But as Stuart hosted WW/P-N last Thursday, junior forward Kirton produced a breakthrough effort, scoring a goal as time ran out in the first half and then tallying again three minutes into the second half.
Sparked by Kirton’s heroics, Stuart pulled away to a 4-1 victory over the Northern Knights as it improved to 4-7.
Afterward, a beaming Kirton acknowledged that she was thrilled to find the back of the cage. “I was in a little bit of a slump so definitely this built up my confidence and it built up everybody’s confidence,” said Kirton.
Although Stuart had lost 4-0 to Hun a day before the WW/P-N contest, Kirton had the sense that the Tartans were poised for a big performance.
“We definitely took what we learned off the field yesterday and applied it today,” said Kirton. “We were more aggressive today and we tried to communicate more on and off the field. I think just supporting each other was the biggest thing that helped us win today.”
While Stuart dominated possession in the early stages of the contest, it was a goal by sophomore star Tori Hannah midway through the first half that got things rolling in the right direction for the Tartans.
“Tori definitely set the tone for the game today,” said Kirton. “That goal in the first half made us more tenacious.”
Kirton displayed her tenacity minutes later when she got loose in the circle and banged home a feed from sophomore Sam Servis to give the Tartans a 2-0 lead at halftime.
“I was paying attention to Sam,” recalled Kirton. “We have learned to be aware of where everyone is on the field. She had a great pass to me and I just got my stick there.”
After WW/P-N scored a goal early in the second half to make it a 2-1 game, Kirton struck again, converting a pass from Servis into her second tally.
“You can’t let it effect you when they score,” said Kirton. “You just have to keep battling and that’s what we did. The score for us doesn’t really matter, it is more how you play the game and you come back. I was definitely more aggressive in the circle today.”
Kirton certainly enjoys playing with Servis as the two are developing a solid connection on attack.
“We definitely look for each other because she is the right inner and I am the left so it is easy to do those crosses,” said Kirton. “We try to play with each other up the field.”
Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik liked the way that her team performed all over the field in the victory over WW/P-N.
“I thought all of them played well,” asserted Bruvik. “The win was a total team effort and everyone’s contributions were timely and significant to the outcome. I think every player felt she had a solid performance and was inspired by her teammates’ efforts.”
Bruvik acknowledged that Kirton’s finishing touch proved to be inspirational for the Tartans. “Madison had two big goals,” said Bruvik. “I thought her, as well as the rest of the kids, were positioning themselves beautifully. We are doing a better job of anticipating; before we were doing way too much watching the game. We have been working on a lot of full field transition, where you need to be off ball.”
Sophomore Hannah has been giving Stuart a needed spark on the offensive end.
“We brought a freshman up, Izzy Engel, who has done a nice job at that right midfield spot which allows Tori more freedom to push up,” explained Bruvik. “Tori is really playing an offensive mid. She is defensive minded but it gives her a chance to carry the ball and see her teammates and put the ball on goal herself. She has always had that innate athletic ability but the stick skills are just more consistent right now.”
In Bruvik’s view, the win over WW/P-N is a sign that her team is developing better consistency. “I think it is a confidence builder,” said Bruvik, whose team hosts the Blair Academy on October 9 in its annual Play for the Cure breast cancer awareness fundraiser.
“They were looking for each other better. They are filling the spaces better and trying to put the ball into the spaces better. It was just timing and sheer effort today.”
Kirton, for her part, believes things are looking up for the Tartans. “I think moving forward we are ready to end the season with a bang,” said Kirton.