Big test ahead for Lady Cavs

Published 2:06 am Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Away from pressure: Lakeland senior Brittany Milteer dribbles away from pressure by Bethel defenders Tuesday during Lakeland’s 6-0 win in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Region Tournament in Virginia Beach. Milteer scored just over eight minutes into the match to put Lakeland ahead.

VIRGINIA BEACH ­— It seemed shaky for a moment or two early in the match, but in the end, Lakeland cruised through the first round of the Eastern Region field hockey tournament with a 6-0 win over Bethel Tuesday at a chilly U.S. National Training Center. The Lady Cavaliers (19-0) advance to face Beach District champion First Colonial, a 12-0 winner over Granby Tuesday.

The winner of that semifinal Thursday afternoon goes on to the regional final and the VHSL State Tournament. The losing side, despite still likely being one of the state’s two best teams, will have its season end.

Both Lakeland, with the Lady Cavaliers ranked No. 6 in the nation, and First Colonial are in what amounts to a top 40 poll of high school teams by

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Bethel, the No. 2 seed from the Peninsula District, made things relatively tough for the Lady Cavaliers, at least compared to most of Lakeland’s 18 previous wins this season or Lakeland’s wins in the last few Eastern Region quarterfinal contests.

Lakeland got the first three shots of the match, only for Bethel to counter with a couple shots, coming largely on quick counterattacks by the Lady Bruins.

A few seconds after one of the Bethel fast breaks, Lakeland called a timeout. Normally, that would’ve been head coach Tara Worley calling the timeout. Lakeland’s on-field coach, senior midfielder Kelsey Smither, got the credit for taking charge and seeing what needed to change.

“Kelsey actually requested the timeout. She had some things she wanted to say to her teammates. It was nothing bad or angry, just a couple things,” Worley said.

“Kelsey takes a lot of leadership. If she sees something, I want her to say something. She has the leeway to offer it to all her teammates,” Worley said.

The Lady Cavaliers responded to Bethel’s surge and Smither’s timeout. A couple minutes later, in the ninth minute, Smither took a restart and drove into the Bethel arc. A drive by Smither deflected off a Bethel stick, about 10 feet high, and fell a couple yards from the goal where Brittany Milteer pushed it into the cage for a 1-0 Lakeland lead.

Four minutes later, Smither sent Alexis Albright wide open down the right wing. Albright dribbled into the arc and her drive toward goal was tipped in by Kendell Combs.

For the most part, the result was decided with Lakeland’s 2-0 lead. Even though Bethel made the Lady Cavalier attack work for the rest of the match, Lakeland went on to have an 18-0 advantage in shots in goal and a 13-0 margin in penalty corners.

“Bethel came out with a lot of intensity, a lot of heart and a lot of speed,” Worley said.

Lakeland’s biggest scare of the day, even with Bethel’s initial flurries while the match was still scoreless, was when Smither turned her ankle while shooting on the run late in the first half. Smither returned to the action for all 30 minutes of the second half and showed no signs of injury. Following the match though, Smither was limping with a big ice bag wrapped to her ankle.

Three of Lakeland’s four goals in the second half came on corner plays.

Smither tallied goals in the 37th and 55th minutes, with Jennifer Hedrick assisting the first and Megan Johnson setting up Smither’s second. Combs started both corners with the initial passes.

Lakeland added two goals in the final minute. Combs scored her second of the day and 33rd of the season, off passes from Alexis Albright and Jamee Albright.

Alexis Albright knocked in a rebound from a Smither shot for the final play of the game. According to’s poll and its short paragraph on Lakeland, Smither, with her two assists Tuesday, is five assists away from setting a new national record for assists by a four-year high school player.

First Colonial will be plenty to worry about in the semifinals, Thursday at 1 p.m. at the National Training Center. The Lady Patriots defeated defending state champion Cox in the regular season and the Beach Tournament.

“We’ll need intensity, composure and controlling the ball,” said Worley, “and finishing our chances is always nice.”