Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXI, No. 45
 
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
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FINAL PUSH: Stuart Country Day field hockey star Carys Johnson, left, chases down a ball in Stuart’s win over Allentown in the Mercer County Tournament championship game. Last Sunday, Johnson used her track star speed to help Stuart tie Lawrenceville 2-2 in double overtime as the teams shared the state Prep championship.

Johnson’s Speed Makes a Big Difference as Stuart Field Hockey Shares Prep Crown

Bill Alden

Carys Johnson stumbled out of the gate this September as she started her senior season with the Stuart Country Day field hockey team.

The speedy forward sprained her ankle in the first half of Stuart’s opener against Academy of New Church.

Not about to let the gimpy ankle derail her last campaign with the Tartans, Johnson was back in action by mid-September, returning in time to help Stuart edge Lawrenceville 2-1.

Gaining confidence with each passing game, co-captain Johnson helped Stuart catch fire as the Tartans posted a 20-1-2 mark on the way to winning its third straight Mercer County Tournament title and the Patriot Conference title.

Last Sunday, Johnson, who has won several state Prep B sprint titles for the Stuart track team, was at full speed as the Tartans battled visiting Lawrenceville in the state Prep title game.

The Tartans hit their home field with plenty of emotion, having dropped one-goal decisions to Lawrenceville in the last two state Prep title games.

Late in the second half, Johnson raced down the sideline past the Stuart bench and split the Big Red defense, helping the Tartans to score and take a 2-1 lead with 7:30 remaining in regulation.

Lawrenceville, though, knotted the game at 2-2 with a disputed goal that came with 2:32 remaining in the second half.

The heated contest went into overtime and Johnson was stymied as she was carded in the first overtime. After a tearful scene on the bench, Johnson eventually returned to the game and made several runs into the heart of the Lawrenceville defense.

But the efforts of Johnson and her teammates weren’t enough to break the deadlock and the game ended in a 2-2 tie with the teams being named co-champions.

After getting a turn holding the state championship trophy, Johnson put the last moments of her field hockey in perspective as the post-game celebration whirled around her.

“It’s difficult to describe in words how I feel right now,” said Johnson. “Bittersweet is an excellent word if I had to verbalize it. It’s my last season and it’s very difficult to be leaving; so playing in the last moments of the overtime plays with your emotions a little bit.”

While the co-championship provoked some mixed emotions, Johnson said the team’s overall success this fall exceeded her expectations.

“It’s anti-climatic not to have a championship to yourself,” said Johnson. “We had such a great team, one of the best seasons in Stuart history with 20 wins and only one loss. That’s something I was not asking for at the beginning of the season but things have worked out beautifully.”

When she hurt her ankle in the opener, Johnson feared that things weren’t going to work out well at all for her.

“I thought, OK, that could be it,” said Johnson. “My sprained ankle isn’t something that I felt should keep me from helping the team. I was ready to get out of the gate when I first played Lawrenceville. Honestly, I haven’t looked back.”

As she looks back on her contribution to the team, Johnson knows that the pace she brings to the field means nothing without the rest of the team working together.

“I think personally my speed is what really helps the team,” said Johnson. “But you can’t do it alone, it’s great to have such good players around me. They have really helped me out.”

Stuart rookie head coach Katie Grant was thrilled with the effort she got from her players, the co-championship left her with a bit of an empty feeling.

“I’m so happy and proud of all the things we have accomplished throughout the course of the season,” said Grant.

“I have no question that they played with every ounce of heart and they left it all on the field. I couldn’t ask for anything else but there is no sense of closure, no sense of completion. It is what it is; they earned everything they got.”

When Stuart took the 2-1 lead late in the second half, Grant thought her players had the momentum to finish off Lawrenceville.

“I was definitely happy when we got that second goal,” said Grant, who got two goals from junior star Jackie Gaudioso-Radvany in the tie Sunday.

“Lawrenceville played a great game; they were really strong in the first half and I thought they carried that into the second half. I thought we started to get back in a groove. We pulled together and almost got another; we had a lot of opportunities.”

Even though there was a tinge of disappointment to be facing overtime after coming so close to the win, Grant said her players didn’t have their heads down.

“I didn’t need to do anything to get them up, they were like ‘let’s finish this, let’s go and do it,’” recalled Grant.

“I think they carried that into overtime. They dominated, it was just unfortunate we couldn’t get one. You don’t realize how big the field is until you get down to seven players with just six actually playing the field. They did what they could do; they kept trying.”

In Grant’s view, her core of seniors helped keep Stuart trying hard to the last minute of the season.

“I’m so proud of the whole team and I’m particularly proud of each and every one of the seniors,” said Grant, whose group of seniors includes Nina Willams, Yasmine Ebadat, co-captain Kate Alexandridis, Jenae Harrington, Ann Crawford-Roberts, co-captain Kate Baker, and Raines Plambeck in addition to Johnson.

“I think they all stepped up and played different roles from before, whether it was on or off the field. The seniors have all given something to the team in their way.”

For Grant, her coaching debut gave her something she’ll never forget. “It exceeded all of my expectations,” said Grant, with tears streaming down her face.

“Of course every coach comes into a season wanting to be a champion. We’ve won three championships in one season. They are the ones that get on the field and do it. I do my best to prepare them but when it comes to doing it, it’s all them.”

In Johnson’s view, it is a deep passion that helped the Stuart players produce their championship season.

“First and foremost, we have a lot of heart,” asserted Johnson, who plans to compete in track on the college level at either Princeton or Yale.

“As much skill as we have on the field, and we have a lot of it, it is the love of the game that keeps Stuart field hockey going.”

And Johnson showed her heart as she shook off her early-season pain to help keep Stuart on its title track.

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