Lakeland girls take top seed

Published 9:16 pm Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Junior forward Summer Parker hits one of Lakeland's 12 penalty corners during their 5-0 victory over Hickory in the semi-final round of the SED tournament on Wednesday evening at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center.

The No. 1-seeded Lakeland field hockey team advanced to the Southeastern District tournament championship with a 5-0 victory over Hickory in the semi-final round on Wednesday at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center.

The Lady Cavaliers had just faced Hickory last Wednesday, which resulted in a regular season-ending win, but a difficult game because of Hickory’s penchant for big hits and lifts, which involve propelling the ball into the air.

“We made some adjustments today specifically for them,” Lakeland head coach Tara Worley said. “So that’s an advantage of just having seen them. Some of the things that we struggled on last Wednesday, we took that away today.”

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Junior Kasey Smith scored 60 seconds into the game off an assist from junior Jessie Cox. Smith felt this Wednesday’s match was a great improvement over last week’s.

“It was easier this time,” she said. “Last game we didn’t come as strong as we did this game, and it really showed.”

Junior Jamee Albright scored unassisted about seven minutes later. Then Smith struck again with 10:03 remaining in the first half with an assist by junior Summer Parker.

While Lakeland still dominated the game in the second half, the Lady Cavaliers went scoreless for much of the half, and Hickory was able to advance the ball to the Lady Cavaliers’ goal at certain points. Worley felt this was likely due to fatigue, but observed such a strong effort from her team that she could not dwell on criticism.

To this point, Lakeland definitively closed out the game when Parker scored with 4:32 remaining and then Smith completed a hat trick with 3:37 to go.

“We executed beautifully today, not only on the planned plays — the adjustments that we were making — but we also talked a lot about ball speed today and getting those passes out behind the defense and we did that well today,” Worley said.

Now the Lady Cavaliers turn their sights to the district championship crown, which has been theirs for the last 12 consecutive years. They will have to get through Grassfield to claim it.

In their last meeting, Lakeland powered to a 5-0 win over Grassfield on the strength of four goals by Parker.

“We still need to come in strong and have a good mindset on how to play and probably still use the same defensive skills (we used on Hickory) on this team because I know they like to big-hit also,” Parker said.

“Last time we saw them we were on grass, so we don’t know how they’re going to be on turf,” Smith said.

“Should be a different game,” Parker agreed.

“I think they’re a good team, they’re a tough team, they’re going to play their hearts out, and we’ve got to play like we did today,” Worley said. “I think if we play and execute like we did today, we’ll be OK.”

The SED tournament championship game will be played on Friday evening at the U.S. Field Hockey National Training Center in Virginia Beach.