June 15, 2022

Stuart Lax Found a Rhythm Down the Stretch, Finishing with a 6-8 Record After 1-5 Start

BIG FINISH: Stuart Country Day School lacrosse player Kaitlyn Magnani sprints upfield in a game this spring. Senior star Magnani ended her Stuart career with a bang, tallying six goals and an assist as Stuart defeated Hamilton West 16-10 in its season finale on May 12. The win gave Stuart a 6-8 final record as it caught fire down the stretch after a 1-5 start. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Stuart Country Day School lacrosse team got off to a 1-5 start this spring, it would have been understandable if the players had gotten discouraged.

Instead, Stuart saved its best for last, winning five of its last eight games to end the season with a 6-8 record.

Stuart head coach Mark Maser was proud of how his team stuck with things down the stretch.

“You change one loss to a win and we would have had a .500 season,” said Maser whose team topped Burlington City 16-6 on May 10 and then ended the season on a high note with a 16-10 win over Hamilton West two days later. “Our expectations are tempered. We look for the little victories in everything, that is the way we play the game.”

In reflecting on the late surge, Maser attributed continuity and good goalie play as key factors.

“The biggest progress was that we got to play lacrosse without COVID interrupting,” said Maser. “One kid would get sick last year and then you would quarantine three others. It was that type of thing. We had two dedicated goalies in Lauren Gracias and Alex Mandzij and that helped us.”

The production of sensational freshman Allison Lee proved to be a big help for the Tartans, tallying 84 points on 66 goals and 18 assists.

“Allison was fantastic; it was get her the ball and we were very confident she could score,” said Maser. “She got better as she got confident in the team’s acceptance of her ability. She is a very unselfish player as well. If the right pass is there she is going to make it. Sometimes you have to pull her aside and say that is the right pass but percentage-wise if you hold on to it a little longer, something is going to open up and you should take the shot. It was keep the ball, you have earned it, nobody thinks any less of you. In the last couple of games, draw control was a big thing for us. She was taking the draws and we were probably winning 60-70 percent of them.”

In addition to Lee, the Tartans boast a good core of returners highlighted by junior Emily Ix (46 goals, 9 assists in 2022) and sophomore goalie Mandzij.

“Emily is a key player all around and just a natural leader, she led by example and was vocal,” said Maser, who will also welcome back such players as junior Anna Landis (6 goals), sophomore Isabel Milley (4 goals), junior Lily Harlan (1 goal, 1 assist), junior Sydney Amato (1 goal, 2 assists), junior Madison Leggett (3 goals), and sophomore Elise Price (1 goal, 3 assists).

“Alex is learning the position, it was her first time so there were obviously some fundamentals that we needed to work on, She can clear it better than half the field and very well. She is unflappable in the sense that if somebody scored on me, somebody scored on me and understanding that is going to happen.”

The squad’s three seniors — Kaitlyn Magnani (25 goals, 5 assists), Keya Patel, and Gracias — were unflappable as well.

“They all contributed,” said Maser. “Kaitlyn was able to score coming up from defense. Patel was a newcomer but was a good leader overall. She is somebody you wanted on your team. Lauren is just stoic and led by example.”

While that trio will be missed, Maser is excited about the future.

“The good news is that I am only losing three,” said Maser, crediting assistant coach Missy Bruvik with playing a key role in the team’s progress.

“It was great. I am looking forward to coming back and as long as they will have me I will be there. That is the one thing about Stuart players, while they may lack the numbers and talent of other teams, they make up for that in enthusiasm. That is why I coach.”