For High School South field hockey coach Amy Bruschi this season represents a rewarding homecoming. While the wins have not come easily for her 1-9-3 Pirates, the 1999 graduate and former standout on the field hockey and lacrosse fields for the Pirates says she is glad to be back at West Windsor-Plainsboro. ##M:[more]##
But while coaching is certainly different from playing, Bruschi says she enjoys it. “There is still just as much pressure that you put on yourself as a coach as you did as a player,” she says. “But as a player you are able to motivate yourself and get things done on the field. But as a coach you have to be more into seeing what makes these girls tick, what motivates them. They are both challenging.”
A resident of West Windsor, Bruschi is attending the College of New Jersey earning her masters in education and a teaching certificate. Her mother is a teacher at Princeton Regional Schools and her father is the business administrator for Princeton Borough (and formerly the administrator for West Windsor Township). “My dad was very athletic when he was young,” she says. “He played baseball and basketball, and played baseball all through college. He’s coached Legion when he was around my age and he did some coaching at Princeton Day School. Whenever I have questions about how to handle things he is a great person to go to.”
Bruschi has one sister, Kristin, who graduated from High School South in 2001 and plays field hockey at Muhlenberg College. “My sister is awesome,” says Bruschi. “She just broke the 100 point mark at Muhlenberg. So every single game she has been breaking a different record.”
After graduating from Johns Hopkins Bruschi worked at Merrill Lynch in New York, but decided that teaching and coaching were more to her liking. “I’ve coached with the National Field Hockey Association Futures program, which is their Olympic development program,” she says. Last year she was the assistant coach at Princeton Day School.
Despite the poor start to the season, Bruschi is convinced that better times are on the way. “We played a lot of the most competitive teams in the beginning of our schedule,” she says. “We just need to keep playing.”
The Pirates opened the season with three losses, to Steinert, Allentown, and Hopewell Valley and were outscored in the process, 15-0, in the three games. But on September 23, South broke into the winners column with a win over Princeton, 2-0. Becca Freed and junior Megan Holeman scored the goals and senior goalie Jen Smolowitz stopped eight shots for the shutout victory.
After a loss to Notre Dame, 4-1, on September 30, South put together a string of ties against Lawrence, 1-1, on October 5; North Burlington, 1-1, on October 6; and Hamilton, 1-1, on October 11. Sandwiched in the middle was a 3-0 loss to archrival North on October 8. South then lost to Ewing and Hightstown on October 12 and October 15. A loss to Peddie, 3-1, on October 20, was another setback, despite a strong performance by Smolowitz, who made six saves.
But despite the inconsistent season, senior Becca Freed, who played sparingly last year, has emerged as one of the Pirates’ most consistent scorers. “Last year I played midfield and this year our new coach wanted to try me out on forward,” says Freed. “I like the position and it’s a better fit for me to play wing rather than midfield.”
Freed has played field hockey since she was in the eighth grade, and also plays lacrosse in the spring. “Lacrosse is a much faster-paced game and much more physical with higher scoring,” she says. “Field hockey is more team-oriented. I like field hockey better.”
Freed expects to attend a small liberal arts college, such as Williams or Franklin and Marshall, and would like to major in history or mathematics. While she would like to stay active in sports, she expects that it will be in intramurals rather than on a varsity team.
A resident of West Windsor, Freed has a younger sister on the freshman field hockey team. Her parents are both lawyers, with her mother working for the state and her father a trial lawyer. Freed also volunteers at an animal shelter on a weekly basis, works for the Red Cross, and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Pirate co-captains Christina McGovern and Keely Farren are equally unperturbed with the Pirates’ lackluster record. “I really think we are doing awesome,” says McGovern. “We’ve been working our butts off. We got off to a slow start but I think we have all stuck it through.”
For Farren, what is important is the fact that the team has continued to improve. “We can all see such a big improvement from the first day of preseason,” she says. “Everyone is learning and trying to apply what they learn into the games.”
McGovern, now a senior, has played field hockey since the seventh grade. A center and forward on the team, she says that she likes the offensive aspects of playing field hockey. “There is a high forward and a low forward and I am the high forward,” she says. “It is more of a scoring position where you go through for all the passes and you try to enforce more of an offensive game.”
McGovern, a West Windsor resident, also has a sister who plays on the freshman team. “It’s nice,” she says. “My sister and I critique one another’s game sometimes.” She also has a 10-year old brother who plays baseball. Her parents both work for Lenox.
She also plays lacrosse and was a member of the Central Jersey Select Lacrosse team last year. She had played basketball as a freshman and sophomore. “It is interesting to see how different sports sort of overlap,” she says. “From all the sports you can take different aspects of the sport and use it in the season that you are playing.”
McGovern says that serving as a co-captain adds additional responsibilities. “It is different from last year because then there were seniors who offered constructive criticism. But we are all working together and feeding on each other. It’s a good energy.”
Adds Farren, also a senior, “Captaining a team is a lot of responsibility. But I think that it is an honor because you are voted in by your teammates. It’s nice to know that they look up to you.”
As a midfielder this year — after playing defense most of last season — Farren says that she enjoys the change. “You do a lot more running in the midfield and can help out your teammates quite a bit more,” she says.
Born in Washington, D.C., Farren is a resident of West Windsor. Her mother is a lawyer for the government and her father works at Merrill Lynch. She has a sister, Eileen, a sophomore at South.
Having a new coach for her senior year was a bit unnerving, but Farren says she is excited about where the program is heading. “After three years everyone was a little nervous coming into the season but I don’t think it could have been a smoother transition,” she says. “Our coaches have such a new fresh mentality that they are bringing to the program. It’s kind of sad that we are seniors because we don’t have more years with them. We all wish we were freshmen again, in some ways.”
Both Farren and McGovern also teach religious instruction at Saint David the King, with Farren also helping out with Special Olympics. “It’s really rewarding just to see their faces when they accomplish something,” she says. “It warms your heart because you know how hard it is for them to be able to do that. You realize how lucky you are not to have to face the challenges that they face.”
Farren plans on majoring in education and thinks coaching might be in her future. “To become a coach has always been a goal of mine. I think that our coaches have given us so much, it would be really nice to be able to turn around and give that back to some of the younger kids.”
McGovern says that she hopes to play field hockey at the college level. “My dad has taped some of my games and we are looking at colleges right now,” she says.
With two regular season games to go, however, the Pirates still have hopes of turning in a respectable record at season’s end. “We have a lot of games we feel that we can win because we match up really well with the other teams,” says Bruschi. “The team is getting better every game. They are building their confidence back up and that is a big plus for us.”
While winning is not the most important lesson students can learn by participating in high school sports, Bruschi says it helps. “I am a competitor and I like to think that all the girls that we have on the team are highly competitive also,” she says. “For people with those types of personalities, it becomes significantly less fun when you are not winning games. So I think that is an important component.”
On the other hand, losing offers its lessons as well. “Winning shouldn’t be the end all,” she says. “You can learn more lessons from losing than you learn from winning. You learn more about your character and about the things that you want and what you are willing to do to get them. Both are important. It is always good to lose a game every once in a while. It gives you a little check. Is winning the most important thing? I don’t think so. But it certainly adds to the girls’ experience.”
South will play at Notre Dame on Saturday, October 23, at 11 a.m. It will then play in the Mercer County Tournament during the last week of October before playing Nottingham, away, on Monday, November 1, at 3:30 p.m.