As the regular season winds down, Bryn Mawr field hockey coach Jeanette Budzik is still searching for the right combination to key a strong playoff run.
Budzik had to break in a number of new starters this fall because the Mawrtians graduated 10 seniors from a team that fell to Garrison Forest in the 2012 Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference field hockey championship.
Having only four seniors — midfielders Rachel Park and Georgia Carroll and defenders Olivia Davies and Sophie Freeman — on the 18-player roster has made the coach's job more difficult in terms of identifying personnel groups.
"It's definitely one of the youngest teams I've had in a while," Budzik said. "When you have an experienced team, right from the beginning, you know where the players are going to be playing. When you have a young team, you have to figure out your needs and what will work. We are still not finished doing that."
Considering Bryn Mawr owned a 16-5 mark last year and an 11-5-1 record the year before, the 8-7-2 Mawrtians (7-6-2 conference) still have a way to go this fall.
Yet the Mawrtians have a chance to enter the playoffs — which start on Oct 25 — on a three-game winning streak and strengthen their hold on fourth playoff seed in the nine-team A Conference.
Bryn Mawr defeated host Roland Park Country School, 3-0, on Friday, Oct. 12, beat St. Mary's, 6-0, five days later and finishes the regular season with St. Paul's School for Girls on Oct. 21.
The Mawrtians beat St. Paul's by two goals in late September.
"It's been a growing season, but we are learning every day and we are just getting stronger," said Park, a Princeton University recruit and USA Field Hockey Futures Elite U-19 selection. "I think we will be at our best at the end of the season."
If that's the case, Budzik will have Park, junior midfielder Alex Argo and Freeman to thank.
The trio of returning starters has taken on key roles to groom the team's younger players, including sophomore midfielder Bridget Danko and freshman defender Joanna Levin.
"They have been very strong leaders," Budzik explained. "They practice hard and work with their teammates one-on-one. They elevate the level of play and that's what makes everybody stronger."
The win over the Reds bodes well for the Mawrtians' late season upswing after only being able to garner a 2-2 tie in an earlier meeting with their archrivals.
Bryn Mawr controlled the ball for much of the game in which Julia Feiss, Hadley Brown and Argo scored.
"It was important that we had a good win," Budzik said "We have had some ups and down throughout the season. We just keep working to get better and better. They put everything that they have practiced into play."
Bryn Mawr goalie junior goalie Auburn Stephenson, a converted defender, made three saves filling in for injured starter Quichey Johnson, who is expected back at practice this week.
"She is playing with a lot of confidence for being a new goalie," Budzik said about Stephenson.