Title motivates Lady Cavs

Published 10:36 pm Saturday, August 20, 2011

Lakeland forward Jillian Bates sends a shot toward goal in a match against Nansemond River last season. The Lady Cavaliers went 24-0 in winning the state championship last season, the first state title in the program’s history. Bates is one of two seniors on Lakeland’s squad going into this season.

The defending Group AAA state field hockey champions practiced Friday morning at Lakeland. For the first two hours of practice, for the varsity and junior varsity squads, it could’ve just as well been Cavalier track practice.

There was no need for a field hockey stick, a ball, a goal or even the field adjacent to Lakeland’s football field and track.

After the first state championship in the program’s history and Lakeland’s first state crown in a team sport since the school moved from Group AA to AAA 16 years ago, there’s no easing up.

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With a 24-0 record last season, a national ranking at the year’s end, numerous individual all-district, all-state and All-American awards and a full decade of letting no other Southeastern District mate win a season or tournament championship, it adds up to reasons to work harder instead of feel complacent for head coach Tara Worley’s team a few days before the new season.

“No, definitely not,” said sophomore Alexis Albright. “I think it’s gotten a little harder because (Worley) expects more, because now we have to live up to what the seniors did.”

Albright, along with her twin sister Jamee, both started in the Lady Cavalier midfield, usually one on each wing, as freshmen.

“No way,” Jamee said about if expectations had eased up thanks to a state banner. “We have a lot to live up to because of the seniors.”

The Lady Cavaliers had eight seniors graduate, with six going on to keep playing at the college level.

Forward Jillian Bates is one of two seniors on this fall’s team. She’ll be leading a lineup with at least nine of the 11 spots filled by underclassmen.

“I have to help set the bar for the entire team, but at the same time, the younger girls are really talented and it’s not all on me to lead. Everyone can lead on this team,” Bates said.

“I’ve been trying to get them to realize our team last year, they didn’t become a great team overnight,” Worley said.

“It took a lot of long hours by those kids to be a success. They’re going to have to put in the same effort to get where they got. This team is different in some ways, but they are doing the work and putting in the effort,” Worley said.

After two hours of conditioning on the track, then a short break in the shade, the Lady Cavaliers eventually put their playing field to good use for a couple more hours.