Keira Marks scored the go-ahead goal for Lakeland, which rallied from a 1-0 deficit to win its seventh straight game, 3-1, on the road at Passaic Valley on Tuesday.
LITTLE FALLS – With a roster chock full of young players the expectations for Lakeland’s field hockey team coming into the season were simply to enjoy playing the sport in a fun environment and maybe surprise a team or two along the way. A loss and a tie to open the season did little to change those expectations.
However, a funny thing happened following those first two games. The defense became the most cohesive in North Jersey and the Lady Lancers ripped off six straight shutout wins, including ones over perennial North Jersey powers Ramsey and Northern Highlands. In a matter of just two weeks, Lakeland went from being the hunter to being the hunted.
That was evident when the Lancers, fresh off receiving the top seed in this year's Passaic County Tournament, traveled to face a pesky Passaic Valley squad. Lakeland fell behind 1-0 but the deficit only seemed to fire up the Lancers as they quickly got back to their dominant ways.
After tying the game late in the first half, the Lancers took control early in the second half. Keira Marks scored the go-ahead goal and Madison Stout added one less than three minutes later as Lakeland won its seventh straight game, 3-1, over Passaic Valley on Tuesday in Little Falls.
Mariah Tovar's first half goal got Passaic Valley on the scoreboard first.
Passaic Valley could not match the depth of Lakeland, but the Hornets do possess a premier playmaker in Mariah Tovar, who showed on one run just how dangerous she could be with the ball on her stick. Tovar dribbled through traffic and slipped a shot into the lower-right hand corner to put Passaic Valley ahead 1-0 10 minutes into the game.
“That goal woke us up for sure,” said Marks. “With the run we've been on lately we have a lot more pressure on us now to play well. We never like to see another team scoring but maybe we needed it. It showed that we can't take anything for granted and we needed to work harder.”
After withstanding the initial shock of facing their first deficit in seven games, the Lancers started to change the momentum of the game by winning the battle in the midfield. Izabella Peralta was all over the field making plays and helping the Lancers earn one corner after another before finally cashing in. Peralta sent a low-liner across the box and Cory Sahanas was there to knock it home to tie the score at 1 heading into the second half.
“I knew after they scored that I had to step it up to set the tone in the midfield,” said Peralta. “Scoring goals has been hard for us this year so every one is important. We just had to keep the pressure on.”
With the sluggish start a distant memory the Lancers kept their foot on the pedal to begin the second half. The Lancers earned four corners in the first five minutes of the half. On the last of those corners, Marks showed why she is, arguably, the most versatile player in North Jersey. Also a lock down defender, Marks is equally effective moving up into the attack. Off of a corner from Madison Stout, she teed one up and let it rip into traffic in front. The shot deflected off a PV stick and into the back of the cage to put Lakeland ahead 2-1.
Madison Stout scored to put the finishing touches on the win for Lakeland, which is the top seed in the upcoming Passaic County Tournament.
“We got a lot of corners in the first half, we just weren't getting shots on net,” said Lakeland head coach Patty Kebrdle. “In the second half, we started getting more pace on those shots and putting them on target. If you earn enough corners and keep putting shots on net, good things are bound to happen.”
On the Lancers' next push up the field they earned another corner that led to goal. It started with a short pass from Stout that eventually made its way around the circle before landing on the stick of Alex Barna. She took a shot that also got deflected by a Hornet defender. But Stout was alertly there at the back post to knock it home out of mid-air for the final 3-1 margin. The Lancers did not allow a shot in the second half.
Lakeland (7-1-1) could potentially see Passaic Valley (3-4-1), which plays Wayne Hills in the first round, again in the Passaic County semifinals. The only other time Lakeland was the top seed in the county tournament was in 2012, which was also the only time it won a county title. It has been a dramatic rise from being the last seed in the 2016 Passaic County Tournament to now being the favorite in 2017. While they are enjoying the ride and having fun every step of the way, the Lancers hope that their season ends with some hardware as well.
“It's been a lot of fun how we've beaten some really good teams and we're such a close team, but now the games mean a lot more,” added Marks, who, as a freshman helped lead the Lancers to a county final in basketball. “We're just going to keep playing together as a team and try to keep this going as long as we can.”