Lakeland retires No. 23

Published 8:44 pm Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kelsey, left, and Katelyn Smither were honored by having their No. 23 jersey retired for their Lakeland field hockey careers and in memory of their father Edward in a ceremony at the school last week. Edward taught and coached at Lakeland from 1990, when the high school opened, to 2004.

There are examples of teams of destiny all over the sports world. Some might be equal to, but none are clearer examples than the lineage linking the Smither family, Lakeland field hockey and Lady Cavalier head coach Tara Worley.

Lakeland’s state championship win last month was the final game as a Lady Cavalier for Kelsey Smither, Edward and Donna Smither’s youngest daughter, no matter the outcome. One more win, even in a state final, didn’t change, but only added to the incredible list of what Kelsey and her older sister, Katelyn, who played for the Lady Cavaliers from 2000-04, have accomplished.

The championship was the perfect ending though.

Email newsletter signup

Lakeland’s first field hockey state title came on Nov. 13, six years to the day of Edward Smither’s passing.

“Ironically, on Nov. 13, 2010, Ed Smither watched from above as his youngest daughter guided her school and team to its first state championship,” said Worley at the ceremony.

Lakeland retired No. 23 from the Lady Cavalier field hockey program in honor of Edward, Katelyn and Kelsey Smither at a ceremony at the school last week.

Smither was synonymous with Lakeland and Cavalier athletics from the day the school opened in 1990 as a teacher, coach and athletic director.

He hired Worley, then a teacher just starting at Forest Glen Middle School, to coach field hockey in 1998. Worley quickly considered him as a mentor.

“Looking back on the six months before his death, we had more talks than ever, especially about Katelyn and Kelsey. Almost as though he knew,” Worley said. He passed away at age 48.

“He then came to me and told me how great he knew Kelsey was going to be and made me promise to coach as long as Kelsey played and to help her go to college,” Worley said.

In her Cavalier field hockey career, Katelyn scored 89 goals and totaled 57 assists. Lakeland won the first of what is currently 11 straight Southeastern District season championships in 2000.

Katelyn went on to a full scholarship at Old Dominion where she earned all-conference and all-region honors as well as multiple national academic honors. She’s now on the U.S. National Development Team, a team one stop from the Olympic and World Cup level full national team.

Kelsey won her third Southeastern District Player of the Year and third All-State honor this season as the Lady Cavaliers went 24-0 for the school’s first team state championship since going from Group AA to Group AAA in 1996.

Kelsey set the national high school record for assists with 124 in her four years. She’s accepted a full scholarship offer to follow Katelyn to ODU. Kelsey started for the U.S. U17 team last spring and has made the national U19 and U21 teams for 2011.

“As all of you know, I didn’t have to do anything to help Kelsey. Her tremendous abilities and accomplishments spoke for themselves and she took care of it on her own,” Worley said.

Lakeland awards the Edward S. Smither Jr. Memorial Scholarship annually and the Southeastern District gives the Edward S. Smither Jr. Sportsmanship Award to a school each year.

Field hockey banners line nearly a sideline’s worth of Lakeland’s gym. The 2010 Group AAA State Championship will be the grandest of the group. In all likelihood, future field hockey seasons will add more pennants.

The new banner with “23” and “Edward, Katelyn and Kelsey” is in some ways one more field hockey banner. Hopefully though, for as long as Lakeland hangs it in its gym, it will spark more questions and more stories than any one team’s banner.