In the wake of a one-sided loss to Princeton Day School last week, Sam Servis and her teammates on the Stuart Country Day School field hockey squad did some soul-searching.
“We had a talk after the PDS game and it was about getting our heads in the game,” said sophomore forward Servis.
Hosting the George School (Pa.) last Thursday, Stuart was on its game from the start, dominating possession and outshooting the Cougars 6-0 in the first half.
“We connected really well,” said Servis. “At the PDS game, we didn’t come out with intensity but this game we did.”
Despite keeping the ball in its offensive end for most of that half, Stuart found itself locked in a 0-0 tie at halftime. Some six minutes into the second half, George scored to take a 1-0 lead.
The Stuart players, though, didn’t lose their heads, tying the game at 1-1 two minutes later on a goal by Tori Hannah and then winning the game 2-1 in overtime on a breakaway goal by Servis.
“It was super frustrating but we kept going,” said Servis. “We knew we would get there eventually. We came together and we said we are a good team and we can do this and we can beat them and we did.”
As the teams headed into overtime, Servis felt some nerves. “I was concerned because we had played the full 60 minutes and we were really tired but they were tired too,” said Servis.
“We talked again and we just said, give it our all because this is the last 10 minutes of the game. We are good to go and we can rest our legs.”
As Servis raced into the circle with just over a minute left in overtime, she was determined to end the contest.
“I really needed to make this,” recalled Servis with a grin. “I did look up and I saw that the goalie was to the left a little more than she was to the right so I tried really hard to get it to the right so that is where I aimed for. I was lucky I had a teammate there to help. It was good.”
Since last season, Servis has tried hard to become a better player for the Tartans.
“I joined a club team and I worked all winter and spring,” said Servis, who plays for the Spirit Eagles club program. “I have definitely improved my skills a lot. I think that this year I am a lot better and I can help my team more.”
Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik saw a big improvement in her team from the PDS defeat.
“It is hard, early in the season; it is not just a physical game, it is also very mental,” said Bruvik, whose team fell 4-1 to WW/P-S last Monday to move to 2-2.
“You have to be mentally prepared so we worked on that yesterday. I think even more important in terms of being down there today was how we worked the ball up the field and how we worked it on our attack.”
Due to Stuart’s good work on attack, Bruvik wasn’t fazed when her team fell behind early in the second half.
“I felt that we still had enough control of that game that if we keep playing hard, we will finish,” said Bruvik.
“I didn’t think another 30 minutes was going to go by and we weren’t going to be able to out it in just because of our play in the circle.”
Bruvik was impressed by Servis’ finish on the game-winning tally. “Sam was knocking on the door and she is one of the most unselfish forwards,” said Bruvik. “I think there are multiple times she has the opportunity to take the shot and she looks to pass. I think when she knew she was the only one, she had to take it. She’s also out it in a space where a teammate was because that is the way she thinks.”
The Tartans also got some inspired play in the win over George from sophomores Hannah and Kate Walsh.
“Tori had much better control today, she was keeping the ball down, finding her teammates,” said Bruvik, who also cited the play of senior star Amy Hallowell. “Kate Walsh played center back for the first time and she stepped up beautifully. She stayed composed and made some good stops today.”
Bruvik is hoping her team will get more and more control of the game as the season goes on.
“We talked about Tuesday’s big defeat and what do we take from that,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at South Hunterdon on September 20 and at Pennington on September 24.
“I think we are still in a little bit of a rebuilding process and we have to take it one game at a time. We have to break it down and be patient with ourselves and patient with each other. Nobody should be frustrated.”
Servis, for her part, believes the team, led by its core of sophomores is working well with each other.
“I love the sophomores; I love the entire team,” said Servis. “We do hang out as a grade. We just have a connection that really helps us get the ball around. We know where we are; we know each other’s voices. It is great to know each other so well like we do.”