Tough schedule perfect for Bruce, Brunswick lacrosse

Brunswick School standout goalie Tommy Heidt makes the save on the ball during a game against Deerfield last year. — Dan Burns photo

Brunswick School standout goalie Tommy Heidt makes the save on the ball during a game against Deerfield last year. — Dan Burns photo

On paper, it’s easy to assume that the Brunswick School lacrosse team might be down a little from last year. After an amazing season last year, they are currently sitting at 2-3 on the season.

However, records can be quite deceiving.

Last season, the Bruins finished the season by shocking a lot of people in the lacrosse community and finished with an 11-3 record. They beat teams like Salibury School, Choate Rosemary Hall and Deerfield Academy, all top teams in New England.

“Going into the season, there were a lot of expectations for this team, and there still are plenty,” Bruce said. “We came off a great campaign last year and took a lot of people by surprise. We knew that this year teams wouldn’t be shocked about us and teams would be prepared for us. It’s more about teams coming after us now instead of us going after them like it’s been in the past.”

Three senior captains Tommy Heidt, midfielder Alex Kelly and defenseman Henry Hobbs will lead Brunswick this year.

Heidt will return between the pipes and Bruce said that his saves are spectacular.

“The team starts and stops with Tommy, as he’s a returning All-American and is considered the best goalie in our league,” Bruce said. “Tommy is a great leader on the field. The special thing about Tommy is that no one feels when a goal is scored that it’s their fault. Tommy absorbs everything. He welcomes a blown slide and a guy coming in on him. He’s not expected to make some of the saves that he makes. He encourages his defense all the time.”

While Kelly finished last year with 16 goals and 12 assists, it was his 107 faceoff victories off of 168 attempts, as well as a team-leading 68 groundballs that helped him stand out.

“Our team and the league knows that Alex is a tough kid and one of the best faceoff guys around,” said Bruce. “He’s our returning Most Valuable Offensive Player. There were goals that had more goals and more assists, but what separated him was that he literally doubled everybody else returning this year when it came to winning faceoffs. He gave us so many second-chance opportunities.”

Hobbs is in his second year as a starting defenseman on the varsity squad and is a huge leader on the field.
“They are all approachable and a lot of fun,” Bruce said. “The other team’s respect them. Our kids respect them and want to be around them. They add a lot of chemistry to this team.”

In addition to Hobbs at defense, Brunswick will be led by returning junior Austin Meacham and will pick up the opposition’s top attackman. Fellow junior Andrew Barnard started for the Bruins as a pole last year and will be back on defense this season. This year’s starting long stick midfielder will be junior Lazare Zoungrana.

“They have been looking good so far,” Bruce said. “We lost Charlie Better last year to graduation and he was the leader of our defense on game days. We need someone to dictate the slides and the communicate piece. All four of the defenders, including Tommy, are trying work together and figure out who that vocal leader is.”

Playing an offensive game in the midfield will be Kelly, who will be on the field quite a bit this season. Sophomore Reilly Walsh is a transfer from Bronxville High School and will also see an abundance of time on the field.

In addition, Brunswick will be returning its leading midfield scorer, as Blake Booker will return for his senior year. Last year he finished with 17 goals and two assists. Fellow senior Jaime DeNaut and junior Charlie Cobb will be playing in the midfield. Cobb finished with nine goals and five assists last season.

Playing some defensive midfield will be senior Hayes Murphy and sophomores John Fox and Matt Sealy.

At the attack will be senior Cam Stafford, who was the team’s leading scorer last season with 32 goals and added 12 assists. Also returning at the attack will be Jimmy Knight, who finished last year with 18 goals and 22 assists. Joining Knight will be junior Marshall Dickson, who also ended last year with 22 assists, but pitched in with 15 goals.

In addition to being an experienced team this season, Bruce has the added luxury of only graduating three seniors last year.

“I think that this is probably the deepest team that I have had in a long time,” Bruce said. “The freshmen that made the team are outstanding and they are pressing for time and pushing the upperclassmen for their starting spot. It’s a deep team. We have some new guys and some guys that were freshmen last year that are getting a lot more playing time now.”

Like usual, the Bruins won’t break away from tradition this season and will still have that same brutal schedule they are accustomed to. In addition to the usual group of teams, Brunswick added an early game against Haverford School out of Philadelphia, a top five team in the country, but fell 9-5. Brunswick also added the Hill Academy, another top 10 team that is based out of Ontario, Canada, to its repertoire. Despite the 10-7 loss, Bruce was thrilled with the level his team played.

In fact, when including Brunswick’s other loss of the season for far, a 10-9 double overtime defeat to perennial powers Deerfield Academy, the Bruins lost three games, all against top 15 teams.

Brunswick’s first victory of the season was a 14-6 victory over Mountain Vista School, located in Colorado.

“We weren’t expecting to go 1-3 in our first four games,” Bruce said. “We thought we had a chance to beat all of them. I think the guys that put in the work are disappointed with the results, but not with the effort. We’ve been in every game so far and it happens to be that we started 1-3. People who understand lacrosse will see our opponents and see that we had a fighting chance against all three.”

Over the weekend, the Bruins got back to its winning ways in the New England Division 1 West League by blitzing Loomis Chaffee School 12-5.

In the game, the duo of Alex Buckanavage and Dickson each finished with three goals and two assists, while Reilly Walsh added one goal and two assists. The group of Anders Ashforth, Stafford, Kelly, DeNaut and Hayes Murphy each added one goal.

Tucker Brown and Meacham added one assist, while Brunswick’s Heidt was solid between the pipes, finishing with seven saves.

“We have certainly been tested early on,” Bruce said. “When you play the top teams, the little things are magnified. We look good 6-on-6, both on the offensive and defensive side of the field. We need to work harder on some clearing and riding and need to be more physical in those areas. The chemistry is coming along and that’s key. The pieces are there.”

Despite the record not being as strong as last year’s team so far, Bruce has the same high expectations.

“We only have one loss so far,” Bruce said. “Everything in league is there for us. We scheduled these tough opponents so hopefully we can move into our league feeling that we’ve seen the best and have played with the best. We will be battle-tested for league play.”

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