. The Lady Cavaliers haven’t lost a district match of either type since 2002.

Lakeland advances to the eight-team Eastern Region Tournament starting Tuesday at the U.S. National Training Center. The Lady Cavs face Bethel, the No. 2 seed from the Peninsula District, at 1 p.m.