Before we can finally call a wrap on the 2021-22 Penn Charter athletics season, let’s take one final look at the three spring teams that were still competing as the calendar shifted us all into holiday mode. Two squads played out their schedules in the PAISAA Tournament while another hit the water one final time. Now that plans to scatter for the summer are starting to unfold with graduation right around the corner, let’s check to see how things ended for the Quakers.
Penn Charter had to fight off four yellow cards in the PAISAA title game on May 26, with the fourth triggering a scenario that forced PC to compete down a player for the final 18:22 of the second half against league rival SCH Academy.
No matter — the Quakers still had Maddie Shoup.
Shoup scored three times, including PC’s lone second half tally in what amounted to the game-winner with 4:20 left, leading the Quakers to their first-ever PAISAA championship crown in a tight 8-7 victory over the Blue Devils at Cabrini College. In Penn Charter’s three-game PAISAA run, Shoup scored 16 goals, bringing her total on the season to 71, one more than senior teammate Darcy Felter.
The fact that SCH face-guarded Shoup early on didn’t stop her, nor did the team playing 10-on-11 for nearly an entire half of a championship game. Quite frankly, nothing could get in the way of Shoup’s determination to end her career as a champion after four long years of scaling the mountain.
“She just took over the games,” head coach Colleen Kelly said of her star player’s run of excellence. “Every time she touched the ball, it was either an assist or it ended up in the back of the net.”
Shoup, who will play collegiately at Colorado, was the leader of a senior class that ran 12 deep. Whether it was Shoup, Felter (North Carolina), Charlotte Hodgson (Harvard) or five-year varsity player Grace Turner, the Quakers had no shortage of players who had been through it all. They were part of a freshman class that lost to Agnes Irwin in the PAISAA semifinals in 2019, lost their sophomore seasons entirely to the pandemic in 2020 and again fell to Agnes Irwin last year, this time in the championship game of an Inter-Ac tournament that stood in for PAISAA thanks to lingering COVID concerns.
And while Penn Charter (20-4-1) finished second behind Episcopal in the regular season, the PAISAA bracket represented an opportunity for those dozen seniors to end their stellar careers with their final game being a win. It was the perfect culmination of the team’s journey over the last four years.
“I wanted nothing more than for this group to end with a championship, because they were so deserving of it,” Kelly said. “At the beginning of their careers, we weren’t even close. It’s an accumulation of all the hard work they put in to get better under their leadership. They were two one-goal losses away [to EA] from winning an Inter-Ac championship, and they adjusted and learned from those losses to put us in a position to finish it. For it to finally come together with a championship is amazing.”
It sure wasn’t easy against SCH (17-5), but the Quakers had become battle tested in these types of close games throughout the season. They suffered through those two one-goal defeats to Episcopal, and even lost to SCH 12-9 back on April 5, so the team knew what it took to get over the proverbial hump. Shoup scored her first goal at the 21:15 mark of the first half to put PC up 2-0, and scored another a little more than a minute later to push the lead to three. Felter, who had three assists, found Hodgson for a pair of first-half tallies, the second of which put the Quakers up 6-3 with 10:54 remaining.
“It’s a blessing as a coach to have those three out there, because nothing ever really scares me,” Kelly said. “If Maddie is face-guarded, we have so many more weapons. Darcy was awesome whenever she had opportunities, and Charlotte stepped up and took over when she needed to. We have such flexibility on our attack, and they’re all so unselfish. It’s not like they’re trying to score more than the other — it’s allowing for whoever’s day it is to let that person shine.”
Aided by PC competing with a player down for much of the second half, SCH rallied, cutting the deficit to 7-6 with 8:49 to play. Things were tense, especially with PC deploying a cat-and-mouse strategy to play keep-away and help drain the clock, but Shoup delivered what ended up being the final blow with a little more than four minutes remaining.
“We would’ve loved to win the Inter-Ac too, but this was everything we could have hoped for,” Kelly said. “With this title, this senior group pretty much started what I was trying to create. In the beginning, it was more trying to get them to believe they could do it; now that it’s happened, there was never a belief that we wouldn’t get here. It’s exactly the culture I wanted to have with Penn Charter girls lacrosse, and they helped fulfill that.”
In addition to Shoup, Felter, Hodgson and Walter, the 2022 senior class also includes: Lauren Anderson, Kayla Bradby, Ella Curci, Tayanna Kelly, Lauren Martz, Brenna McCafferty, Lane Murray and Kaila Rahn. While they will be graduating imminently, there will be plenty of talent returning for the 2023 season, including talented juniors in goalie Kayla Joyce, Shoup’s younger sister, Gracie, who scored in the PAISAA final, and Bea Buckley, who scored twice.
“From here on out, we can’t go backwards,” Kelly said. “The aim is to do this every single year. We’ll take it one day at a time, but that’s our goal. We’re no longer at the bottom of the Inter-Ac anymore. This represents the top.”
Box score vs. SCH:
Maddie Shoup: 3 goals, 1 draw control, 1 ground ball
Charlotte Hodgson: 2 goals, 1 assist, 4 draw controls, 2 ground balls, 2 caused turnovers
Bea Buckley: 2 goals
Gracie Shoup: 1 goal, 3 draw controls
Darcy Felter: 3 assists, 1 draw control, 1 ground ball, 1 caused turnover
Grace Turner: 2 caused turnovers
Lauren Anderson: 1 caused turnover
Kayla Joyce: 5 saves
Through five innings, Penn Charter baseball was sitting pretty. On their home field, the Quakers held a 3-0 lead over Inter-Ac rival Haverford School in a May 26 PAISAA semifinal matchup. Not only that, but sophomore starting pitcher Christian Clauss was dealing on the mound, surrendering just one hit through the first five frames.
A win against the Fords would have sent PC to the championship game against Malvern Prep, with the team’s ace, Scott Doran, rested and ready to go on the hill. But baseball is a cruel, unforgiving game to those who play it, and Haverford had just enough left in the tank to break Penn Charter’s hearts and end the team’s season.
With Clauss still in control, the Fords finally broke through in the sixth, getting a two-out, two-run single off the bat of Jake LaRocca. Freshman Caleb Barnett relieved Clauss in the sixth after the lead was cut to 3-2, and Haverford’s Colby McNeely delivered the knockout punch in the visiting seventh, a two-run double that gave the Fords a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.
“We were in control for almost six innings, then we had the rug pulled out from under us,” Penn Charter head coach Justin Hanley said. “It was a frustrating finish, but this game had it all in terms of going back and forth with these high pressure moments. It was just one of those days, and that’s baseball for you.”
Hanley called Clauss’s effort “phenomenal, and I told him when I made the change that it was the best I’ve ever een him throw.” As for Barnett, he had entered in relief against Haverford twice already this season and, despite his freshman standing, was the player Hanley wanted on the mound with the season on the line.
“He wanted that moment, and he was the right guy in that spot having delivered for us all year,” Hanley said of Barnett. “Their best hitter drove in the deciding two-run double, and that’s a lesson learned for Caleb. I couldn’t be prouder of the way he battled all year as a freshman.”
The Quakers (12-13-1) had an opportunity to walk it off in the home seventh, putting runners on first and second with one out. Freshman catcher Kyle McKernan had doubled with one out, and senior Vince Fattore was subsequently hit by a pitch. Liam Rowan hit into a fielder’s choice with Fattore forced out at second, and while Rowan beat the throw to first, McKernan’s courtesy runner took too wide a turn around third base and was caught in a rundown between third and home plate, eventually getting tagged as the final out of PC’s season.
On top of this missed opportunity, Rowan had another golden opportunity in the second inning that nearly blew the game open. With the bases loaded and PC already holding a 3-0 lead, Rowan ripped a missile into the right field gap that was run down by Haverford (17-10) center fielder Will Ferris in the form of a tremendous diving catch near the wall that thwarted the big inning.
“With Liam’s speed, that’s at least a triple if it falls and a 6-0 game,” Hanley said. “Just an incredible running catch, and that was the turning point. Man, it’s 6-0 if that drops … but again, that’s baseball. We were confident heading into the sixth inning, but the baseball gods thought otherwise. As a coach and a fan, these types of games are kind of cool to see all of the back and forth action.”
Despite the crushing and abrupt end, the little three-game mini-run the Quakers went on reinvigorated a program that went just 3-7 in the Inter-Ac this season after losing ace pitcher Andrew Healy to a season-ending injury. PC got mercy ruled off its own field in a 13-1 loss to Episcopal that ended the regular season a week earlier, so to see the team rally to win games over Hill and Perkiomen (the lineup crushed five home runs in the team’s final win of the season) before narrowly falling to Haverford was a testament to Hanley’s coaching, his 10 senior leaders, and talented underclassmen like Clauss, Barnett and McKernan, all of whom will return for the 2023 season.
“That EA game was a debacle, so we had to lean on our senior leadership to tell our guys that we weren’t looking forward to the summer just yet,” Hanley said. “Our goal was to face Malvern again in the finals, and that was the carrot we kept dangled in front of us. It was a nice run with a good win at home against Hill, as well as the explosion at Perkiomen. It was a testament to our senior leadership, because these kids did not quit. We’ve also seen the future, so it’s an optimistic vision moving forward.”
PC won eight league games in 2021, so a quick turnaround in 2023 does not fall outside the realm of possibility. For the senior class of Fattore, Healy, Henry Davis, Andrew Duffy, Ed Guarnaccia, Jackson Handler, Jack Larrabee, Aidan Mehta, Alex Nadol and Charlie Weiss, the 4-3 loss to Haverford represented the end of the line in their Penn Charter careers (Fattore and Healy will both play college ball at Duke). The rest will remember this three-game run as an appetizer to enter the offseason focused and determined before next season comes around.
“The last three games of our season, that was Penn Charter baseball,” Hanley said. “We tested the senior leadership and put it on them, and it was awesome for them to take that to heart and go on a nice run. We got it back to playing to the ability we all knew that we could. To make that run took every ounce of energy and effort, and they brought it. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from these 10 seniors.
“The last three games showed us that we can compete with anybody. Everybody chipped in. I’m happy with some of the young guys who will be guiding our team next season. It’s really exciting for me to end the year the way we did heading into next season.”
PC was back on the water over Memorial Day weekend in the team’s final regatta of the season, this time with four qualified boats competing in the SRAA Nationals, a championship for all North American rowing crews. Instead of the familiar setting of Boathouse Row on the Schuylkill River, this time the Quakers trekked over the bridge to race on the Cooper River in Camden, N.J.
Duncan Riley placed 5th in the Boys Varsity 1x with a time of 6:22.81; in the Varsity 2x, James Glomb and Scott Sweeney finished 4th with a final posting of 5:31.34. Elsewhere, in the JV 4x, the boat of Mackenzie Haines, Jack Bowen, James Foley and Elias Moulton produced a 6th-place finish with a time of 5:20.93. Finally, the lone girls boat of Ella Bretschneider, Lindsay Gadsden, Merrill Gadsden and Ellie Choate finished 5th, clocking in with a time of 6:10.36 in the Girls JV 4x.
“These were the four boats that were top finishers this season that led them to row at Nationals,” assistant coach Michael Moulton said. “It was a big accomplishment.”
As for the season as a whole, the Quakers often battled rainy skies and windy river conditions, sometimes being unable to get on the water at all. When the team was able to compete, it shined, even if the sun was often stubborn in doing so itself.
“Mother Nature this spring made for some interesting stories and logistical nightmares, but despite the flooding, thunderstorms, high winds and heat waves, the crew team experienced a most successful season,” Moulton said. “We found success at the Manny Flick Regattas, where we had many top finishes and great races. In the pinnacle event of the season — the Stotesbury Cup Regatta (the largest scholastic regatta in the world, with 6,000 competitors) — 22 rowers made it through time trials and qualified for and progressed to the semi-finals and finals. This is the largest group of PC boats to do so in the history of the program.”