Lakeland celebrates state champs

Published 7:17 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lakeland seniors Marissa Betkowski, left, and Olivia Graham lead the Lady Cavalier field hockey team at the start of a pep rally in honor of the team’s state championship Thursday at Lakeland. The Lady Cavaliers won the first state championship for a Lakeland team since the school moved to Group AAA in 1996.

For all the incredible, even nationwide, rankings, records and stats Lakeland’s state championship field hockey team claimed over the past couple months, almost as much of Lakeland’s pep rally in honor of its new state champs was spent highlighting other numbers.

“The strong work ethic of all these girls was instilled in them by their parents,” Lakeland teacher Daniel Waller said emceeing Thursday afternoon’s rally with every Cavalier student in the gym.

“It showed in the field and in the classroom. The ladies here, as a team, combined to have a 3.9 GPA in the last nine weeks,” Waller said.

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On the field, the 24-0 Lady Cavaliers brought home the Group AAA State Championship last Saturday with a 3-0 victory over Mountain View. The state title is the first for a Lakeland team since the school moved from Group AA to Group AAA in 1996.

“I had a feeling about this group of seniors six years ago at Forest Glen,” said Lakeland head coach and Forest Glen Middle School physical education teacher Tara Worley.

“They each were extremely competitive and hated to lose. I knew right then I had something special,” Worley said.

Eight seniors, Olivia Graham, Kendell Combs, Kelsey Smither, Marissa Betkowski, Taylor Young, Megan Johnson, Brittany Milteer and Jennifer Hedrick, led the Lady Cavaliers in their championship run.

“You will forever be known as trailblazers,” said Lakeland principal Dr. Thomas Whitley.

“I’m proud of each and every one of you. You’re simply the best and there will never be another team like you. We’ll continue to have a great field hockey program for years to come, but you and your state championship will always be first,” Whitley said.

Betkowski, a four-year starter as the Lady Cavalier goalkeeper, had 19 shutouts this season, tying the VHSL (Virginia High School League) state record for a season. Betkowski’s shutout total for her four years is No. 2 in the national high school record books. She’s committed to attend and play hockey at Virginia Commonwealth next year.

Combs finished the season with 44 goals and 29 assists and her career with 109 goals, making her No. 6 all-time in the nation in goals in a career. Combs is also headed to VCU.

Smither broke the national high school record for assists during the Eastern Region Tournament and finishes with 124 assists in her Lakeland career. Smither is following her older sister Katelyn to Old Dominion’s field hockey program.

Lakeland finishes the year No. 4 in the nation according to a poll by

As for the GPA “stats,” Johnson and Hedrick top the category with 4.4 GPAs.

“The outpouring of support over the last few weeks has been overwhelming,” Worley said.

“If a group puts in the time, commitment and work, this is a great example of what can happen,” she said.

“(A state title) was a dream of mine for a long time,” said Worley, while turning from the podium to her players seated behind her, “so I thank you for making my dream come true.”