Cox ends Lady Cavalier season

Published 7:38 pm Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lakeland sophomore Alexis Albright dribbles between two Cox players during Thursday’s regional semifinal match at the U.S Field Hockey National Training Center. Cox beat the Lady Cavaliers 2-1. The Lady Cavaliers finish the season as Southeastern District champs and with a 15-5 record.

VIRGINIA BEACH — Lakeland’s field hockey season ended one step shy of reaching the state tournament as perennial state power Cox scored with just over 16 minutes to play and went on to a 2-1 victory in the semifinals of the Eastern Region Tournament Thursday afternoon.

Throughout its district season, in which Lakeland was perfect in 11 matches, Lakeland was dicing through an opponent’s midfield, peppering shots on goal and putting the opponent under all sorts of pressure.

“We had a game plan and we stuck with it the whole time and it kept us in the game,” said Lakeland head coach Tara Worley.

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Cox kept most of the action inside the Lady Cavalier half of the field and finished the match with big advantages in shots, 14-2, and penalty corners, 15-3.

Hustling defense by all 11 Lady Cavaliers plus an opportunistic goal off one of the three Lady Cavalier corners got the Lady Cavs close to advancing to the regional finals and a state tourney spot.

“We kept them from scoring on their corners. I have to commend our defense, especially Jamee and Alexis (Albright). They played a big role in what we did today,” Worley said.

It took 11 minutes of play, but Cox got on the board with its first shot on goal. Senior forward Catherine Steentofte fired a shot on goal off a quick pass into the center of the Lakeland arc.

The Albright sisters along with Kristen Vick, sophomores all, made weaving runs with the ball through midfield but, unlike versus most other opponents the Lady Cavs face, few of the dribbling moves paid off into good attacking chances.

The Lady Cavs tied the match with their only shot on goal and only corner of the opening 30 minutes.

Sophomore forward Kasey Smith, who played as a defender for most of the match, nailed a hard drive through traffic into the back of the Cox cage. Summer Parker’s pass and Vick setting the ball up led to Smith’s goal making it 1-1 in the 26th minute.

Cox redoubled its attacking, gaining three corners in the closing minutes of the half, including a corner that set off a flurry of shots and Lakeland freshman keeper Erin Bradshaw needing to save two hard shots. Bradshaw finished with seven saves.

The Lady Cavaliers were taking some of the play into the Cox end early in the second half until a run of four straight Lady Falcon corners in a two-minute span.

Lakeland cleared the danger each time. On the fourth, the Lady Cavs got the ball out to the left sideline for a Cox restart.

The Lady Falcons crossed sharply into the middle of the arc and Casey DiNardo’s shot, initially deflected by Bradshaw, came down inside the Lakeland goal for a 2-1 Cox lead in the 44th minute.

Lakeland pressed the Lady Falcons during a couple stretches following the go-ahead goal. Jamee and Alexis Albright, along with Kelsey O’Leary, forced turnovers inside the Cox half of the field. Getting shots inside the Lady Falcon arc was another matter.

While Lakeland held out against the repeated Cox corners, four Lady Falcon corners in the final seven minutes kept the ball well away from the Cox goal, making the one-goal lead quite safe.

“I’m really proud of the girls. I feel they played really well,” Worley said.

“We gained a lot today. The girls showed their heart today. They played their hearts out,” Worley said.

“This season was a roller coaster. We had highs and lows. We played well a lot of the time and sometimes we didn’t,” Worley said. “To go out playing well, of course I’d ask for a win, but it still makes me happy.”

Lakeland (15-5) loses just two seniors, forward Jillian Bates and midfielder Gabrielle Wash. Twelve of the 16 Lady Cavs on the regional tournament roster are sophomores or freshmen.