The onset of February means our 2023-24 Penn Charter winter athletics season will soon come to an end. As we enter the final month of each team’s respective season, let’s hit the pause button to check in to see how things are going for all nine squads.
Note: This SportsZone report covers PC athletic events played between Jan. 25-30. Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.
Penn Charter bounced back from just its second loss of the season (a 7-2 defeat to Agnes Irwin on Jan. 25) by picking up a 6-3 win at Episcopal Academy on Jan. 30. The team got off to a fantastic start early in the match by getting 3-0 wins from junior Alex Jaffe, freshman Paige Taub, and sophomores Hope Goldman and Ana Buckley from the number two, six, eight and nine positions in the lineup, respectively.
Later on, sophomore Audrey Abernethy clinched the PC victory with her own 3-0 win from the number seven spot, and junior Sam Jaffe won a closely-contested 3-0 match of her own from the top position in the lineup to give the Quakers (5-2, 2-1) their sixth individual win of the day.
“Going into the match, we knew we had an opportunity for success while also recognizing that we would need to pick up wins at both ends of the lineup,” head coach Damon Leedale-Brown said. “Sam finished the match in style in front of a packed crowd.”
Against Agnes Irwin on Jan. 25, the Jaffe twins picked up wins from the top two spots in the order, but those were the only victories against the expected Inter-Ac champion.
“Overall I was really proud with how the girls competed and controlled the things they could: attitude, effort, and the commitment to chase every ball down,” Leedale-Brown said.
Penn Charter’s Feb. 1 match against SCH, as well as a Feb. 6 match against the Baldwin School, will be recapped in next week’s edition. A win in the former match would likely allow the Quakers to secure a second-place finish in the Inter-Ac standings.
Following their Jan. 24 victory over The Hill School, the Quakers next traveled to face Episcopal Academy, one of the frontrunners for the league title, on Jan. 30. According to Assistant Coach Peter Lubowitz, the Churchmen are also likely to be a top five to 10 team at Nationals in late February, so PC had its hands full in an eventual 9-0 loss. The Quakers (3-5, 1-2) dropped all of their individual matches 3-0, save for junior Dean Kaiser, who nabbed a win from his opponent from the seventh slot in the lineup before ultimately dropping his match 3-1.
“It was certainly a good experience for the boys to play such high-level players and to try to put into play some of the defensive skills they have been working on in recent practices,” Lubowitz recounted. “We did see some excellent points played when they put these skills to use.”
Penn Charter’s Feb. 1 match against SCH, as well as a Feb. 6 match against Haverford School, will be recapped in next week’s edition.
INDOOR TRACK & FIELD
The boys indoor track & field team picked up a couple of top 10 finishes at their most recent competition on Jan. 26 in Glen Mills. The 4x200 relay quartet of seniors Eddie Kennedy and Gavin Michener, junior Mason Knight and sophomore Matt Furda had the best showing of the day, achieving a second-place finish in 1:37.76. Additionally, senior Britton Armbrister placed sixth in the 55-meter hurdles (8.60 seconds), while freshman Zach Johnson was eighth in the high jump with a distance of five feet, four inches. Junior Matthew Martz finished 14th in the shot put at 36 feet, 10.5 inches.
At a separate event at Philly Jumps Club in Conshohocken on Jan. 27, junior Luis Rincon finished sixth in the pole vault, vaulting 13 feet, 3 inches to continue his strong season.
The Quakers will send two contingents to a pair of meets on Saturday, Feb. 3. Head coach Steve Bonnie will lead a group up to Lehigh University for the team’s next Track and Field Coaches Association of Greater Philadelphia meet, while assistant coach Tim Zwall will travel to Staten Island with another set of Quakers for the Ocean Breeze Invitational. Armbrister had a strong showing at Ocean Breeze a year ago, winning the 55 hurdles in 8.82 seconds.
Meanwhile, the girls indoor team was idle from competition, but will make up for it with a pair of meets this coming weekend: the Delaware Valley Girls Track Coaches Association Last Chance Meet at Lehigh University on Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m. True to its name, this meet will be PC’s last shot to qualify in events for the Meet of Champs on Feb. 16. Additionally, the Quakers will also head to Staten Island to compete in the Ocean Breeze Invitational, with their iteration of the event taking place a day later on Sunday, Feb. 4.
BOYS SWIMMING & DIVING
In their final dual meet of the 2023-24 season, the Quakers fell 105-75 to Episcopal on Jan. 25. The highlight of the event for PC was senior PJ Duffy’s performance in the 200 freestyle. According to Hecker, Duffy usually swims shorter events, but was excited to give the 200 free a go. Duffy dropped six seconds from his previous best time, winning the event in 1:51.01.
“A truly great swim,” Hecker said.
Elsewhere, sophomore Ben Berger continued to improve by placing fourth in the 200 free and also swam a lifetime-best in the 100 breaststroke in 1:13.
“Ben’s work ethic and determination to improve have paid off,” Hecker said.
Like the girls program, the boys will next be in action on Feb. 3 at the Inter-Ac Championships, also split between Episcopal and GA. The Quakers (0-4, 0-4) hope to use experienced swimmers such as Duffy and junior Joe Repetto, as well as junior diver Aidan Trautwein, to pick up valuable points.
“Many of our swimmers are not as experienced as the ones on some of the teams we will be facing,” Hecker said. “We know that as long as the boys are committed and putting in the effort day in and day out, they will see some time drops that they have been working towards throughout the year.”
GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING
The Quakers won a pair of Inter-Ac meets over the past week, pushing their win streak to three. Most recently, the girls picked up a 113-65 victory over Baldwin on Jan. 30 on Senior Day, with senior Abby Steinbrook commemorating the occasion by racing to wins in the 100 and 200 freestyle. Other wins on the day included junior Eva McIver-Jenkins (50 free), freshman Eloisa Tovar (100 butterfly), sophomore Ryan Zinser (500 free), junior Ava Coombs (100 backstroke), and sophomore Lili DeMartinis (100 breaststroke).
“We are excited with where the kids are and are feeling energetic and confident,” Head Coach Brian Hecker said. “Along with swimming fast, the girls had a ton of positive energy.”
On Jan. 25, Penn Charter secured a tight 98.5-87.5 triumph over Episcopal. The Quakers found themselves trailing by seven points after the diving break before really stepping up in both energy and performance.
Eighth grader Nola Waldbuesser won the 100 freestyle before jumping right back into the pool for the next event, finishing fourth in the 500 free. Junior Eliza Black and senior Kala Zingle finished second and third, respectively, in the 100 backstroke. Eighth grader Cate DeMartinis and junior Zoe Page earned the top two spots in the 100 breaststroke.
“I was proud of the energy and determination the girls brought to the second half of the meet,” Hecker said. “They have stayed on task and really focused each and every day.”Next up for PC (4-1, 4-1) is the Inter-Ac Championship meet on Feb. 3. The swimming events will be held at Episcopal, while the diving portion of the meet will take place at Germantown Academy. “We are really excited to get to the final two weeks of the season,” Hecker said. “This will be an end of the year meet for some of our younger swimmers, and we hope they demonstrate that all of their hard work has paid off. For our more experienced swimmers, some will use it as a warmup for Easterns [on Feb. 16-17].”
The Quakers stayed white-hot over the past week, nabbing three more victories to push their win streak to 10 games. The team took care of business in a pair of Inter-Ac contests, most recently securing a 56-35 win against SCH on Jan. 30. Junior Kaylinn Bethea led the way with 18 points while adding five assists and four steals, and freshman Ryan Carter continued her superb play of late with a 16-point, 5-assist, 6-steal effort. Sophomore Marleigh Jackson contributed eight points and three assists.
Penn Charter also knocked off Agnes Irwin 51-28 on Jan. 26, with Carter (16 points, eight rebounds) and senior Ashlie Johnson (10 points, five boards) both reaching double digits in scoring. With the two league wins, PC pushed its Inter-Ac record to 8-1 and remained in prime position to win its third straight Inter-Ac title with three games to play.
“We took care of our effort on defense and communicated on both sides of the ball,” Head Coach Joe Maguire said of the two convincing wins. “We took care of the ball on offense and came in with really good energy. Those are the things we can control every time we step on the court.”
Sandwiched in between those two league victories was a 76-70 overtime win over Massachusetts-based South Shore Christian Academy at the Mecca High School Showcase in Bronx, N.Y. on Jan. 27. Carter poured in a team-high 33 points, while Bethea was not far behind with 29 of her own. The Quakers never led in regulation, but tied it late to force overtime before nabbing an exciting win.
“The team we played had five girls who are committed to colleges at different levels,” Maguire said. “Those two [Carter and Bethea] continue to make the right plays on offense and put their teammates in positions to be successful.”
The Quakers (14-8, 8-1) won’t play again until Feb. 6 at Baldwin, a team they beat by 36 points on Jan. 24. As long as the team takes care of business in that one, it will set up an opportunity to win its third straight league crown at home against GA on Feb. 9. Both teams have only one league loss at the moment, setting the stage for a potentially thrilling conclusion to the season, one that the Quakers started 1-6 before getting hot.
“The past three seasons, we’ve looked at the Inter-Ac like climbing a ladder,” Maguire said. “Our initial goal was to get 12 steps up, but we can still win the league with 11. We know we can’t skip steps. It’s a long season, but the time still goes by quickly. We have to enjoy the time we have together and take it one game at a time. We can’t fast forward things, and we don’t want to, either.”
Despite a crushing 51-50 loss at Haverford School on Jan. 26, Penn Charter stayed in the hunt for its third consecutive league title with four games left on the schedule. Junior Jamal Hicks led the offense with 15 points, while fellow junior and backcourt mate Jake West added 13 as the only two Quakers to get to double digits.
Glancing at the stat sheet after the game while digesting the defeat, Head Coach Brandon Williams noticed one thing in particular that would need to change moving forward.
“Matt Gilhool has got to touch the ball more,” Williams said of PC’s 6-foot-11 junior center. “In this league, his height advantage is unguardable, so we have to feed him and play off of him more.”
Williams’ prescience was spot on as the Quakers faced a must-win situation against Episcopal at home on Jan. 30. Every game is a must-have at this point for PC, but this one was especially vital as EA came into the contest tied for first in the league. And despite the fact that the Churchmen took an eight-point lead into halftime, Penn Charter was undeterred.
Why? Two words: Matt Gilhool. The big man responded by shooting 13 of 15 from the floor, posting 13 of his team-high 28 points during a critical second-half comeback.
“We understand what it means to have a guy who can dominate, even when he’s not shooting the ball,” Williams said. “But Episcopal decided to play him one-on-one down low, which was to our advantage.”
Thanks to GA’s win over SCH on the same day, there is currently a four-team logjam atop the league standings. SCH and EA both sit at 4-2, with PC and Haverford a game behind. The Quakers (12-9, 3-3) still play both teams in front of them one more time, starting with SCH on Friday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. (to be played at Chestnut Hill College). While this season has certainly had its ups and downs, Penn Charter is playing some of its best basketball at the perfect time.
“I never lost confidence in us as a group,” Williams said. “We hit a few walls and had some individual challenges to work through.. At the same time, our personnel is such that once we’re on the same page, we can go on a stretch where we don’t lose another game. We can still win out and get a share of the title, and that’s what gives us confidence. We know we have something to play for.”
Penn Charter was in action for a pair of matches last weekend, most recently capturing a third-place finish at the Battle of the Bucks Invitational at Central Bucks West on Jan. 27. The Quakers scored 161 points and trailed only Downingtown East and CB West in points out of 18 competing schools.
Seniors Lucas Weinstein (139 pounds) and C.J. English (285), along with junior Greyson Catlow-Sidler (160) all won championships in their respective weight classes. Senior Jack Bowen lost his championship bout at 172 to place second, and junior Hugh Maley secured a third-place finish at 145. Elsewhere, ninth-grader Carter Mangan (fifth place, 127) and classmate Ryder Horan (sixth place, 107) also had strong days for PC.
“Battle of the Bucks went okay,” Head Coach Peter Shaifer said. “We felt like we could have easily won the event if we were fully healthy. Also wrestling tough on the day but not placing were Matteo Pritchett, Cole Furtek, Mac Weinstein and Tristan Padgett. As young wrestlers, they are showing growth in every match.”
The day before, the Quakers hit the road to take on league and state powerhouse Malvern Prep. Though PC lost the match 59-3, the lopsided result did not diminish Shaifer’s enthusiasm about this year’s group.
“Crazy to say it, but we had a good day,” he said. “The difference between this year and last year [against the Friars] has been incredible. Many of our guys looked really tough and made Malvern battle at every weight. Our team came in with the intent to pull off some upsets, and that showed in their effort. You cannot achieve unless you believe.”
Senior Mike Filoon was PC’s lone win on the day at 165, winning a tight 8-6 decision over his opponent.
The Quakers (15-2, 2-1) have another action-packed weekend ahead of them, hosting a pair of events at home. First, the team will welcome GA to campus for a critical match on Feb. 2 at 5 p.m. The next morning, PC will host the Penn Charter Duals at 9 a.m.
Written by: Ed Morrone OPC '04