September 6, 2017

Inspired by Run to Prep B Title Game Last Fall, Stuart Field Hockey Sees Exciting Times Ahead

By Bill Alden

On the face of it, posting a 6-11-2 record last fall would hardly seem to be a springboard for the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team.

But with the Tartans having ended 2016 by pulling off  upsets in the opening round and the semis of the state Prep B tournament to reach the final, there is new confidence around the program as it heads into this fall.

“The seniors that came back this year are so excited after what happened with us last year,” said Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik, who is in her second tenure guiding the Tartans.

“That experience has fueled them and they are all great leaders. It has also put some excitement back into the field hockey program at Stuart because we are at 26 players, that is highest since I have been back.”

The team’s five seniors have been setting the tone in the preseason. “We have had a great preseason, the level of play is a bit higher in terms of kids who committed themselves to getting better throughout the years,” said Bruvik, whose team opens the season by hosting Princeton Day School on September 7 in a rematch of the Prep B final won 2-0 by PDS.

“It is really paying off this year, especially with the seniors. They have definitely have progressed throughout the years. They are solid hockey players and they are very versatile.”

A trio of seniors, Maddie Michaels, Elle Wigder, and Catherine Biava, will be leading the midfield for the Tartans.“We have really good experience across the midfield,” noted Bruvik.

Another experienced player, senior Ali Hannah, has emerged as the leader of Stuart’s back line.

“Ali is playing center back, she is very defensive minded,” said Bruvik, noting that juniors Breasia Williams, Bay-Shana Clark, and Millie Brigaud will also be featured in the defensive unit. “She gets the job done back there. She finishes her plays and she is strong on the ball.”

The return of senior goalie Sam Johnson, who missed last season due to a knee injury, will make the Tartans a stronger team.

“Sam is fearless, which being in the cage you have to be,” said Bruvik.

“She is extremely coachable, she had seen some time in the cage before and did some training with Gia [Gia Fruscione, former Princeton University goalie and Stuart assistant coach] before she went down so she comes back knowing enough about the position now. It is just a matter of giving her time, shots, and situations. We are trying so hard to include her in every drill.”

The team’s options on the front line include junior Priscilla Francois, junior Maria McBride,  junior Meghan Liebowitz,  junior Lauren Magnani, junior Emma Shaw, sophomore Caroline Mullen, and sophomore Aditi Mehndiratta.

“We are definitely generating more attack, we are generating more offense,” said Bruvik.

“Caroline Mullen has been a big part of that with her speed and stick work. Priscilla’s speed and Maria’s scrappy play has also contributed to the midfielders making sure that they are getting the ball up the field.”

In Bruvik’s view, her squad is primed to keep on the upswing. “I don’t think they are afraid of any competition,” said Bruvik.

“I think some more individual confidence is going to breed some more success. This is a group that is coachable and wants to improve.”