May 8, 2019

With Freshman Gill Excelling in Midfield, Stuart Lacrosse Gets Wins in Prep B, MCT

By Bill Alden

Anna Gill wasn’t at full speed as the Stuart Country Day lacrosse team hosted Robbinsville in a Mercer County Tournament play-in game.

“I have an injury on my foot, it is harder for me to run,” said Stuart freshman midfielder Gill. “It is just willpower.”

Displaying both willpower and skill, Gill tallied a goal and an assist to help 12th-seeded Stuart pull away to a 13-6 win over 13th-seeded Robbinsville in the April 30 contest.

“As a team, we are all working really hard to make everyone do their best,” said Gill. “Today we just brought it out, it was just really good.”

With Stuart trailing 4-3 late in the first half, the Tartans went on a 3-0 run at end of first half to seize momentum.

“It just gave us confidence,” said Gill, who notched the fifth goal for Stuart. “Winning the draw and all of us going down and making those quick passes just made it go well.”

Gill has formed a one-two punch with classmate Jaelyn Bennett, who led the way for Stuart in the win, tallying seven goals and an assist.

“Jaelyn is awesome; it is great working with her because she is such a strong player,” added Gill. “Playing with a strong player gets me better.”

Over the course of the spring, Gill has worked to improve and diversify her game.

“I have gotten better by momentum and I definitely developed my left hand more,” said Gill.

“In the last game, I shot with my left hand. That was a big improvement being more versatile.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik has seen her squad get better collectively.

“Our transition game has really improved,” said Bruvik. “I am so proud of them because all of their individual skills have really gone up a level. They are able to make those plays and they are able to execute. We are having multiple kids score.”

Bennett has emerged as a star, scoring multiple goals in a number of games.

“The kid is competing, she plays year round,” said Bruvik. “She is passionate about the game and she has put in a lot of time and effort to be able to do what she does out there.”

In the midfield, Gill along with freshman Kaitlyn Magnani, senior Grace Sheppard, and junior Caroline Mullen have given the Tartans a spark.

“They are relentless in the midfield. Those kids are our middies the whole game,” said Bruvik.

“They run hard off the draw, they go after ground balls. They know where each other are going to be. They are awesome.”

The Stuart defensive unit has also raised its game this spring. “Our defense has clearly solidified and our goalies (freshman Molly Shore and junior Caroline Letrent) have gained a lot of confidence,” said Bruvik, whose team had defeated Rutgers Prep 17-6 in the opening round of the state Prep B tournament on April 24.

“They support each other. Molly has earned a starting position and she has been doing a great job coming up with some big saves.”

With Stuart having started the campaign with three straight losses, Bruvik likes the way things solidified as the Tartans went 6-1 in their next seven contests, advancing in both the MCT and Prep B tourney.

“In each game, we grew,” said Bruvik, whose team lost 18-5 to fifth-seeded Princeton Day School in the next round of the MCT last Thursday and also fell 16-2 to top-seeded Montclair Kimberley in the Prep B quarters on Monday. “We are working together. We won six of seven and the one loss was by one goal.”

Gill, for her part, is excited by how the Tartans have grown over the last month.

“We are getting way better,” said Gill. “Our first game was tough (a 14-5 loss to Pennington on April 2); we were just getting to know each other as a team even though we see each other in school all of the time. Now we are really prospering and becoming a really close knit team.”