Seniors provide Saturday leadership

Published 10:42 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2011

“I don’t know what I’m going to do when I lose these seniors.”

It’s a common comment by high school and college coaches, nearly a cliché, especially after a successful season or tournament.

It was fully true and no coach-speak at all, though, when Tara Worley, Lakeland’s head field hockey coach, said that or something along those lines following her team’s state championship victory in November.


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The Lady Cavaliers had eight seniors, Olivia Graham, Kendell Combs, Kelsey Smither, Marissa Betkowski, Taylor Young, Megan Johnson, Brittany Milteer and Jennifer Hedrick in their starting 11.

On Saturday, four months after the state banner was won and six months before the Lady Cavs will take the field needing eight new starters, Worley said, “I don’t know what I’m going to do when I lose these seniors.”

It was during a Saturday morning of youth indoor field hockey games in Lakeland’s gym. All eight seniors and a number of other Lady Cavalier varsity and JV hockey players were making the games happen by coaching, officiating, running errands and simply being around for the kids, ages 5 and up, who might play for Lakeland — or might try to upset Lakeland while at Nansemond River, King’s Fork or another school — down the road.

Most or all of the Lady Cavalier players play year-around. Most of the select/club/AAU field hockey events take place on weekends.

Kendell Combs and Kelsey Smither spent the previous weekend in Richmond at a national indoor tournament. A number of the younger Cavaliers were already at or going to major 14-and-under and 16-and-under indoor tournaments in Virginia Beach Saturday and Sunday.

Smither, as a member of the 21-and-under U.S. National Team, departs for Maryland, then Ireland and Germany, on a nine-day trip starting this Friday.

The bottom line with all that is it’s really tough to get teenagers out of bed, let alone productive, energetic and generous, for something at 7 a.m. on a Saturday, even for a sport they love.

Not that there’s a real offseason, anyway, but many of Worley’s players had understandable reasons to skip last Saturday and no one, probably even a super-demanding coach such as Worley, would’ve blamed them. That would certainly go for a senior who’d put in more than enough dues in the last four or five years. So how does Worley do it?

The easy, but partially accurate, answer is that she lucked into a group of outstanding kids.

The deeper answer is, as Smither said, “Coach Worley did so much for us. It’s a small thing we can do to help her with this.”

“One day, one of the kids out here could be another national team player,” she said.