October 7, 2020

Sparked by Harlan’s Stick Skills, Mature Game, Stuart Field Hockey Tops Hun 3-0 to Start Season

STICK FIGHT: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Lily Harlan, left, battles Hun School’s Kayla Hampton for the ball in action last Saturday. Sophomore forward Harlan tallied a goal and an assist to help Stuart prevail 3-0 in the season opener for both teams. On Monday, Harlan chipped in a goal and an assist as Stuart tied Pennington 2-2. The Tartans are slated to play at Bordentown on October 8. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

While the start of the 2020 season was delayed due to concerns over COVID-19, Lily Harlan didn’t waste any time making an impact in her sophomore season for the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

With Stuart hosting Hun School last Saturday in the season opener for both teams, star forward Harlan deftly flicked a pass to Morgan John on the post which she banged into the cage to give the Tartans a 1-0 lead just 2:41 into the contest.

For Harlan, getting the assist wasn’t nearly as exciting as just getting out on the field for a game.

“It means so much because honestly I didn’t even think we would get to play again,” said Harlan.

“I thought we would just maybe have practice so it is great getting to play with my team. Everyone is so nice, our coaches are amazing. All of my teammates cheer each other on. It is one of the most encouraging teams you could meet.”

Looking to build on that early tally, Stuart dominated possession over the rest of the first half but had nothing to show for it as the score remained 1-0 at halftime.

“It was just a matter of time, you just have to keep sending it in,” said Harlan.

Harlan sent one in early in the third quarter, finding space in the circle and rifling a shot past the Hun goalie.

“I saw that no one was in the middle, so I went straight to the middle and it was a pass from Catherine [Martin],” recalled Harlan. “I saw the goalie so I just hit it in the corner.”

The Tartans got into a rhythm, adding another tally later in the quarter as junior midfielder Kaitlyn Magnani scored off of a penalty corner.

“After goals, we usually get together and start playing better as a team,” said Harlan. “Everything just starts clicking for us.”

Having worked hard on her game even through the COVID-19 shutdown, Harlan feels that she is getting better and better.

“I have improved so much; I keep improving every year because I keep practicing a lot,” said Harlan, who also plays for the Princeton Field Hockey Club. “Over quarantine, I hit every day in my garage.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik believes that Harlan has taken a big jump from last year.

“Lily moves the ball; she is doing a great job handling the ball between the 35 and the end line,” said Bruvik.

“She was running the ball well for us. She is fearless. I think she has made great strides since last year. She is just a more mature player.”

It was great for Stuart to finally be in action for the 2020 season.

“It was finally real that we were going to have a game when Tracey [Hun head coach Tracey Arndt] and I saw each other and the kids started showing up,” said Bruvik.

“The kids were finally in uniform and here we are. It is October 3; we got a beautiful day and it is let the kids play as long as they can.”

While Bruvik’s kids played well, she will focus on getting them to be better around goal.

“We need to work on coming back to the ball and moving the ball a little more cleanly as a team and finding each other on the field,” said Bruvik.

“It is game one. I thought Hun did a terrific job, they had strong sticks. We have got to work our corners and get them off a little bit quicker.”

Junior standout Magnani played a strong game in the midfield as she triggered Stuart’s transition game.

“Kaitlyn was a center back last year where she was also just controlling the midfield,” said Bruvik.

“This year she is more of a finisher. We are looking for her to finish. She has the endurance and speed to get back. She is a team player but she is a great kid as a coach on the field. She knows the game, not just her position but offense and defense. She knows the whole game.”

The Stuart defense clamped down on the Raiders whenever they got into the circle.

“The defense held the fort, they played together,” said Bruvik.

“They don’t panic, there is good speed back there. They do a pretty good job of communicating with each another. They have each other’s backs positionally. We are giving too much space where we could maybe do a little better solidifying that backfield and not let the ball get so deep.”

Over the course of the fall, Bruvik is hoping to give her less experienced players the chance to develop a better comfort level on the field.

“We got some of the younger players in; Isabel Milley, a freshman, got an assist, she is new to the game,” said Bruvik, whose team tied Pennington 2-2 last Monday with Harlan chipping in a goal and an assist and are next in action when it plays at Bordentown on October 8.

“They are working hard. I think that is going to be the beauty of the season; they are going to get that time. Most of our games will be varsity/JV, which will be good.”

Harlan is determined to get the most out of the season however long it goes.

“We want to have fun at every game,” said Harlan. “We want to work hard, get better, and cherish the time we have with our team and our seniors this year.”