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SportsZone for Jan. 12, 2024

SportsZone for Jan. 12, 2024

Girls basketball and girls squash at home against Agnes Irwin, and boys basketball and swimming and diving at Episcopal Academy, were all planned for this Tuesday, Jan. 9, but heavy rain had other ideas. The swim meets will now be held on Thursday, Jan. 25, while both hoops contests will be made up on Tuesday, Feb. 13. A rescheduled date for girls squash is still in the works. That leaves us with six PC winter teams to catch up with in this edition of SportsZone.

Note: This SportsZone report covers PC athletic events played between Jan. 5-11. Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.


WRESTLING

team wrestling photo

PC stayed hot over the weekend, claiming a pair of big victories that kept them undefeated as a team so far this season.

Most recently, the Quakers returned to Academy of the New Church (ANC) in Montgomery County for the Lion Duals, where they sought to defend the showcase crown they claimed last season. Penn Charter once again took first  in the event, defeating all five teams it wrestled: Palumbo (58-12), Abraham Lincoln (60-9), ANC (60-13), Cheltenham (40-24) and Upper Dublin (31-30). 

Three Quakers went a perfect 5-0 on the day: senior Lucas Weinstein (139, 145 pounds), junior Leo Pritchett (four pins and an 8-1 decision at 172 and 189) and sophomore Tristan Padget (215, 285). The margin for error against Upper Dublin was razor thin, but PC found a way to get it done; even final match losses by juniors Carter Mangan and Munir German, sophomore Simon Bethea and freshman Ryder Horan were productive, as the quartet dropped close decisions that prevented Upper Dublin from gaining crucial bonus points that would have swung the result the other way.

“There was a lot to be thankful for on the day,” head coach Peter Shaifer said. “Upper Dublin was tough again this year, and Cheltenham was much improved. I had said that we would need pins from the upper weights if we were going to win, and Tristan- wow! He faced a tough kid [in the final match], made a move and ended up with the win. Incredible.”

The night before, the Quakers were on the road at Haverford School for the 2024 league opener. Shaifer thought about tradition as the team entered the gym, glancing up at the wall to see all of Haverford’s league title banners, of which the Fords have won the most in Inter-Ac history. Haverford has long been an exemplary wrestling program, and Shaifer said PC was lucky to scrape by with tight wins each of the two previous seasons.

This time, however, was different. Even with key juniors Hugh Maley and Greyson Catlow-Sidler out, the Quakers did not miss a beat, dominating the Fords en route to a 66-18 statement victory. Penn Charter won 11 of the 14 matches, with nine of them coming via pin — Mangan (126); German (132); Weinstein (138); Bethea (157); senior Michael Filoon (165); Pritchett (175); senior Jack Bowen (190); Padget (215); and senior C.J. English (285). 

Shaifer credited German in particular for recovering from an early takedown to secure the pin against one of Haverford’s best, and the head coach also praised junior Griffin LaMent, sophomore David Kennedy and eighth grader Matteo Prichett for wrestling hard in tough losses against supremely talented opponents.

“Things are going well,” Shaifer said. “We won a bunch, but in those wins as well as in our [individual] losses we have shown that we have a lot to improve upon.”

The Quakers (10-0, 1-0) will look to stay sizzling with a pair of big meets this coming weekend: on Jan. 12, the team will host its first Inter-Ac match of the season against Episcopal (5 p.m.) before returning home the following morning at 9 a.m. to take on seven-time reigning league champ Malvern Prep along with the Hopkins School from Connecticut.


BOYS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

The Quakers have been in action twice over the last week, most recently competing in the Bears High School Invitational at Ursinus College on Jan. 10.

Senior Eddie Kennedy was victorious in the 400, finishing in 52.68. Freshman Matthew Dunn secured his best result of the season, finishing second in the 3000 with a time of 9:41.82. Other strong showings included: junior Luis Rincon second in the pole vault at 13 feet 6 inches, his sixth top-five finish in six tries this season; sophomore Peyton Burnett fifth in the one-mile run (4:51.75); senior Britton Armbrister sixth in the 55-meter hurdles (8.59); senior Gavin Michener eighth in the 200 (24.19); and the 4x400 relay team second with a time of 3:41.88. 

Additionally, PC was back at Lehigh University on Jan. 6 to participate in the Track and Field Coaches Association of Greater Philadelphia (TFCAofGP) Meet No. 3. The meet featured another strong showing from junior distance stalwarts T.J. Zwall and Nate Johnson, who placed second and fourth, respectively, in the one-mile run. Zwall ran the race in 4:27.13, while Johnson was less than two seconds behind (4:28.96).

“Both of them are very good as juniors,” head coach Steve Bonnie said. “They’ve run consistently, which will allow them to qualify for bigger meets, including one this weekend down in Virginia.”

Elsewhere, Rincon placed third in the pole vault at 13 feet, continuing his early success in that event.

“Luis is doing his thing in the pole vault, looking healthy and good,” Bonnie said. “He’s got an excellent coach out in Norristown [at the Philadelphia Jumps Club] that has helped him stay so consistent. With pole vaulters, I always hold my breath because they tend to be a bit all over the place, but Luis’ talent allows him to handle it.”

The 4x400 relay team of Zwall, Johnson, Kennedy and junior Mason Knight had their best showing of the season, finishing ninth in 3:36.80. Bonnie also praised the efforts of senior Curran Rahn in the 4x200 relay; while the team finished 23rd, it was in part due to an accidental collision on the track that knocked Rahn to the ground, where he “rolled like a gymnast and popped back up and kept running while looking very good.” Additionally, Dunn ran the 800 in 2:12.36, continuing to impress Bonnie as “a big, strong kid who’s a hard worker and on the way up.” Finally, the distance medley relay team placed 10th in 3:41.88. 

Overall, the longtime head coach likes where his team is at. With the consistency of Zwall, Johnson and Rincon, as well as the relay teams starting to round into form, Bonnie said the key to the remainder of the season is keeping other key athletes like Kennedy, Michener, Armbrister and Zahir Kalam Id-Din healthy. The Quakers will next be in action on Jan. 12, with one faction heading to Virginia Beach for the VA Showcase and another bound for Lehigh for the next TFCAofGP meet.


GIRLS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

Girls track also had a pair of events within the past week, with the majority of the team competing at Delaware Valley Girls’ Track Coaches’ Association Meet No. 5 at Alvernia University on Jan. 5. 

Sophomore Michaela Poland earned the highest PC finish of the event, placing ninth in the high jump (4 feet, 9 inches). It was the first field event Poland had competed in this season after primarily running the 60, 200 and 400-meter races, while also participating on relay teams. 

“Michaela has always asked to try different events,” head coach Candice Lee said. “I think it’s valuable for athletes to learn new events within track. She also has the body type to excel in the high jump.”

Senior Zady Hasse ran well in the 800, finishing 10th in 2:36.64, while sophomore Zsuzsi Pollock continued her progression in the shot put, placing 12th (29 feet, 9 inches). Senior Haley Lewinski was 17th in the long jump (14 feet, 2 ½ inches). The performances from Pollock, Hasse and Lewinski were all personal records.

Junior Alli DeLisi was also in action as she was back in New York City for the second consecutive weekend, this time to compete in the 2024 Armory Hispanic Games. DeLisi participated in the one-mile run, finishing fifth. Lee said the purpose of this race was for DeLisi to run well and hopefully qualify to compete in the 116th Millrose Games on Feb. 11 in Manhattan. 

“She fared great, running a season-best and breaking five minutes with a time of 4:58.53,” Lee said.

The Quakers will return to New York City’s Armory Track & Field Center on Sunday, Jan. 14 to compete in the Kristian Marche Memorial Invitational. 

GIRLS BASKETBALL

For the first time in nearly two full calendar years, Penn Charter found itself experiencing an unfamiliar feeling —  losing an Inter-Ac game.

It sure doesn’t happen often, as the two-time defending league champs went 23-1 over the past two seasons before opening the 2023-24 campaign with a home win over Episcopal on Jan. 3. PC traveled to Notre Dame on Jan. 5 and, though the team fought hard in a game that was close throughout, the Irish ultimately prevailed, 62-55. 

“We’re a younger team this year, so there’s some little things that we need to take care of more,” head coach Joe Maguire said. “In some games, there are certain opponents where you can’t get away with those little things in close games. Every possession matters, and they made more plays than we did in the last three minutes of the game.”

The loss dropped the Quakers to 1-1 in league play, but they rebounded against Catholic League powerhouse Archbishop Wood on Jan. 7 in the Blue Star Invitational at Jefferson University. Freshman Ryan Carter led the way with 14 points while adding seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, while junior Kaylinn Bethea tallied 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Senior Ashlie Johnson contributed seven points and seven boards down low.

While PC is still working to find its offensive identity, the defensive effort against Wood was outstanding. The Quakers did not allow a field goal in jumping out to a 15-2 lead after one quarter and dominated from start to finish, which Maguire attributed to the team ditching zone defense in favor of total one-to-one coverage. 

“We kind of found our identity on the defensive side,” Maguire said. “After the Notre Dame loss, we as coaches decided to get out of the zone defense for the rest of the year. In a zone, sometimes there can be confusion in the rotation; with our adjustment to each player guarding another player, it's just, here's the person you're covering while making sure you’re also helping your teammates. The girls did a great job and rose to the challenge against one of the best teams in the area year in and year out.”

With the team’s game against Agnes Irwin earlier this week rained out, Penn Charter resumed play at home versus SCH Academy on Jan. 11. In what amounted to a total team effort in a convincing 70-32 victory, Carter led the offensive attack with 17 points, while Bethea (16), Johnson (13) and sophomore Natalia Modzelewski (11) also scored in double figures. On defense, Carter and Bethea produced six steals each. 

After a 1-6 start, the Quakers (6-8, 2-1) now have wins in five of their last seven games. They will next take the court on Sunday, Jan. 14 against Gwynedd Mercy Academy in the Hoops for Hope Classic at Arcadia University for a 5:30 tip.


BOYS BASKETBALL

After an up and down December during a challenging non-league schedule, first-year head coach Brandon Williams said last week that he believed the team was turning a corner as it entered 2024. So far, so good as the Quakers have triumphed in their first two contests of the New Year, and have now won four of their last six games heading into the rigors of Inter-Ac competition.

PC opened up its highly-anticipated league schedule on Jan. 5 against a feisty Haverford team in a game that packed the Graham bleachers with vocal supporters. After a tight first quarter-and-a-half, the Quakers used a 12-0 second quarter run to create some cushion on the scoreboard. Though the Fords never really went away, they never got closer than five or six points the rest of the way before PC closed out an impressive 65-50 win. 

It was a strong showing from the starting five — juniors Kai Shinholster, Jake West, Matt Gilhool and Jamal Hicks, as well as senior Kevin Cotton — who combined to score all but six of Penn Charter’s points. Four starters reached double digit points, with Gilhool and Shinholster leading the way with 16 apiece. It was an especially solid all-around effort from Shinholster, who shot just 4 of 14 from the field but stayed aggressive throughout, firing from outside while attacking the rim and consistently drawing contact en route to converting six of his eight free throws. 

“This year has taught me that there’s so much more to basketball than making shots,” said Shinholster, who added six rebounds and three assists. “Last year that was my role, but now it’s getting deflections, handling the ball more, being in the right spots to rebound and play defense. If my shot isn’t falling, there’s countless other things I can do to help my team win.”

Last season, Shinholster was certainly an offensive weapon, but he was also a sophomore in a starting lineup that featured four seniors. Now, he’s the most experienced player on a squad with three transfers (West, Gilhool and Hicks) and an eighth grader (Carter Smith) getting major minutes in a league they’re all new to. It’s been an adjustment for all parties, but Williams has leaned on Shinholster to show the new guys the way as the program’s most seasoned veteran.

“There’s been a lot of change from last year,” Shinholster said. “It’s been a challenge. It’s a different environment with a bunch of new players, so Coach Brandon has held me accountable to be the leader. I’m not the oldest player on the team but I’ve been here the longest, so he wants me to be that voice on and off the court.”

After the Haverford win, the Quakers (7-6, 1-0) hit the road bound for the George School the next afternoon, picking up an impressive 84-71 victory to pull a game over .500 for the second time this season. Against the Fords, PC had to play strong defense to grind out a win; at George School, the team traded defense for offense on the way to a 30-point first quarter. West enjoyed the biggest day, setting the tone by scoring 17 of his 19 points in the first half.

“It was a great turnaround from the night before,” Williams said. “We made a statement. From the holiday tournaments and into January, we’re getting into more of a flow.”

PC will host SCH Academy on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. for its next Inter-Ac challenge.


BOYS SQUASH

boys squash group photo

Penn Charter returned to the court for the first time in nearly a month when the team took on Haverford School on Jan. 11 in its second Inter-Ac match of the season.

Against the Fords, one of the top-ranked high school squash teams in the nation, the Quakers fell 9-0 but were all still able to walk away from the match with some valuable lessons. 

“A good experience for our boys playing opponents of that quality and seeing what areas they match up with and where they are lacking,” assistant coach Peter Lubowitz said.

For example, eighth grader James Killinger is already playing varsity squash from the third spot in the PC lineup, and competing against a top-flight opponent this early will only benefit his development in the long run, even in a straight-set loss. 

“While the game scores may not impress, James fought valiantly and kept chasing down every ball from start to finish,” Lubowitz said. 

The Quakers (2-3, 1-1) will look to rebound on Jan. 16 at Episcopal Academy.


 


Written by: Ed Morrone OPC '04

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