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Acton’s Gruet lifts Wellesley field hockey in national poll

Gruet shows winning touch
for Wellesley College squad

How valuable is Nathalie Gruet to the fortunes of the Wellesley College field hockey team?

“I never want to take her out,” said Wellesley coach Julia King .

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The junior center midfielder from Acton scores clutch goals, covers the opposition’s top offensive threat, distributes the ball, and deflects tip-ins on penalty corners.

Gruet netted two goals and an assist Tuesday in a 4-1 win over visiting MIT that gave the Blue sole possession of first place in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference. Wellesley (14-2 overall, 7-0 NEWMAC) is ranked 13th nationally in Division 3.

“Nathalie has great stick skills, her speed and quickness are an important element of her game, and she’s in great shape,” said King.

Her team-best 14 goals and 33 points were career highs prior to Saturday’s home game vs. Clark University.

Six of her goals have been game-winners, including a penalty stroke with just under a minute to play at Springfield last weekend that lifted Wellesley to a 3-2 victory.

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Another Gruet game-winner, in overtime, ended Mount Holyoke’s eight-game winning streak, 2-1, in late September.

Gruet, who led the team with 51 shots, also had converted both of her penalty strokes.

“I love the feeling when you dribble past someone or when you get off a good pass, but most of all I like the team celebration when we score, because that’s the most important part — succeeding as a team,’’ said Gruet, who starred on the Acton-Boxborough Regional High squad that captured the Division 1 state title in 2009. The following season, she was a senior captain on a Colonials team that lost in the North final to eventual champion Andover.

She also played lacrosse at Acton-Boxborough, and qualified for the state meet in the 600 and 1,000 events for the school’s track team.

“I had played soccer my whole life until I fell in love with field hockey, and actually made the freshman team on the last day of tryouts. I also had the opportunity to play on the high school varsity with my older sister, Nicole,’’ said Gruet.

At Wellesley, she recorded 28 points (12 goals) in a 10-9 season as a freshman, and had 27 (13 goals) last year when the Blue improved to 12-8.

This season, Wellesley has pulled out nine one-goal wins.

“We have a team with diverse talents.,’’ said Gruet. “You can stop one of us, but we have so many others who can step up.’’

Gruet said her high school field hockey coach, Mae Shoemaker, set team goals — on and off the field — that made her a more competitive player.

“And I think being a middle distance runner helped with my speed and endurance, and that soccer gave me a sense of anticipation that I’ve carried over to field hockey,’’ she said.

Gruet has also flourished under the tutelage of King, a graduate of St. Mark’s School in Southborough and an All-American center midfielder at Bowdoin College.

“Six game-winning goals is an impressive number,’’ said King, “but Nathalie does it at both ends of the field. She breaks up a lot of plays defensively. She’s had her hands full at times because she gets face-guarded a lot, and a couple of teams have tried to mark her out of the game, but she’s a pretty incredible athlete who fights through it.’’

The Wellesley roster also includes versatile sophomore midfielder/defender Caroline Guild , a Concord-Carlisle High grad, and freshman backup goalkeeper Lucy Hurlock of Needham (Buckingham Browne & Nichols School).

“Caroline has stepped up when we’ve had injuries and is a steady and important player for us,’’ King said, “and Lucy, at 5-8, has great size for her position. She’s very quick and athletic, and we see a lot of potential in her.’’

Stathopoulos, Klinoff boost Sacred Heart

Waltham’s Casey Stathopoulos and Natasha Klinoff of Concord, who were teammates at the Southfield School in Brookline, are starting their junior season at Sacred Heart University as forwards on the women’s ice hockey team. that set a program record with 18 victories last season

Stathopoulos, a transfer from the University of New Hampshire, led the Pioneers in scoring with 14 goals and 15 assists last winter, when the squad set a program record with 18 victories. After three games this season, she had two goals and an assist.

Klinoff was fourth in scoring last season with nine goals and 12 assists.

“Natasha’s one of our hardest workers and a go-to player who is just returning after knee surgery,’’ said coach Tom O’Malley , whose program plays a Division 1 independent schedule.

O’Malley said Stathopoulos is a skilled player who is effective in the tough areas and sees the ice well.

Here and there

Harvard University junior Marie Margolius of Acton was named Ivy League Player of the Week for women’s soccer after helping the Crimson extend their unbeaten streak to 10 games with the game-winning goal and an assist in a 3-1 victory over Brown. . .  Columbia’s Beverly Leon, a senior forward from Wrentham, made the Ivy women’s soccer honor roll with two goals and an assist in a two-game span. She was leading the Lions in scoring with six goals and six assists through 14 games. . .  Keene State College junior sweeper Melissa Habelow of Belmont was named the ECAC New England and Little East Conference Defensive Player of the Week for field hockey. She anchored a backfield that did not allow a goal in two matches, and scored the game winner vs. Salem State. Habelow had six goals and an assist for the Owls, who were 9-0 in the Little East Conference, and played at Framingham State on Saturday.

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.

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