Excited by the Chance to Return to Tournament Play, Stuart Field Hockey Featuring Battled-Tested Stars
BELLWETHER: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Isabel Milley sends the ball up the field in a game last season. Milley and the Tartans are off to a fast start this fall as they topped Pemberton 6-0 last Monday to improve to 3-0. Stuart plays at Princeton Day School on September 15, hosts Bordentown High on September 17, plays at Hamilton High on September 20, and then hosts the Hun School on September 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
In 2019, the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team enjoyed a stirring postseason run, advancing to the final of the Mercer County Tournament and the state Prep B semis.
Last fall, Stuart was deprived of a chance to build on that tournament success as both the MCT and Prep competitions were canceled due to COVID-19 concerns.
As the Tartans prepared for the 2021 campaign, they were excited about the prospects of resuming postseason action this fall.
“The first thing I would say is that we are totally looking forward to the opportunity to play in the state and country tournament,” said longtime Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik, who guided the Tartans to a 5-3-1 record in the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
“That builds that excitement. Those tournaments are back and we are going to have a chance to participate.”
Bruvik is excited about her corps of seniors which includes Kaitlyn Magnani, Keya Patel, Sanya Khullar, Audrey Blandford, and Lauren Gracias.
“The senior leadership has been great, they have been leading the way at practice,” said Bruvik.
“A couple of my seniors are also peer leaders which is really exciting because they are already making connections with the freshmen in the classrooms and the hallways.”
Junior star Lily Harlan is primed to lead the way on attack for the Tartans.
“I have got Lily on the forward line because not only can she find the back of the cage, she finds the space,” said Bruvik of Harlan, who scored three goals as Stuart defeated Pemberton 6-0 last Monday to improve to 3-0.
“We will utilize her on both the offensive and defensive corners this year. She just continues to take her game to another level. She is so passionate about the game and brings that to every practice.”
In addition to Harlan, Stuart boasts a number of passionate athletes at forward.
“We should also see a junior who is out for the team for the first time in Emily Ix, who also plays lacrosse and basketball,” said Bruvik, whose options on the forward line include junior Madisen Leggett, junior Peighton Dwellingham, senior Khullar, sophomore Isabel Milley, freshman Nyla Flamer, and freshman Annarose Bourgoin St. Maurice.
“She will see time on the forward line, she is picking the game up quickly. She is a super self-motivated athlete.”
In the midfield, senior standout Magnani should provide some super moments this fall for the Tartans.
“Kaitlyn just leads by her work ethic and her decision-making on the field,” said Bruvik, who is also looking at Ix, Milley, senior Gracias, sophomore Alex Mandzij, and sophomore Elise Price in the midfield.
“She is a very smart player in the midfield who can distribute the ball but also can finish. We will be using her on our offensive and defensive corners.”
Along the back line, Bruvik is counting on senior Patel and junior Mia Zebrauskas to provide some smart play.
“Kaya should be leading and communicating with our other kids in the back,” said Bruvik, whose defensive unit will also feature junior Abby Snyder, freshman Maya Dev, and freshman Linyah Lokesh.
“She will be playing in the center in the back. Mia can play anywhere in the back and also contribute in the midfield. Her stickwork is looking great, she is smart and strong on the ball.
Battle-tested senior goalie Blandford will be looking for a big final campaign
“Audrey is playing well, she is just taking the experience from the last two years,” said Bruvik, whose backup goalie is freshman Emily Harlan, Lily’s little sister.
“Audrey is a really good teammate working with Emily, who is also playing club. We are really excited to have her.”
Heading into the season, Bruvik was focused on getting everybody on the same page.
“We are still trying to find the balance between our experienced players and the kids new to the program,” said Bruvik.
“We are trying to figure out who is playing what position, mixing and matching the veteran players and the newcomers to work together, to play together.”
Looking ahead, Bruvik believes that things will come together.
“The kids feel confident in our offensive plays and our corners and confident in the defensive end of the field,” said Bruvik, whose squad will look to keep on the winning track as it plays at Princeton Day School on September 15, hosts Bordentown High on September 17, plays at Hamilton High on September 20, and then hosts the Hun School on September 21.
“We have a very good balance. We have the experience in all three areas of the field.”
Having experienced tournament success two years ago, Stuart’s one-two punch of veteran stars Magnani and Harlan gives the Tartans confidence that they can do damage again once the postseason rolls around this fall.
“This is their third year playing together,” said Bruvik. “They have had that tournament experience and hopefully it will pay off this year.”