The 2023-24 winter athletics season is officially underway at Penn Charter. Five of the nine Upper School varsity squads kicked things off last week and the other four will follow soon. Both basketball programs are two-time defending Inter-Ac champions, while squash, wrestling, indoor track and swimming & diving are also looking forward to successful campaigns over the next three months. Below is a team-by-team look at where things stand early on.
This SportsZone report covers athletic events played between November 29-December 5. Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.
Wrestling began its season with a resounding 65-9 victory over visiting Franklin Towne Charter on Dec. 1. The team, which went 20-3 last season and finished in third place at the state tournament, graduated six seniors from last year’s roster and returns a plethora of talented wrestlers.
Against Franklin Towne, seniors Lucas Weinstein (121-pound weight class), Jack Bowen (189), and C.J. English (285); juniors Hugh Maley (152), Greyson Catlow-Sidler (160) and Leo Pritchett (172); sophomores Simon Bethea (165) and Tristen Padgett (215); and eighth grader Matteo Pritchett (114) all earned wins by pinning their opponents. Juniors Munir German (133) and Griffin LaMent (145) also picked up victories via decision, and freshmen Ryder Horan (107) and Mac Weinstein (121) secured forfeit wins.
“Not only did the wrestlers perform well, but the parents and school community were present to support the team,” head coach Peter Shaifer said. “Many are brand new to the sport, but the leaders of the team are doing an awesome job supporting the rookies.”
Turnout this year was at an all-time high, as Shaifer said the 32-member wrestling team is the largest in school history.
While Franklin Towne is the only match the varsity squad has wrestled in thus far, last weekend was also a historic one for the Quakers as the program participated in its first ever female-only event on Dec. 3: the Abington Friends Girls’ Wrestling Jamboree at Abington Friends School. Senior Toni Plunkett and sophomore Izzy Steinbock competed in the high school division and represented Penn Charter proudly.
“Toni hit two duck unders in her final match, and Izzy showed how much she’s learned with her first two pins,” Shaifer said. “Incredible day for these bold and determined young women.”
Next up for the Quakers is the Franny Lutz Holiday Dual Meet on Dec. 9 at Upper Merion High School (8 a.m.).
Penn Charter split a pair of matches to open the season. On Dec. 5, the Quakers earned a 6-1 win over SquashSmarts, Philadelphia’s urban squash program launched in 2000. Seniors Marco Vucetic and Griffin Yeatman won their individual matchups 3-0 from the first and third spots on the PC ladder, as did eighth grader James Killinger (No. 4) and junior Dean Kaiser (No. 6). Senior Jacob Kestenbaum (No. 5) and junior Grayson Rupp secured 3-1 triumphs.
The team fell to Shipley School 8-1 on Nov. 30, with Yeatman’s 3-0 decision being PC’s lone victory on the day. Senior co-captain Grant Roshkoff lost 3-1 at the No. 2 position but had a “quality performance,” according to assistant coach Peter Lubowitz.
The Quakers graduated four seniors from last year’s team, including Ramsay Killinger, James’ older brother, who ceded the top spot on the ladder to Vucetic, last season’s No. 3 player. In addition to Roshkoff, Vucetic and Yeatman are also senior captains.
“Marco, Grant, and Griffin have stepped up to the task as leaders both on and off the court,” Lubowitz said. “I'm confident that they will all give their best effort and set the bar high for their teammates.”
While Ramsay Killinger — now playing at the U.S. Naval Academy — will be difficult to replace, the coaching staff has been thrilled to welcome James to the program while still in middle school.
“Squash definitely does run in the Killinger family,” Lubowitz said. “It's exciting to have James playing on the team this year as an eighth grader. He was chomping at the bit for the opportunity. The number one thing I see when I watch him play is his determination — he chases down every ball and competes to the limit.”
The rest of the roster features juniors Andrew Tanner, Will Kaiser, Nolan Duffy and Luke Markovitz. Lubowitz said he is excited about this crop of juniors, with Rupp and Tanner in particular making tremendous strides early on as first-time varsity players.
The Quakers have two matches left in 2023: Dec. 7 vs. Germantown Friends School and Dec. 14 at Malvern Prep, both beginning at 4 p.m.
The Quakers split their first two matches of the season, picking up a 9-0 shutout over Harriton on Nov. 30 before falling to neighborhood foe GFS 6-3 on Dec. 5.
Against GFS, Penn Charter got winning showings from juniors Sam and Alex Jaffe, as well as from sophomore Ana Buckley at the number eight position. PC nearly came away with a 5-4 victory, but senior Savannah Abernethy and freshman Libby Taub each dropped their deciding fifth-set games from the fourth and fifth slots, respectively. Abernethy in particular pushed her opponent to the brink before falling 16-14 in a thrilling battle.
“A very competitive match overall,” head coach Damon Leedale-Brown said. “All-in-all, I'm proud of how everyone on the team competed and supported each other.”
The 9-0 victory over Harriton marked the second consecutive season in which the Quakers secured a clean sweep over the Rams.
PC lost three seniors from last year’s squad, and the rest of the varsity roster features senior Frances Guenther, sophomores Audrey Abernethy, Hope Goldman, Jordan Simon, Eva Kothari and Adrienne Chang, and freshman Paige Taub.
Penn Charter will next be in action Tuesday, Dec. 12 at Baldwin (4 p.m.), the team’s final match of 2023.
BOYS SWIMMING & DIVING
The Quakers will begin their season on Tuesday, Dec. 12 by hosting Malvern Prep at 4 p.m., the team’s only meet before the calendar turns to 2024. Last year’s team went 0-5 overall and 0-4 in league meets, culminating the season with a 13th-place finish at the Eastern Prep Championship.
Penn Charter has the smallest team in terms of overall numbers in the Inter-Ac, but does return several key contributors, including senior PJ Duffy and junior Joe Repetto on the swimming side, while big things are expected from junior diver Aidan Trautwein. Duffy will focus on the 50 and 100 freestyle events, while Repetto will lead the butterfly races. The team will be challenged to replace the production of graduate Alex Zoldan, who holds the program record in the 500 freestyle and is now swimming at Virginia Tech. PC also graduated Juan Tovar, an extremely versatile swimmer, as well as Elliot Langford and Cormac Stevens.
Head coach Brian Hecker said he is excited to see more from rapidly-improving freshman Xander Bowen, and also named sophomores Avi Mondgock (sprint free events) and Ben Berger (distance freestyle) as swimmers to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
“Although we will struggle in our dual meets during the year, we hope to focus on individual improvement so that we as a team can find gains throughout the year,” Hecker said. “We will focus on each individual swimmer becoming better with technique and confidence so we can possibly improve upon our 13th place finish at Easterns last year.”
GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING
After a second-place Inter-Ac finish as well as a third-place showing at the Eastern Prep Championship last year, Penn Charter is eager to begin its season at home against Notre Dame on Tuesday, Dec. 12 (4 p.m.).
“We are excited and confident that this year’s team will have another strong year,” head coach Brian Hecker said. “We hope to build upon last season and once again compete for an Inter-Ac and Eastern Prep title.”
Hecker is looking to several members to make big impacts, including Abby Steinbrook (freestyle), juniors Ava Coombs (IM, freestyle, butterfly), Eva McIver-Jenkins (freestyle, butterfly) and Eliza Black (freestyle, butterfly, backstroke), and sophomore Lili DeMartinis (IM, freestyle, breaststroke).
Other names to keep an eye on are senior Kala Zingle, juniors Zoe Page and Georgia Baran, sophomore Harbor Campbell, freshman Eloisa Tovar and eighth graders Cate DeMartinis and Nola Waldbuesser. Cate DeMartinis and Waldbuesser are following in Tovar’s footsteps from last year as eighth graders expected to have immediate impacts in the water.
On the diving side, senior Katie Fitzpatrick is back, and she will be joined by freshmen Jade Ostroff and Milo Carpenter.
“If this group stays focused in practice and is willing to push themselves and each other like some of our former teams, we have the potential to be one of the strongest teams in PC history,” Hecker said.
There is a lot of new on this year’s boys basketball team. Not only does Penn Charter have a new head coach in Brandon Williams; there are also four new starters on a squad that won 43 games over the past two seasons, sharing the Inter-Ac championship with Malvern Prep in 2021 and 2022.
Junior Kai Shinholster is the lone holdover in the starting lineup, as the Quakers welcome a trio of junior transfers in 6-11 big man Matt Gilhool (Westtown School) and guards Jake West (Archbishop Carroll) and Jamal Hicks (Bonner-Prendergast). Long-range marksman Kevin Cotton is transitioning from reserve to starter, and eighth grader Carter Smith has started the team’s most recent two games in place of Shinholster, who sat out with a minor injury.
PC is 1-2 through its first three games. Most recently on Dec. 5 at Archbishop Ryan, the Quakers jumped out to an early 12-point lead before the Raiders roared back with a 21-8 run. Ryan took a 26-25 lead early in the second quarter and did not relinquish it for the remainder of the game, cruising to an 82-55 victory. West led all PC scorers with 17, while Gilhool posted 12 despite battling foul trouble all night.
It was a different story on Dec. 1 at Coach Williams’ alma mater Abington Friends, as the Quakers dominated the third quarter solidifying their 98-70 victory. Hicks made all six of his second-half shots to lead all PC scorers with 21, while Smith confidently drained four 3-pointers and tallied 20 points in his second varsity game. West had a double-double with 17 points and 14 assists, while Gilhool went 8-for-11 to finish with 17.
Even without Shinholster, the win over the Kangaroos showed this group’s tantalizing potential when things are firing on all cylinders — especially when a middle schooler shows enough confidence to play like a seasoned veteran.
“A lot of my confidence comes from my teammates, who don’t doubt me or treat me like I’m in eighth grade,” Smith said. “They treat me like I’m one of them, to the point where they make it easy for me. I wanted to help with scoring and on the defensive end, especially without Kai. Guys were finding me and I was able to get my 3s off.”
In the season opener on Nov. 29 against Phelps School, the Quakers traded highlights with one of the most talented teams in the area for the first half as PC led by one point after one quarter and trailed 40-37 at halftime. Phelps then won the third quarter 25-14 and went on to win 86-72. Gilhool showcased his strong inside-outside game on his way to a team-high 22 points, while West posted 20 of his own. Smith (10 points), Shinholster (nine points, seven rebounds, three assists) and Hicks (eight points) all provided strong support.
“I’m happy that after getting kids acclimated to a new school and myself getting acclimated to a new environment, we finally got here to this game,” Williams said. “The next step is about having a successful season, getting the work in and hopefully winning a championship.
The Quakers return home this weekend with a pair of games in the Speedy Morris Invitational, hosting Audenried Charter on Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m., followed by Simon Gratz the next day at 3 p.m.
The Quakers are coming off an undefeated Inter-Ac season and their second consecutive outright league title, the first time in program history that the team has won back-to-back championships. TheQuakers are now tasked with defending their crown without the services of three accomplished graduated seniors: Gracie Shoup (lacrosse, Ohio State), Bella Toomey (basketball, Fairleigh Dickinson) and reigning league MVP Aleah Snead (basketball, Saint Joseph’s).
Luckily, the two returning starters more than held their own on last year’s 19-win squad: junior Kaylinn Bethea and freshman Ryan Carter have transitioned from supporting players to program leaders for the 2023-24 campaign.
“They have embraced those new roles,” said Joe Maguire, now in his ninth season as head coach. “We’ve played some of the best teams on the East Coast in our first three games, so it hasn’t been easy, but they’ve been listening, learning and competing in practice.”
The Quakers are off to an 0-3 start, with Maguire purposely lining up a difficult non-league schedule so his team is prepared to pursue an Inter-Ac three-peat. The team most recently dropped a 60-35 decision to Bishop McNamara (MD) on Dec. 5 at the Super Games in Washington, D.C. Maguire said his team competed hard against the 10th-ranked team in the nation, trailing by just two points after one quarter.
PC opened the season at the Art Turner Memorial Classic in Virginia on Dec. 2 and3. On Dec. 3, the Quakers fell 86-54 to Bishop Ireton (VA), a team that overwhelmed Penn Charter with a combination of size, length, athleticism and toughness. A day earlier, Maguire and company dropped a 61-60 thriller to Life Center Academy (NJ).
“I’m really proud of how we competed and continued to fight, regardless of the score,” Maguire said. “We left these games better as a team, and there were a lot of positive things to take with us.”
Aside from Bethea and Carter, the rest of the starting lineup consists of senior Ashlie Johnson and sophomores Liv Vieira and Marleigh Jackson, with the latter two being bench contributors on last year’s team. The bench rotation features junior Ava DiBenedetto and sophomores Molly Dougherty and Natalia Modzelewski.
Above all, Maguire is excited for the challenge of molding this group into winners — potentially of a third straight league title.
“It’s ours to go after, and we feel like we have the pieces,” he said. “Ryan and Kay are going to flourish in their expanded roles, and so will the new starters and role players. It’s always fun as a coach to take a new team and see what it takes to help them be successful. I’m confident that we can continue to grow, work hard and produce.”After three games out of state, the Quakers will be back on campus for their home opener against Imhotep Charter in the Speedy Morris Invitational on Dec. 9 at 1:30 p.m.
BOYS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
The Quakers don’t have their first Track and Field of Greater Philadelphia meet of the season until Dec.16 at Lehigh University, but that hasn’t stopped head coach Steve Bonnie from looking ahead. Bonnie has been overseeing the boys track program for over 40 years and still gets excited when a new season comes around.
“I’m more pleased and encouraged about having more to look forward to,” he said. “It’s been a while since I could say that.Having a positive and happy start like this is very enjoyable for both the kids and coaches.”
The team got to work on preliminary conditioning (plyometrics, yoga, pilates, weightlifting) after Thanksgiving break, and Bonnie sees definite potential for progression. For starters, program stalwart and senior Eddie Kennedy, who missed most of last season due to injury, is healthy again.
“He’s back and looks pretty good,” Bonnie said. “Eddie changes the program, and it’s huge to have him back.”
Elsewhere, senior Zahir Kalam Id-Din returns as one of the team’s best sprinters, as do standout junior distance runners T.J. Zwall and Nate Johnson. Junior Luis Rincon is a potential Division-I pole vaulter in the making, and Bonnie also highlighted senior Britton Armbrister and junior Jaxon Adams..
“If we stay healthy we can make some noise, but we’ve got to see them in a meet before getting too excited,” Bonnie said. “I think we could be very competitive. This group, so far, looks like it could have good to very good talent. They do seem to have the work ethic and interest, which is very important.”
GIRLS TRACK & FIELD
The Quakers are getting set for their first Delaware Valley Girls Track Coaches Association meet of the season on Dec. 8 at Alvernia University. Head coach Candice Lee said she will ease into the long season, with only five athletes set to compete in the first event “just to try to see where they are at the beginning of the season.”
The team graduated nine seniors from last year’s group, but returns talented runners. In addition to junior star Alli DeLisi, who mostly competed in the 400, 800 and 1600 races last season, Lee highlighted seniors Olivia Roland (high jump, hurdles) and Zady Hasse (800, 1600), and sophomores Michaela Poland (200, 400) and Zsuzsi Pollock (shot put), as returning headliners.. Additionally, sophomore Aliyah Leonard and freshman Caroline Tullo are two younger athletes from whom Lee is expecting big things.
Overall, there is plenty of optimism swirling around this PC squad, and Lee can’t wait to get started this weekend.
“We should be very competitive in the 400,” she said. “We will need field events, such as the long jump, triple jump and shot put, to step up. I hope to place in States. I love how this group practices hard and holds each other accountable. They work together and encourage each other to be better.”
Written by: Ed Morrone OPC '04