Lady Cavs enter a new era
Published 8:09 pm Saturday, August 23, 2014
The 2014 season finds Lakeland High School’s field hockey program at a crucial juncture in its history. It enters the year with both a new head coach after Tara Worley passed the torch to Cortney Parker and a largely new roster after nine players graduated.
Parker, who played for Worley at Lakeland and has been a part of the Lady Cavaliers’ success the last six years as Worley’s assistant, has only three returning players from last year’s team that went to the 4A state championship game.
“This is pretty unusual, having such a young group as far as experience goes,” Parker said.
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As a result, she admitted it is too soon to tell how good the Lady Cavaliers will be this year.
“I’m confident in their abilities, it’s just with so many never playing a varsity game, some of them come in kind of timid and just not quite sure,” she said. “I think once they get some experience under their belt, they’ll be all right.”
They will be following up a sensational 2013 Lakeland team that went 22-1, its only loss coming in overtime in the state title game. The squad won the 4A South Region championship and continued more than a decade of dominance against Southeastern District teams.
Five of the nine players to graduate in June will be on college teams this fall, including Lakeland’s all-time leading goal-scorer, Summer Parker, as well as Kristen Vick, Alexis and Jamee Albright and Kelsey O’Leary.
Also important contributors for Lakeland were the other four graduates — Jessie Cox, Kiersten King, Kasey Smith and Megan Smith.
Among the three returners that Coach Parker said are going to be key players for Lakeland is junior center midfielder Stasha Waterfield.
“She’s going to bring, first of all, the experience, because she played in every game last year with the older girls,” Parker said.
The coach noted Waterfield has put in a lot of offseason work, and consequently, her skills and knowledge of the game have improved tenfold.
Erin Bradshaw returns as goalkeeper and the one senior on the 2014 roster.
“It’s very comforting for me as a coach to have her there,” Parker said. Bradshaw is battle-tested after facing elite teams in the postseason, and the coach added, “I’m confident in her abilities in the goal.”
Junior right midfielder Shannon Leonard is the third returner, and “she’s going to bring that transition that Jamee and Alexis Albright brought in,” Parker said.
Working with Leonard in that effort will be sophomore forward Kendall Lewis.
Though young, “she does a lot of work in the offseason with (the Futures program) and travel teams,” Parker said. “She’s going to be a threat on the offensive end.”
Parker also said freshman back Alex Kinsey has stood out as an up-and-comer due to her speed and ability to quickly pick up on things.
Entering Monday’s season opener against visiting Great Bridge High School, Parker hopes her young players will simply believe they can succeed, and “that they can step up to Lakeland field hockey level.”