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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

ON A ROLL: Stuart Country Day junior field hockey star Kelly Bruvik streaks up the field in preseason play. In regular season play this fall, Bruvik has scored 17 points on eight goals and nine assists to help lead the Tartans to a sizzling 6-0 start.
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Stuart Field Hockey Edges Lawrenceville in OT As Gaudioso Radvany Makes Sudden Impact

By Bill Alden

As the Stuart Country Day field hockey team's annual battle with powerful Lawrenceville headed into overtime last Wednesday, there was a frenzied feeling in the air.

By the time the teams had reached the end of regulation, the early season clash had already turned into an instant classic. Lawrenceville, last year's state Prep A champion, grabbed the lead on an early goal by Becky Mantell. The Tartans, who won the 2004 Prep B crown, answered back with scores by freshman star Jaclyn Gaudioso Radvany and Katie Baker to take a 2-1 edge into halftime.

After intermission, the Big Red seized the momentum as Mantell scored again with 16:37 remaining to knot the game at 2-2. Then with just eight minutes to go in regulation, Lawrenceville found the back of the cage but the score was waved off due to a violation.

Getting a reprieve, Stuart found a bit of a rhythm and forced overtime. After huddling with their coaches in the brief break after regulation, both teams yelped in unison before heading onto the field.

In overtime, the youngest player on the field, Gaudioso Radvany, proved to be the coolest under fire as she calmly slotted in a feed from Kelly Bruvik to win the game and set off a jubilant celebration which saw her teammates race across the field for a loud group hug.

The precocious Gaudioso Radvany was as cool as a cucumber as she recounted her winning tally. "Kelly made a great pass and I just put it in," said Gaudioso Radvany. "She's a great player; every person out there deserved to win."

Gaudioso Radvany, who has been following the Tartan-Big Red rivalry since starting middle school at Stuart, was happy to be on the field for the sweet victory.

"I love the competition, winning is the best thing," asserted Gaudioso Radvany, a field hockey Junior Olympian. "I know about this rivalry from middle school. I'm proud to be out there. It's a three-year thing. I think we beat them in 1999 and 2002 and then today."

The Stuart players hit the field with extra emotion Wednesday as their tight-knit school community was still reeling from the tragic death of sophomore Rebecca Annitto in a car accident on September 14.

"We had the loss of Rebecca on our minds," acknowledged Gaudioso Radvany softly. "We did it for Rebecca. She was always there; she was really special. We were all there for each other."

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik saw the game as part of the healing process. "I think they bonded," said Bruvik. "They do a lot of talking and I think they needed to have this game to come together. It's been hard."

Bruvik acknowledged that Gaudioso Radvany showed a special composure, considering all of the circumstances.

"She is completely poised with absolutely no fear," asserted Bruvik, whose team improved to 5-0 after a 3-0 win over Princeton High last Friday. "She is an attack player. She has a way of putting the ball on someone else's stick if she doesn't find the cage. She just came through the pressure beautifully. I think they all did that."

The Tartans' ability to handle the pressure of overtime didn't come from executing any specific blueprint.

"We had only practiced overtime once; I don't think we had any strategy," said Bruvik with a laugh. "I thought we had good speed on the line. At that point, it was a matter of who was going to get the breakaways and who was going to finish. Christa [Goeke] made some incredible plays in goal and then got the ball up to the attack. It came down to adrenaline, desire, and taking advantage of opportunities."

In the glow of the win, Bruvik did acknowledge that she does need to fine-tune things, particularly on the defensive end.

"I think we're still working on things," said Bruvik, whose club edged Notre Dame 3-2 last Monday to improve to 6-0 on the season. "We need to work on getting the ball out of the backfield and using options upfield. There were times when we double-teamed the ball when we should not have."

All in all, pulling out a dramatic win over archrival Lawrenceville has to be viewed as a harbinger of good things to come.

"It's early in the season but you could feel it," said Bruvik, whose team will look to keep on the winning track when it hosts WW/P-S on September 30 before playing at Hopewell Valley on October 1. "The adrenaline and the excitement of being at home. To come back after being down 1-0, I don't know if we've ever done that against them."

Gaudioso Radvany, for her part, is looking for Stuart to do some exciting things this fall. "We were really just really positive today," asserted Gaudioso Radvany. "We brought it together, we have a good team. I'm excited about going for a championship like the Mercer County Tournament."


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