Lady Cavs ‘never give up’

Published 10:25 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coach Nada Jefferson advises her team during a recent practice at Lakeland High School.

By Titus Mohler

Correspondent

The Lakeland varsity girls soccer team entered this season with great expectations, but costly injuries forced them to respond to suddenly overwhelming odds.

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“Oh, our expectations were for us to go to district,” head coach Nada Jefferson said. “Our first game we won against Phoebus, so we (were) looking forward to our next game and it was very competitive against Smithfield and Lafayette and we felt that we could get there.”

By game four of the season, the Lady Cavs had lost five girls who made up the core of the team to serious injury. These players included defensive leader Kasey Smith and midfielder/forward Amanda Regione. Smith suffered a broken toe and Regione a broken ankle.

“Our varsity team has dwindled from 18 to 15 with two still on the injured list,” Jefferson said. “A lot of people learned a lot of new positions really quickly.”

Jefferson wrote a player’s pledge for the remaining girls to recite together. The words affirm that they are capable, they are winners, and they will never give up.

The injuries have simply meant more opportunities for different players to live up to the pledge. Jefferson highlighted some of the standouts.

“If I had to say, my heartbeat of my team (is) the Albright twins,” she said. “They are amazing.”

Sophomores Jamee and Alexis Albright normally play center mid-field together. Jefferson explained that when they do, they control the middle.

Because of the injuries, Jamee is now playing forward, and Jefferson describes her as the biggest threat to opposing teams.

“She has amazing speed,” Jefferson said, “good insight to read the field and be able to see how to get the attack started and to finish it.”

Senior mid-fielder/forward Jillian Bates is the only player on the team who has five years of experience.

“If I had to say anybody was at their top level, she would be that individual,” Jefferson said.

The coach also singled out senior Sarah Peelen.

“Defensively, her tackling ability is amazing and she does really well,” she said. “Where she lacks speed, she definitely uses her knowledge of soccer to be able to tackle, to get the ball back, to make good passes.”

The team stands out off the field as well, assisting with SOL review at John F. Kennedy Middle School and participating in the March of Dimes. These activities are in addition to their rigorous practice schedule, not in place of it.

The Lady Cavs are 1-10 this season, but have shown improvement over last year by increasing the number of games in which they have scored at least one goal.

“Last year, we had, I think, five shutouts,” Jefferson said. “This year we’ve only had one thus far and that’s with Western Branch.”

The girls have also shown extraordinary endurance, which Jefferson credits to Lakeland field hockey coach Tara Worley for providing conditioning insights.

“Even though we only have 13 girls and 12 playing right now, they’ve played the entire game and still the coaches and the referee(s) ask, ‘Where did they get their energy from?’” Jefferson said.

Lakeland’s underdog status is intensified when it is understood that many of their opponents have 22-player rosters and are able to sub their entire starting lineup at halftime for a similarly talented bench.

With Coach Jefferson’s guidance, the girls have responded to all this in ways that echo their pledge:

“I am able. I am somebody. I am a winner. I am capable of achieving, and I never give up. I have the will, because I am able. I am somebody! I am a winner! Lady Cavs on three, Lady Cavs on three — one, two, three, LADY CAVS!”