Lady Cavaliers roll to state final

Published 8:07 pm Friday, November 12, 2010

Lakeland’s field hockey team celebrates following the final whistle of its 4-1 victory over Stafford in the state semifinals Friday in Virginia Beach. The Lady Cavaliers (22-0) play Mountain View for the state title Saturday at 12:30 p.m.

VIRGINIA BEACH – Lakeland advanced to the VHSL Group AAA State Tournament final for the first time in Lady Cavalier field hockey history Friday with a dominant 4-1 victory over Northwest Region champion Stafford at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center.

Freshman forward Summer Parker scored Lakeland’s two first-half goals, and senior forward Kendell Combs put two goals in for insurance in the second half. å

Stafford (23-1) matched Lakeland’s pace and skill better than any side the Lady Cavaliers have faced this season. In the end though, the final result and margin was an awful lot like all but a couple Lakeland (22-0) wins this season.

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“I think we came out with intensity and at the same time, we settled into the game pretty quickly,” said Lakeland head coach Tara Worley.

Stafford had a chance to take the lead in the opening minute, putting one shot on goal and earning a penalty corner.

After Lakeland turned away the opening rush though, most of the next 15 minutes was played in and around the Stafford circle.

Lakeland’s speed and ball movement led to the opening goal just short of midway through the first half.

Taylor Young’s steal broke up a Stafford attack about 25 yards from the Lakeland cage. Young passed to Kelsey Smither and the Lady Cavalier counterattack was on.

Smither drove to the top of the Stafford arc and sent a ball for Combs in the middle of the circle. Combs turned toward goal and sent a pass toward the left post where Parker was cutting on toward the cage and calmly, simply put the shot in the cage.

When Stafford called a timeout with 7:00 left in the half, the Lady Indian shot from the first minute was still the only one in Stafford’s column to seven by the Lady Cavaliers.

Stafford forced a corner a couple minutes later. Senior keeper Marissa Betkowski turned the ensuing shot away with a kick save. Betkowski finished with six saves to go with two defensive saves by Smither.

“That was a lot of shots (against) for us, but Marissa handled it with poise, she didn’t panic at all,” Worley said. “The defense really worked as a unit.”

Parker made it 2-0 Lakeland in the 29th minute, getting a pass from Smither on the left wing. Parker sent a long-range shot on goal, without much pace behind it, but it fooled the Stafford keeper and the two-goal lead was another huge boost to Lakeland’s momentum.

Stafford capitalized on a corner six minutes into the second half. Betkowski saved two shots before a third found the cage.

Lakeland answered immediately. Attacking straight away into the Stafford circle, Lakeland earned a corner, one of 12 total.

Lakeland’s set play went to Smither for a blast from the top of the arc. The shot was stopped, but the rebound went to Combs near the left post and she poked it over the line amid a bunch of traffic.

Combs added her second with 11 minutes remaining. After a spell of Stafford on attack, Lakeland countered with a fast break.

Smither to Parker to Combs covered 70 yards in a couple blinks. Sliding in one-on-one, Stafford’s keeper stopped one shot attempt by Combs. Parker gained the loose ball, passed to Combs, who lobbed a backhanded flick from the left side of the circle, over the keeper, who was now 10 yards off her goal line, and into the netting of the cage.

Large cheering sections came from Suffolk and Stafford in support of both undefeated teams. The last 90 seconds of the match was spent with “Lakeland” chants and a loud ovation.

“We adjusted to their tendencies really well and did well stopping their attack,” Worley said.

“At halftime, the girls were saying, ‘We still have to score more. It’s not enough,’ they’re all so experienced and smart and poised. They aren’t cocky, just confident, and they know what has to be done,” Worley said.

Saturday’s state final, set for 12:30 p.m. at the National Training Center, is a rematch of last season’s state semifinal match, a 2-1 Mountain View win over the Lady Cavaliers.