Reflection on the Fall Season: Wow!
Wow, what a fun fall! We won three, outright Inter-Ac championships and two other PC teams competed until the last day of the season for their share of a league championship. It was truly a remarkable fall season and we could not be more proud of all our athletes. In some years, teams share the title with another school, but not this year. All three championships are Penn Charter's alone! Girls and boys soccer advanced in the PAISAA state championship play, to the semis and finals, respectively.
Boys soccer, after starting the league schedule 1-2-1, won six straight Inter-Ac games to capture the Inter-Ac title for the first time since 2010. The boys went on to the PAISAA Tournament final, losing 1-0 in overtime after 26 exciting, excruciating kicks. The Quakers got out of the gate fast with great performances against some nation’s best teams then, just before league play began, the injury bug bit the team hard. Three top underclassman suffered season-ending injuries, leaving the side to find replacements in the middle of a title run. Players who were set as practice players suddenly found themselves playing 80 minutes or more – and finding great success. The season ended on a cold night at Immaculata University after the Quakers fell on the 26th penalty kick at the end of a tough 0-0 state final game which 100 minutes of exciting soccer could not settle. The boys walked off the field with heads held high, satisfied in the fact that they could play with anybody, anytime, anywhere.
Girls soccer continued its dominance under Coach Darci Borski, winning 10 straight to take another league title – our third girls soccer league championship in four years! The 2016 season was filled with many exciting wins, a talented and dangerous offense, and a tough and fast defense. We won the Inter-Ac with a league record of 10-2-0, had an overall record of 17-4-0 and played beautiful soccer. We faced many tough opponents and rose to the challenge all season. The team was solid in all areas of the field: top goaltending, organized and strong defense, creative midfield and a dynamic offense. We had tremendous play and leadership from our four captains Alexis Hnatkowsky, Macaul Mellor, Brigitte Gutpelet and Gi DeMarco. We were fit, fast and aggressive and it was a total team effort this year to capture the Inter-Ac title.
Girls tennis did not lose a match all season. The girls dominated everything – from the team matches to the individual championship tournament. After a close match against perennial power Episcopal Academy that ended in a 4-3 win for us, the team rolled through the rest of the Inter-Ac. And just to ice the cake: Tennis was named overall champions at the Inter-Ac Tennis Championships tournament – with every player placing. In singles tennis play, Leila Sor lost only one match all season, and Schuyler and Brinlea La Barge, playing numbers 2 and 1 respectively, dropped zero.
The 2016 field hockey season was a success in many ways. Although the team did not have a winning record, the development of the players and team proved to be a success. The players worked hard to practice and develop their skills. We aimed to have successes throughout the season, whether it was putting together five passes in a row during a game or taking ownership of systems and strategies. The team established a style of play, which was one of the primary goals of new head coach Steve Wagner. The players had to trust that they could execute this new strategic system, and because they did, they succeeded. As a result, the team was able to be more competitive against all the other teams. Although the score did not always show the team’s progress, there was no doubt that progress was made throughout this season.
Golfer Brian Isztwan, a junior, was ranked Inter-Ac's #1 individual performer during the regular season. The team won our school’s first two Inter-Ac Invitationals, which brought all league teams together in competition. We contended for the league title right to the very last hole of the regular season play. In the PAISAA state tournament the team defeated all Inter-Ac opponents and finished second.
Football had an outstanding season, finishing 6-3, the best record since 2006. Our three losses were by a combined 11 points. Quakers football QB Mike 'Neeko' Hnatkowsky, a senior, is the Penn Charter and Inter-Academic Career Leader in three categories: passing yards (6,172), completions (394), touchdowns (60). Quite an accomplishment. We came off a very productive off-season and raced to a 4-0 non-league record. Inter-Ac play opened with a heart-breaking 21-20 overtime loss to defending champion Haverford School, but bounced back nicely with consecutive wins over Episcopal Academy and neighborhood rival Springside Chestnut Hill. The final two weeks of the season saw the Quakers fall to eventual league champions Malvern Prep and to Germantown Academy, with each game coming down to the closing seconds of regulation. Despite its tough finish, Penn Charter ended the season ranked #17 in Southeastern PA and did it in impressive fashion, outscoring opponents 285-156.
Our girls cross country team was young and showed strong improvement with Coach Andy Zuccotti. We finished fifth in the state this year, our best finish in five years. The girls also finished fourth in the Inter-Ac. The outlook for this team is incredibly bright: four of our top 5 runners this year were freshmen or sophomores, which means we will be in a position to compete for league and state titles next year and beyond.
The boys cross country team was 2-5 this fall. During the season the young team experienced tremendous growth. We knew this year would be one for rebuilding; while we returned a core of varsity runners from last year, we had huge holes in the top of our line up. Our goal was to use this year as a starting point to rebuild the culture of distance running at Penn Charter behind the lead of our top runner, senior Harper Pollio-Barbee. It will take some time to fully rebuild, but we are closer to having a foundation today than we were back in September. To the credit of the athletes on the team, we worked hard, day in and day out, and each week our our athletes set season and lifetime bests. With a very strong seventh and eighth grade group moving up to join a quickly developing junior, sophomore and freshman group, the future looks bright.
Girls water polo ended the season with a final record of 8-10, although that record is not indicative of the success of this year’s team. The team was made up of a group of gritty, hard-working and dedicated girls who played fast, smart and tough. The girls had huge wins against Lawrenceville, Springfield and, for the first time in five years, they beat GA at home. The girls who are returning are looking forward to overcoming the final hurdle: beating GA on PC/GA Day. Next year’s team will surely miss the contributions of the eighth leading point scorer all-time (Brina Way), fifth leading point scorer all-time (Justine Paolini) and career leader in points all-time (Emily Zurcher). With a solid foundation and a strong group of rising seniors, girls water polo at Penn Charter is headed in the right direction.
After two years of graduating players who saw the majority of playing time on the varsity level, the boys water polo team had the challenge of finding its own unique playing style. The team struggled through the early part of the season, losing its first four games in very lopsided matches. Then, the senior leadership began to reveal itself, ushering in a more intense work ethic at practices. The work paid off and we became contenders against teams that looked far superior at the beginning of the season. The overall 8-17 record was not indicative of the skill level of this team. The schedule was tough and resulted in eight narrow losses that could have gone either way. The highlight of the season was Easterns where we achieved commanding wins over Mt. St. Joseph and Landon, teams that vexed us in the beginning of the year. We are looking forward to the future as we continue to grow as a program.
See more photos by Zamani Feelings, featuring our senior athletes.
All in all, it was a great fall. Lots of growth, success and fun. We look forward to the winter season, including the debut of boys and girls indoor track as a varsity team. Go Charter!
Director of Athletics and Athletic Planning
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