September 29, 2021

Sparked by Senior Midfielder Magnani’s Savvy Play, Stuart Field Hockey Produces Superb 7-0-2 Start

FIRING AWAY: Stuart Country Day School field hockey player Kaitlyn Magnani hits the ball in a game earlier this season. Senior star midfielder Magnani picked up an assist as Stuart tied Hun 1-1 last week. The Tartans, who moved to 7-0-2 with a 0-0 tie against South Hunterdon last Monday, play at Blair Academy on September 29 before hosting the Solebury School (Pa.) on October 4. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kaitlyn Magnani wasn’t fazed when the Stuart Country Day School field hockey team fell behind Hun 1-0 in the third period last week in the clash of local rivals.

“In our game against PDS (a 4-1 win on September 15), we were down 1-0 in the beginning and right away we scored back,” said Stuart senior midfielder Magnani. “I had confidence in my team that we could come back.”

Minutes after the Hun tally, Magnani helped get Stuart come back in the September 21 contest, feeding Isabel Milley for the tying goal.

“Isabel is our great wing, she is always in great space,” said Magnani.  “I just sent it right to her and she had a great backhand.”

That ended up being the last goal of the contest as the teams played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and 10 minutes of overtime.

“They had a really great goalie [Norah Kempson] who was coming out pretty far and that really gave us a challenge,” said Magnani.

“We had a lot of intensity and I think we had some great shots but again their defense was very good. We gave it our all.”

Magnani enjoyed the challenge of going into an extra session.

“It was really intense, we haven’t had an overtime yet,” said Magnani.

“It is something we had worked on so we were confident in ourselves and we almost scored a goal. They had a couple down there. It was a lot of intensity, giving it our all. We have really worked on that this season.”

It has been a superb season so far for the Tartans, who moved to 7-0-2 with a 0-0 tie against South Hunterdon last Monday.

“I am really excited that we have been working really well on our attack this year,” said Mangani.

“We have really been working as a cohesive team and working on getting this passes off and give and goes.”

As a four-year starter, Magnani is savoring Stuart’s improvement. 

“I have been here four years and I have seen the good and the bad,” said Magnani.

“I think we have progressed. Most of our players are returning. We are really cohesive this year, we are all really together. We all have a good sense of the game. We have known each other for a while so I think that really helps us jell better.”

Stuart head coach Missy Bruvik credited Magnani with making everyone around her better.

“She got the assist, she is all over the field,” said Bruvik of Magnani.

“You can see her out there directing and coaching. She has got a great head for the game. Her stickwork today was very good against a very strong, very competitive team.”

While Bruvik and her players were disappointed not to pull out the win against Hun, she viewed the contest as a good learning experience.

“We needed a game where we had to come from behind,” said Bruvik.

“We have practiced overtime; down the road I hope this pays off.”

The Raiders made it tough for Stuart to come up with goals. “I thought their defense played very well in the circle, they cleared the ball out of the circle quickly,” said Bruvik.

“Their goalie really had an outstanding game because we took shots; it wasn’t one or two shots, it was around 10. We were able to get some shots off.”

Stuart displayed some outstanding character in rallying from the deficit.

“It was more about the resilience, being down and coming back,” said Bruvik.

“The ball movement is better. I think each one of the kids that played today has gotten better. They are learning to work together better.”

Bruvik got some good work from Milley and defenders Elise Price and Keya Patel.

“Isabel scored the goal, she is utilizing her speed with and her field sense from other sport and learning where the ball needs to go,” said Bruvik.

“Elise and Keya stopped a lot of balls. In the overtime, the run that Keya made to stop one of their players on a breakaway was one of the things I was most proud of.”

Stuart’s constant intensity this fall is a major source of pride for Bruvik.

“It is 60 minutes every time we play; so far in every game we have played our third and fourth quarters have been our best quarters which is really good,” said Bruvik, whose team plays at Blair Academy on September 29 before hosting the Solebury School (Pa.) on October 4.

“It is not that we are playing poorly in the first or second. We are playing fine, but I think we gradually get better. We focus more, our mindset is better. I like the way we are moving the ball and there is ton of trust on this team.”

Magnani, for her part, believes that the battle against Hun will help sharpen the focus for the Tartans going forward.

“I do believe that when you play a tough team, you really learn from our mistakes and how to get better,” said Magnani. “I think this is a really great game for us.”