Spring has officially sprung! The Penn Charter community returned from spring break earlier this week, signaling that the final stretch of the 2022-23 school year is upon us.
Note: This report covers athletic contests played between March 15-April 5:
The Quakers got off to a sizzling start, with the team winning their first seven games of the season at home before dropping a pair of road games at Shipley and Holy Ghost Prep. After an up-and-down 2022 season, PC seems poised for a run that will take the team back to the top of the league standings.
The Quakers have picked up wins against talented non-league opponents from the Friends Schools League (Germantown Friends and Friends Central) and Suburban One League (Council Rock South, Central Bucks East, Central Bucks South) while also defeating Hill School and Lawrenceville. The team’s pitching has been superb out of the gate, led by last year’s top arm in senior Scott Doran, a tall righty with a power fastball and slider. Doran is supported in the rotation by a pair of juniors in Christian Clauss (a blend of power and offspeed) and Will Vieira, more of a control, finesse pitcher who tops out in the low-mid 80s but makes up for it with deceptive movement. Head coach Justin Hanley said he has been pleasantly surprised by sophomore Ryan Conrad, who has emerged as a shutdown arm out of the bullpen.
“All three starters are battle tested with unique styles, and I know I’ll get quality starts from them,” Hanley said. “No matter the situation, they’re attacking the strike zone with quality innings. We knew going in that pitching would be the strength of the team, and they have solidified that.”
On offense, senior captain and center fielder Liam Rowan, who Hanley called “the best athlete on the team,” hits leadoff and will likely bat in the .380-.400 range. Sophomore catcher Kyle McKernan is able to spray the ball all around the diamond out of the two hole. Senior shortstop Tim Ford, senior third baseman Shawn Flynn and sophomore designated hitter Garrett Mathias comprise the middle of the order and are all capable of driving the ball and over the fence. Senior Colin Schumm won the second base job and has already hit two home runs. Elsewhere, junior James Langham plays stellar defense at first base, while sophomore “Swiss Army Knife” Rowan Griffith and freshman outfielder Gavin Ruta are two youngsters who have impressed early.
The Quakers have a solid blend of experience and youth and appear ready for a bounce-back campaign once the league slate begins on April 11 versus SCH Academy. “We have the pitching staff to make a strong run, and our expectation is to win an Inter-Ac championship,” Hanley said.
There’s a new face at the head of the softball bench this season as Charles Warren takes the reins as the program’s new head coach. Warren has coached both baseball and softball in South Jersey at both the travel and collegiate levels. He spent last spring and summer coaching baseball with Atlantic Cape Community College and the Atlantic County Outlaws, respectively, and has gained valuable softball coaching experience with the South Jersey Mystics.
It was with the Mystics that Warren established his Penn Charter connections, as he spent time coaching or coaching against several current PC players — junior Macie Bergmann, sophomore Lauren Gedraitis and freshmen Madelyn Bergmann and Maddy Wray. These players, along with sophomore Ryan Hatty, are expected to be Warren’s headliners for the Quakers. Macie, Ryan and Lauren are entrenched as the team’s top pitchers.
“I’ve been calling them my ‘Fab Five,’” Warren said. “Those are my leaders that give the team direction, and they all bring something different to the table. Macie is the most-tenured player, a natural leader and a unanimous captain. Maddy got varsity experience as an eighth grader and gained maturity faster than most kids her age. And the sky's the limit for Madelyn, Ryan and Lauren as pitchers.”
Warren also highlighted eighth grader Ellie McKernan as a newcomer who is already turning heads at second base. With McKernan’s inclusion, that’s six of nine starters who play travel ball outside of school, which Warren says readies the players for the level of expectations that come with playing in the Inter-Ac.
Thanks to three early rainouts, the Quakers have only played three games so far, beating Abington 8-7 on March 21 while falling to SCH Academy (7-2 on March 29) and 12-1 to Conwell-Egan on March 30. The team is coming off a 6-13 overall season with a 4-8 mark in the league and expects to improve on those numbers despite the fact that there are no seniors on the roster.
“There is no doubt to me that PC can return to a powerhouse-type program in the Inter-Ac,” Warren said. “My goal isn’t for this season or next, but the next five to ten years. The bar needs to be set high, and that is to win championships. My motto is to reach for the stars, and if you fall you still land on a cloud.”
Following a brilliant 20-4-1 overall season with a second-place 9-3 league finish that included the program’s first PAISAA championship, head coach Colleen Kelly has been left with the unenviable task of replacing 12 graduates. Two of those seniors, Maddie Shoup (now at Colorado) and Darcy Felter (North Carolina), combined for 141 goals during the best season in program history.
That said, Kelly hasn’t taken it easy on the 2023 team when it comes to scheduling, as the Quakers have squared off against nationally-recognized squads from Maryland, Connecticut and even one from Canada. After losing its first four games of the season — including a season-opening 9-8 loss to SCH Academy — PC has responded by winning its last two: 14-4 over Hill Academy (Ontario) and 13-6 over reigning South Jersey Group 1 state champion Haddonfield.
“We’re young with not as much depth, so the biggest thing for the coaches has been to see if we can compete as such a different team from last year,” Kelly said. “We dug ourselves early holes in the four losses, but the silver lining has been rallying to compete with these nationally-ranked opponents.”
After a one-goal loss and a pair of two-goal defeats, the Quakers broke through with dominant showings in their most recent two. In her first season with the program, junior Aditi Foster leads the team with 23 goals and has scored multiple times in every game. Senior Gracie Shoup, who will play in college at Ohio State, is second on the team with 16 goals while leading in assists (seven) and draw controls (24). Senior Bea Buckley has netted nine goals, while junior Grace Walter (six goals) and freshmen Harbor Campbell (five goals) and Molly Dougherty (three goals) have all hit the ground running. Senior goalie Kayla Joyce has made 51 saves in six games.
Despite the high roster turnover, Kelly believes that the 2023 team will absolutely be in the hunt for league and PAISAA titles as the new parts continue to coalesce.
“We need to keep building,” she said. “We’re not far off, which is the exciting part. I think the world of this team, and if we keep coming together then we can beat anybody.”
The Quakers are coming off a 12-13 overall record with a 2-8 league mark, but the team was closer than it looked after being on the wrong side of seven one-goal games.
Through the first seven games of the 2023 season, Gavin Michener has led the attack with 24 goals and seven assists. Senior Owen Black has tallied 10 goals and nine assists, while fellow seniors Nick Walter (nine goals, nine assists) and Chet Kempinski (eight goals, six assists) have provided support. Sophomore Casey Felter has come on strong with seven goals in his last three games.
“We lost some guys who had huge impacts on offense, so this season is going to be about figuring that out,” head coach Pat McDonough said. “We’ve been up and down but are getting better.”
The Quakers are 3-4 through the first seven games against tough non-league opponents near and far (PC has played squads from Virginia, Maryland and Pittsburgh). The team has picked up wins over Upper Dublin, Garnet Valley and Pittsburgh-area Shady Side Academy, as McDonough and company prepare for the rigors of another challenging season in the Inter-Ac, which the head coach called “the best in the country” (Malvern Prep and Haverford School are nationally-ranked). The team’s first league game is set for April 11 against SCH Academy.
Senior George Glomb has won better than 70 percent of his face-offs, while senior goalie Noah Dacanay, whom McDonough said has “played awesome,” has recorded double-digit saves in all six of his starts. Senior Patrick McDonough and junior Zack Curtin have been solid two-way contributors on defense and in the midfield, while juniors Eian Kilpatrick and Curran Rahn and senior Seamus McCain are all returners who provide experience.
While the Quakers are still searching for consistency, McDonough’s expectations remain high.
“Our philosophy has always been if we’re not going to win the league, then what are we doing?” he said. “Everything we do leads up to the league, and if we aren’t playing at a high level like the other teams then we aren’t going to be ready for it. In some games we show we can compete with anyone, and in others it’s not there. But we’re getting there.”
The Quakers have officially entered the post-Liam Birnie era. Birnie, a two-time league MVP and three-time all Inter-Ac selection, graduated in 2022 after posting a 36-3 career singles record. Head coach Philip Stevens is lucky in the sense that he gets to replace his former star with another rising one in sophomore Nate Arnold. Arnold was 11-1 and a first-team all-league selection as a freshman and has slid right into the top spot in the PC ladder that had been occupied by Birnie. They were the last two singles players standing at league champs a season ago.
“Liam was our big gun on the court, so we were really lucky to have Nate as our number two last year,” Stevens said. “Nate has plenty of tournament experience and has been working hard. We think he’ll be able to slot into that top spot successfully, and there are not many kids in the region who will challenge him. We expect him to play for a league championship.”
Stevens also returns senior Justin Cockerham, a second-team all-league selection who will slide into the number two spot, while junior Justin Gantz will bring experience to the third position, though most of his time in 2022 was spent on a strong doubles tandem. Other players expected to contribute are seniors Steven Bernstein, Ethan Cohen, Eric Liriano and Ryan Packel, as well as junior Jake Morgan. While the Quakers do have a fair amount of upperclassmen, not all have a ton of varsity experience, so Stevens anticipates some growing pains as he continues to tinker with his lineup after the top three.
The team has gotten off to a 1-3 start, with the highlight being a 4-3 win over La Salle on March 21 which featured strong wins from Arnold, Cockerham and Gantz on the singles side as well as a dramatic three-set victory from the doubles team of Cohen and Bernstein. The Quakers have sustained losses to Central Bucks South (4-3), Masterman (7-0) and the Haverford School (6-1). The lone win over a perennially powerful Fords squad came from Arnold, who picked up a 6-2, 6-0 straight sets singles victory.
“As we continue to gel, we think we can give everyone in the league a tough match,” Stevens said. “It comes down to our health and continuing to push ourselves while working hard and growing with every match.”
Girls Track & Field
As the only spring team to win both league and PAISAA titles a year ago, head coach Candice Lee returns a loaded roster that impressed in its first event that counted in 2023.
At the North Penn Open, freshman Michaela Poland scored a pair of top-five finishes, placing fourth in the 200 (26.23) and third in the 400 (59.69). Sophomore Alli DeLisi was fourth in the 1600 at 5:16.23, while senior Veronica Lentz finished third in the 300 hurdles (47.46). Sophomore Mariah Mays won the shot put event (34-6) and placed eighth in the javelin (85-9).
“The meet went very, very well,” Lee said. “Since it was over spring break we only took 10 girls, so I can’t wait to see what a full team does.”
In addition to the athletes who competed at North Penn, Lee highlighted several others who have impressed in early practices and scrimmages: sophomore basketball star Kaylinn Bethea is new to the program and expected to help in both sprints and relays, while fellow new additions Ashlee Bucksar (senior) and freshmen Lauren Bucksar and Cassidy McCusker have also turned heads early.
As far as returners, senior Aisling Brady and junior Zady Hasse will contribute to both the 4x800 relay and individual 800, while junior Grace Neuwirth will add depth to the 1600 and 3200 events. In field events, Lee pointed to junior Olivia Roland as someone who should score points in the high jump and 300 hurdles.
“I already told the girls that I want to win the league and states again,” Lee said. “We only lost five seniors and have a lot of returning athletes, so I think we are deep enough to contend. It’s a good mix of experience and young girls who haven’t run before but are still learning the sport. I’m very excited to get the girls tuned into what they are hoping to accomplish.”
Boys Track & Field
Following a couple of warm-up scrimmages in late March, boys track & field participated in its first meet that counted on April 1 at the North Penn Open.
Sophomore T.J. Zwall impressed by taking first place in the 3200 with a time of 9:54.51, while fellow sophomore Nate Johnson was not far behind in sixth place at 10:05.91. Additionally, the 4x800 relay team of Zwall, Johnson and seniors Jack Frank and Wes Trautwein placed second with a time of 8:16.94.
As the season progresses, head coach Bonnie pointed out several other boys he expects to make big impacts, such as seniors Mark Butler (long jump) and Christian Austin (shot put); junior Zahir Kalam Id-Din (100 & 200); sophomores Luis Rincon (pole vault), Oliver Jackson (hurdles), Jaxon Adams (100 & 200) and Tate Taylor (hurdles and jump events). Juniors Eddie Kennedy and Ohifame Ijeboi are expected to be major contributors when they shake off some nagging injuries.
“Last year we were in last place in the league, but we’re gradually getting better,” Bonnie said. “Our sophomore class has some legitimate talent, and we return some really good seniors. The morale has been very good. It’s a positive and happy group.”
Head coach Katherine York’s crew team has competed in three Manny Flick Regattas on the Schuylkill River thus far. The team competes in four different categories, depending on experience level: novice, freshman, JV and varsity. Additionally, there are three types of boats — 1x (one person with two oars), 2x (two people with two oars) and 4x (four people with two oars each).
York is still tinkering with lineup combinations, and early-season races are often held despite frigid temperatures, rainy weather and less-than-ideal river conditions.
As far as results are concerned, York was particularly impressed with the boy's Varsity 2x duo of seniors James Glomb and Scott Sweeney in the 1st Flick, who finished first with a time of 5:41.46. On the girls' side, York gave a shout-out to the Girls Varsity 2x duo of senior Ella Bretschneider and junior Ellie Choate, who secured a first-place finish in their 1st Flick race (6:39.89).
“It was bitterly cold with crazy winds, pretty much the worst possible conditions for racing,” York said. “But the rowers did their best to execute their race plan and lay a foundation for the season.”
The Quakers had low participation for the 2nd Flick on March 26 due to spring break, with only three boats in the water.
Finally, two Boys JV 2x duos rowed well in the 3rd Flick on April 2: juniors Elias Moulton and Mac Haines finished first in their race (5:19.70), while fellow juniors James Foley and Jack Bowen placed second in a separate race (5:38.77).
“We were excited to get more racers out there this weekend as we work to set the lineups for City Champs, which is five short weeks away,” York said.
Complete results for the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Flicks are below:
Girls JV 2x Flight 2 (1st) — Zoe Page/Grace Magee, 7:19.49
Girls JV 4x Flight 2 (4th) — Ali Sweeney/Brea Turner/Inaya Edwards/Grace Agosto, 7:16.03
Boys JV 4x Flight 2 (2nd) — Elias Moulton/Jack Davey/Jack Bowen/Mac Haines, 5:38.19
Girls Varsity 2x Flight 1 (1st) — Ellie Choate/Ella Bretschneider, 6:39.89
Boys Varsity 2x Flight 1 (1st) — James Glomb/Scott Sweeney, 5.41.46
Girls Varsity 4x Flight 1 (1st) — Claire Lewis/Merrill Gadsden/Charlotte Baker/Lindsay Gadsden, 6:16.22
Boys Varsity 4x Flight 1 (3rd) — James Foley/Harrison Signorello/Duncan Riley/Matt Clarke, 5:54.44
Boys Varsity 2x Flight 1 (2nd) — James Glomb/Mac Haines, 5:56.41
Girls JV 1x Flight 2 (2nd) — Grace Agosto, 7:23.07
Girls V 4x Flight 1 (4th) — Claire Lewis/Merrill Gadsden/Charlotte Baker/Ella Bretschneider, 5:58.59
Boys JV 2x Flight 3 (1st) — Elias Moulton/Mac Haines, 5:19.70
Boys JV 2x Flight 4 (2nd) — James Foley/Jack Bowen, 5:38.77
Boys V 1x Flight 3 (2nd) — James Glomb, 5:46.99
Boys V 2x Flight 1 (5th) — Matt Clarke/Scott Sweeney, 5:50.89
Girls JV 2x Flight 1 (3rd) — Claire Lewis/Grace Agosto, 6:24.69
Girls JV 2x Flight 2 (3rd) — Zoe Page/Grace Magee, 6:30.18
Girls JV 4x Flight 1 (6th) — Ali Sweeney/Safiyah Muhammad/Penelope Gray/Inaya Edwards, 7:32.19
Girls V 4x Flight 1 (5th) — Ellie Choate/Merrill Gadsden/Lindsay Gadsden/Ella Bretschneider, 5:18.06