Lady Cavs romp into states

Published 8:48 pm Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lakeland’s Alexis Albright dives to get her stick on the ball and into the goal, making the score 4-0 Lakeland in the first half against First Colonial in a semifinal match of the Eastern Region Tournament Thursday in Virginia Beach. Lakeland (20-0) continued on to a 5-1 victory.

VIRGINIA BEACH — With four goals in the first 21 minutes, Lakeland (20-0) cruised past Beach District champion First Colonial, through the semifinals of the Eastern Region Field Hockey Tournament and into the Group AAA State Tournament Thursday afternoon at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center.

Lakeland senior Kelsey Smither scored the first two goals, in the 6th and 9th minutes, turning the match into something closer to what most of Lakeland’s 20 wins this season have looked like rather than a contest between two of the state’s elite teams.

“That really was our goal coming out. We knew we had to put the pressure on early. Of course it’s great to get some goals quickly and that really turned the momentum in our favor,” said Lakeland head coach Tara Worley.

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Lakeland gained two penalty corners in the first 1:15 of play and had already tried four shots by the time it took the lead.

A potential counterattack by First Colonial suddenly switched into Smither’s first goal.

Jennifer Hedrick turned defense straight into offense, getting to a Lady Cavalier clearance while in heavy traffic near the midfield stripe. Hedrick, with one creative flick of the ball, escaped the congestion and raced ahead into the attacking end.

Hedrick passed to Smither, and Smither played the ball forward to Kendell Combs. Combs had a 1-on-1 chance with the Lady Patriot keeper, who slid in and saved Combs’ shot. Smither was first to the rebound and shot from near the penalty spot into a wide-open cage.

The Lady Cavalier attacking increased from there. On Lakeland’s fourth corner of the early minutes, the Lady Cavs ran a perfect set play, with Combs passing in to Hedrick who settled the ball for a big drive by Smither. Smither’s shot, while a huge hit, skipped along the turf into the back of the cage.

“When we got the first goal, I felt we were on our game. That’s a big relief, as a coach, to come into a big game and see we’re playing well and doing what we need to do,” Worley said.

Just past the midway point of the half, another well-executed corner play meant another Lakeland goal.

Excellent passing from one side of the First Colonial arc to the other finished with Combs putting a pass across the goalmouth for Taylor Young to fire into the cage from four yards away.

Five minutes later, Smither and Summer Parker combined to cover 70 yards off the field on a quick rush. Parker’s shot on goal was saved, deflecting to Combs. Combs shot toward the right post and, with a full-length dive, Alexis Albright tipped the ball home.

First Colonial (19-2) put more pressure on the Lakeland goal and arc than the vast majority of Lady Cavalier opponents.

The Lady Patriots got a goal back with 19:47 remaining, converting a penalty corner, one of 15 corners First Colonial earned.

Combs scored her team-high 34th goal of the season, coming off 40 yards of dribbling and an assist by Smither, with 11 minutes remaining. Smither passed into the arc, straight in toward goal. Combs corralled the ball in front of the keeper and turned with the ball to push it around the goalie.

Lakeland finished with a 13-5 advantage in shots on goal. Marissa Betkowski made four saves in the Lady Cavalier goal.

Lakeland faces the winner of Thursday’s second semifinal, Princess Anne vs. Western Branch, for the regional championship Friday at 3 p.m. at the National Training Center.