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12/08/2021 11:00 PM

Stuart Caps Off Field Hockey Career with Memorable Year

Senior captain midfielder Libby Stuart led the Old Saybrook team to a successful 2021 season, finishing the campaign with her second-straight selection to the All-Shoreline Conference Team. Photo courtesy of Libby Stuart

Libby Stuart was introduced to field hockey at a much younger age than most. When Libby was six years old, her family moved to England for her father’s job, and field hockey was a mandatory part of the school’s curriculum for all students.

During her time abroad, Libby and her three brothers played field hockey until returning to Old Saybrook when she was 10. Since there were no local youth field hockey programs, Libby joined the town’s travel soccer team. When she started at Old Saybrook Middle School, Libby got her chance to play field hockey again and signed up for the squad.

“In 6th grade, I had a tough decision to make, because all my friends played soccer, but I realized field hockey was what I wanted to do,” says Libby. “I loved playing in England, and I really enjoy the sport.”

When she entered high school, Libby knew that she would join the Old Saybrook field hockey team. Libby secured a varsity starting position by her sophomore year, and as a junior, she earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors.

Libby recently finished her Old Saybrook field hockey career by helping the Rams post an overall record of 12-6-1, while advancing to the Class S state quarterfinals and playing in the Shoreline Conference semifinals this fall. Libby had three goals with four assists as a midfielder on her way to making the All-Shoreline Second Team for Old Saybrook.

“This season, we had a lot of positive experiences, and I had fun,” Libby says. “Going into the season, we thought this might be the year we’d go to the championship and maybe even win because of how strong our chemistry and connection was. It was disappointing for it to end, but I’m also happy to have had such a good season.”

The highlight of the season for Libby was Old Saybrook’s 2-1 win over New Fairfield in the first round of the Class S State Tournament. Libby and her teammates knew that it would be a challenging game. After the two sides finished regulation tied 1-1, Old Saybrook won the game in overtime on a goal by Libby’s senior teammate MacKenna Cooke.

“We were pretty intimidated, because we hadn’t really played teams outside of conference, and they were very physical,” says Libby. “When we won in overtime, knowing we were going on to next round, hugging my teammates is a feeling I’ll never forget.”

Libby guided the Rams as a senior captain alongside Grace Adams, who she’s played field hockey with since the 6th grade. This year, the duo led a young Old Saybrook club where about half of the team was made up of freshmen. Libby enjoyed her role of guiding the young players and seeing them improve throughout the season.

Head Coach Nancy Gatta saw Libby’s leadership and skillset on display this season. Gatta’s connection with Libby goes back several years since she has a son in Old Saybrook’s senior class.

“Libby’s positive attitude, enthusiasm, and love of field hockey showed every day this fall. I am going to miss seeing her smile every day and hearing the joy in her voice next season,” Gatta says. “Libby is a wonderful role model for the underclassmen. She is poised, positive, and encourages everyone on the team. Libby and her fellow seniors are going to be missed by everyone next season. I know she will go to college and pursue her dreams and make those dreams a reality.”

While Libby is hoping to play club field hockey in college, she plans to focus on her academics. Inspired by her father Paul’s career with Pfizer, Libby is looking at Pharm-D programs, where she can earn her a bachelors and a doctorate in pharmacy in six years.

In addition to being inspired by her father for her career aspirations, Libby feels grateful for his support of her athletic endeavors. Libby also credits her mother Jill and three older brothers—Nolan, Hunter, and Galvin—for their support. Nolan plays club field hockey at Northeastern University, and Galvin is a goalkeeper for the USA U-21 men’s national team, as well as a student-coach at the University of Delaware, a Division I school.

In addition to field hockey, Libby’s family enjoys skiing and takes a big ski trip together each year. The Stuart family has skied in Italy, France, and Switzerland, and Libby is looking forward to this year’s trip to Aspen, Colorado.

Along with her family, Libby has also received support from Sarah Thompson, the assistant coach for Old Saybrook field hockey; and Gatta, who took over as head coach halfway through Libby’s freshman year and “really turned our team around and we started winning.” Libby appreciates how Coach Gatta is always positive and encourages the team to excel both on and off the field.

Libby also played basketball while growing up and then began doing track in middle school. When she got to high school, Libby joined the Old Saybrook girls’ indoor and outdoor track teams and is now “in love with running.”

While she has always enjoyed running, Libby had to learn the pacing and strategy for the middle-distance events when she started competing. Libby feels grateful to her coaches, Pete Capezzone and Jan Merrill-Morin, for helping her become a better all-around track athlete.

“Jan ran in the Olympics and has set world records,” says Libby, who also volunteers as a classroom assistant for her church’s Sunday school program. “Knowing she has this knowledge and expertise has really motivated me.”

Libby competes in the 600, 800, 1,000, and 1,600 for the Rams’ track program. She is also a member of the 4x400 and 4x800 relay teams. During the outdoor season earlier this year, both of Libby’s relay teams took second place at the state meet, earning Libby All-State Second Team accolades.

“I like the pure competition of the races,” Libby says. “We were so close to winning first last year. This year, we are all coming back, so I think we can do it this year.”