Lakeland back in conference final

Published 11:41 pm Thursday, October 30, 2014

Lakeland High School’s field hockey program is not really acquainted with down years in which it loses more games than it wins and exits the postseason almost as soon as it enters it.

But this year looked like it might be one of those years after the Lady Cavaliers entered the conference tournament on Tuesday with a losing record.

They advanced to Thursday night’s semifinal but had to face a developing King’s Fork High School team that had already defeated them 2-0 earlier in the season.


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But despite all this, it will be Lakeland playing in the Ironclad Conference tournament championship game on Friday, and the Lady Cavs will enter it with a winning record after their 1-0 semifinal victory over the Lady Bulldogs at Powhatan Field in Norfolk.

“I thought they played one of the best games they’ve played all year,” Lakeland coach Cortney Parker said of her girls, noting they played with urgency, cutting to every ball.

She said the win meant a lot as she reflected on how far they have come since their first scrimmages this year at Bruton High School.

For Lakeland, this has not only been the year it moved forward without former coach Tara Worley, it has also been the year it moved forward without nine talented seniors that graduated in June.

Consequently, it seemed only fitting that the winning goal on Thursday that came with only 3:29 left to play was scored by a freshman — Maddy Carr. She was assisted by sophomore Kaylene Thomas.

For King’s Fork, it was a bitter case of déjà vu. Last year, it fell short of a regional berth and the conference tourney title game when it lost 1-0 to Nansemond River High School in the semifinals.

But Lady Bulldogs coach Courtney Van der Linden was happy with her team’s effort against the Lady Warriors. Her reaction was nowhere near the same after Thursday night’s loss.

“(It) was decided because we beat ourselves,” she said.

Van der Linden said she had a nagging fear this season that her team would get some solid wins and then begin to get comfortable near the end of the year. It was something she repeatedly warned her players against.

Still, she said she started to see what she feared in a win against Denbigh High School last Tuesday, and then saw it on full display when her team lost in strokes last Thursday to Smithfield High School, a team it had beaten 2-0 earlier in the month.

Van der Linden said it took Lakeland scoring to wake them up, “but that’s playing reactively, and reactive teams don’t win.”

King’s Fork finished this year with an 11-6 record.

Meanwhile, Lakeland improved to 9-8, and Parker said, “We’re peaking at the time I wanted us to peak.”

The Lady Cavs had a special reason to give their all on Thursday.

“They were playing for Lakeland, but they were playing for Erin (Bradshaw), too,” Parker said. “We didn’t want this to be her last game.”

Bradshaw, Lakeland’s goalkeeper, is the lone senior on the team and a veteran of several of the program’s most talented squads. She expressed her approval of the effort produced by the latest group of Lady Cavaliers after Thursday’s game.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” she said.

Lakeland faces Nansemond River (12-5) this evening in a re-match of last year’s conference tournament championship game. The contest will start at 5 p.m. at Powhatan Field in Norfolk.