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SportsZone for Jan. 26, 2024

SportsZone for Jan. 26, 2024

SportsZone is back in action, and so are our Upper School winter varsity teams, following not one but two snow days the week of Jan. 15. With the month soon coming to an end, we are set to enter the final stretch of the winter campaign.All nine PC squads are  gearing up for a mad dash to the finish line. 

Note: This SportsZone report covers PC athletic events played between Jan. 12-24.  Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.


GIRLS BASKETBALL

Four girls basketball players smiling after a victory.

Penn Charter’s quest for a third consecutive outright league title began a little shakily, including a 1-6 start and a loss to Notre Dame on Jan. 5 that ended PC’s 18-game Inter-Ac winning streak. The defeat at the hands of the Irish dropped PC to 4-8 overall with a 1-1 mark in league play. 

Fast forward to this week: the Quakers haven’t lost since.

Following a dominant 70-34 win over Baldwin School on Jan. 24, Penn Charter has won seven consecutive games and 10 of its last 12 to vault back into the Inter-Ac driver’s seat with five league games to play. The win over the Bears pushed PC to 6-1 in league play. 

A day earlier, the Quakers made good in their attempt to avenge their loss to the Irish, earning a 50-43 win at home with relentless defensive pressure, constantly chasing the Irish players all over the court and turning almost every visitor shot into a difficult one. The offense came and went, with PC scoring just eight points in the second quarter and only four in the third; still, the team never gave up the lead thanks to its stellar defensive effort and trailed for only a few seconds early in the fourth before junior Kaylinn Bethea and freshman Ryan Carter’s shots started falling again. Carter scored 11 of her team-high 21 points in the final frame, while Bethea poured in seven of her 18. 

“Everything starts on the defensive side,” head coach Joe Maguire said. “When we get stops and rebounds, we can push the ball in transition with Kay and Ryan. They are fast, strong and smart with the ball, and the other girls are playing with confidence because those two are confident.””

Also over the last two weeks, PC (11-8, 6-1) picked up two additional league wins: a 59-35 decision over Episcopal on Jan. 20 and a critical 61-58 road victory at Germantown Academy on Jan. 18. Ten different players scored against EA, while Carter poured in 28 versus the Patriots. And finally, against Gwynedd Mercy Academy in the Hoops for Hope Classic at Arcadia University on Jan. 14, a couple of important role players made significant contributions in a 50-38 triumph: sophomore Marleigh Jackson tallied 10 points, five rebounds and three steals, while junior Ava DiBenedetto and freshman Mia DiBenedetto combined for 12 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two steals.

As it stands now, PC and GA are tied atop the league standings with one loss, while Notre Dame has two. So, if the two classic t rivals win all of their league games between now and Feb. 9, then that day’s 5:30 p.m. game at Penn Charter could very well decide the league champion. 

“I give the girls a lot of credit,” Maguire said. “When you’re 1-6, it’s easy to complain and point fingers at coaches or each other. They stuck with us and continued to trust the process. It’s why we played the difficult non-league games that we did in December — we wanted them to battle through it and figure it out themselves, so a lot of credit goes to them for sticking together and seeing the big picture.”

Penn Charter will be in action twice this weekend: Jan. 26 at Agnes Irwin (4 p.m. start) and Jan. 27 versus Rhode Island-based St. Andrew’s School at 10:30 a.m. in The Mecca High School Showcase in the Bronx (NYC). 


BOYS BASKETBALL

Jamal Hicks calling play in boys basketball

While the last two weeks featured a pair of close Inter-Ac home losses (69-66 to SCH Academy on Jan. 12 and 61-56 to Malvern Prep on Jan. 17), the Quakers feel like they started to turn a corner in late January. 

Much of that has to do with the recent stellar performance of guard Jamal Hicks, whose play in the last few PC wins has this group believing it can still make up a two-game deficit in the Inter-Ac standings with six to play.

Hicks had his best game of the season on Jan. 23 versus Academy of the New Church, a 69-58 home win that the Quakers led wire to wire. He had 11 points on five-for-five shooting in the first half, then drilled four of five three-pointers after halftime while also mixing in an emphatic fast-break dunk in the third quarter. For the game, Hicks shot 11 of 14 for 27 points and also mixed in four rebounds and three steals. 

“I have struggled to find my niche,” Hicks said. “I struggled a lot in December. But I believe in winning, and it’s always been my goal to be a team player. If I’m not hitting shots, I can still rebound, make cuts, play defense, get a steal… something that gives our team a spark.”

Hicks also poured in a team-high 22 points in a crucial 80-66 road win at GA on Jan. 20, and made the All-Tournament Team in the St. James MLK Classic in Virginia on Jan. 13 when he scored 15 in a 60-52 PC win against Sts. Stephen & Agnes (VA). Even in the loss to SCH, Hicks was a bright spot with 16 points. So what’s been the secret to his recent hot streak?

“I’ve just been letting it fly and it’s been hitting,” he said. “I’m not thinking about making a mistake — just the next play and the next shot. I’m getting into more of a flow.”

Coach Brandon Williams said his staff and the rest of the players never lost faith in Hicks. Even when he committed a turnover down one point to Malvern late in the game, the message was simple.

“He knows we have his back whether he’s making or missing,” Williams said. “We know what he’s capable of, and we have faith in him. You’re starting to see the results. He’s just playing basketball and staying present.”

Following PC’s 63-60 victory at Friends Select on Jan. 24, the Quakers have won three straight for the first time this season and are 6-2 in their last eight games. But if the Quakers are going to chase down SCH and anyone else in front of them in the league standings, they will need Hicks (16 more points against Friends Select) to keep sizzling. Sure, the team has struggled at times, as has Hicks himself, but none of that has diminished the belief they have in each other.

“I really feel like we are so close,” Hicks said. “We’re gaining confidence and we still believe we can come out as champions. In this league, anything can happen. All we have to do is worry about the present and treat every single game like it’s the championship.”

The Quakers (11-8, 2-2) will be back at it on Friday, Jan. 26 when they travel to Haverford School for a 7 p.m. Inter-Ac match-up. 


WRESTLING

PC wrestler pinning opponent

The Quakers kept their spectacular season going last weekend, going 3-1 as a team in the Golden Bear Duals at Upper Moreland High School on Jan. 21. Penn Charter began the day with a 61-7 win over Chichester, followed by a 40-24 defeat at the hands of Penn Manor in the championship quarterfinals. In almost two months of competition, this registered as the first team loss of PC’s season. The team got back on track with a pair of consolation round wins over Father Judge (47-18) and Upper Moreland (58-9) to conclude the event. 

The Golden Bear Duals featured some strong individual showings from PC wrestlers, with senior Jack Bowen (172, 189 pounds) and juniors Greyson Catlow-Sidler (160) and Leo Pritchett (also 172, 189) going a perfect 4-0. Bowen produced a pair of 16-0 technical fall victories, a pin and a forfeit win; Catlow-Sidler pinned two opponents, with another two dominant technical falls (16-1 and 19-3); and Pritchett had three pins and a hard-fought 4-2 decision. 

Freshman Carter Mangan won three times at 127, as did junior Munir German (133), senior Lucas Weinstein (139), junior Hugh Maley (145), sophomore Simon Bethea (152) and sophomore Tristan Padget (215, 285).

PC picked up a pair of convincing wins the previous weekend, knocking off Connecticut-based Hopkins School 73-3 on Jan. 13 as well as a big 57-18 Inter-Ac victory over Episcopal on Jan. 12. Against Hopkins, the Quakers won 13 of 14 events, with 11 coming via pin. In the match versus EA, Penn Charter fell behind 18-11 early, dropping four of the first six matches before closing it out with eight straight wins, including seven pins.

“Lucas, Hugh, Simon, Grey, Jack, Tristan, Augie [Turner] and C.J. [English] were dominant, while our lighter weights all looked good and are improving,” head coach Peter Shaifer said. “Munir has had an incredible year so far, and the other wrestlers on the team continue to benefit from competition.”

The Quakers (15-1, 2-0) have a busy weekend ahead, traveling to league powerhouse Malvern Prep on Jan. 26 at 5 p.m. before returning to action the next morning for the Central Bucks West High School Invitational at 9 a.m. 

“These next two weeks will be crucial, but the future is bright at PC with this crew in mind,” Shaifer said.


GIRLS SQUASH

Jaffe twins posing with their squash rackets for media day photoshoot

The Quakers picked up their fourth win in five matches this season on Jan. 24, cruising to a 9-0 victory over visiting Hill School. The shutout non-league win was a good way for PC to sharpen up key areas of focus heading into a stretch of four consecutive Inter-Ac opponents.

Prior to the Hill match, PC returned from a five-week competition absence and showed few signs of rust en route to a hard-earned 4-3 win at Conestoga on Jan. 18. Juniors Sam and Alex Jaffe secured wins from the top two spots in the Penn Charter order, while ninth graders  Paige and Libby Taub helped clinch the victory with a pair of 3-0 straight-set triumphs at five and six. 

“Sam and Alex played very controlled matches in which they were relatively comfortable,” head coach Damon Leedale-Brown said. “Paige and Libby also played really good squash; they were quite disciplined, found what was working for them and stayed true to it.”

Also against Conestoga, seniors Frances Guenther and Savannah Abernethy and sophomore Audrey Abernethy fell to their opponents, but Leedale-Brown complimented all three’s tenacity as they battled skillful counterparts.

While the Quakers (4-1, 1-0) are just getting back into the swing of things following the long layoff, Leedale-Brown also shared that Sam and Alex Jaffe have stayed plenty busy lately. PC’s Jan. 4 match against SCH had to be rescheduled to Feb. 1 because the twins were in England to play in the British Junior Open. Sam and Alex were among 64 elite junior players from the United States, Egypt, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Europe competing in the U17 division and ultimately finishing 13th and 14th, respectively. The talented duo also competed in the U.S. Junior Open in Philadelphia over winter break, with Sam finishing fourth and Alex seventh, as well as a U.S. Junior Championship tour event in Virginia in January, in which Sam placed second and Alex third, all of which Leedale-Brown described as “pretty cool.”

“Things have been a bit disrupted the last two weeks, but overall we’re in a pretty good place,” Leedale-Brown said. “We’ve trained well, and there’s been energy, quality and purpose in practice from this group. They work well together and support each other.”

PC’s Jan. 25 match against Agnes Irwin — whom Leedale-Brown deemed the favorite to win the Inter-Ac title — as well as the team’s Jan. 30 road contest at Episcopal will be covered in next week’s edition. 


BOYS SQUASH

Squash players posing with rackets on media day

The Quakers snapped a two-match losing streak when they hosted The Hill School on Jan. 24, nabbing a 7-2 victory in a strong collective effort. At the top of the lineup, seniors Marco Vucetic and Griffin Yeatman each secured 3-0 wins from the second and third spots. Junior Andrew Tanner, senior Jacob Kestenbaum, junior Nolan Duffy, junior Dean Kaiser and junior Luke Markovitz also secured victories at slots five through nine, respectively. 

Like the girls program, boys squash also hit the courts to battle Conestoga on Jan. 18, with this one occurring at Penn Charter. The Quakers lost the match 7-2 but got individual wins from senior Grant Roshkoff at number two (a comfortable 3-0 decision) and Tanner (this time in the fourth slot), with Tanner’s victory being particularly thrilling as he needed overtime in the fifth and deciding game to secure an impressive 3-2 win. 

“Andrew has moved up the ladder a lot this season and has been playing really well,” assistant coach Peter Lubowitz said. “He has put in a lot of work since last season and has exceeded expectations, which has been really nice to see.”

Lubowitz also praised the efforts of eighth grader James Killinger after he got beat convincingly by a strong opponent in the number three spot after moving up from number four to replace Yeatman, who was unavailable due to a minor injury. 

“James is not intimidated at all playing varsity squash, which is great,” Lubowitz said. “He’s not overthinking, just playing. He has a short memory and doesn’t get frustrated with the mental aspect of the game if he misses a few points in a row. He knows the only point he needs to be thinking about is the one he’s about to play.”

The Quakers (3-4, 1-1) will next be in action on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at Episcopal for a 4 p.m. start. This match will be the first of three consecutive league bouts for PC, which has five remaining matches until Nationals begin the final weekend of February. 

“It’s an exciting time of year,” Lubowitz said. “The kids get very psyched building toward Nationals, and we should have some competitive matches coming up soon. It’s a good group of kids that get along well and work hard at practice together.”


GIRLS SWIMMING & DIVING

5 swimmers posing for media day

Following its first loss of the season, Penn Charter returned to action at Agnes Irwin on Jan. 23 and got back on track in a 113-52 victory. Head coach Brian Hecker classified it as “an all-around great effort”. PC secured first place in every single event, highlighted by ninth grader Jade Ostroff  winning the diving portion of the meet. 

Prior to the meet against the Owls, the Quakers battled Germantown Academy on Jan. 17. Because of winter break and some post-break inclement weather, the contest with the Patriots was the first time PC was in the pool for a meet in over a month. The Quakers competed hard but ultimately fell to GA 118-68.

Despite the defeat, it was a great day for junior Eva McIver-Jenkins. She got the meet started by swimming the fly leg in the 200 medley relay, helping her team win the event. She also placed second in the 50 freestyle (24.17) and swam a strong anchor leg in the 400 freestyle relay to secure the Quakers another second-place finish. McIver-Jenkins’ best moment of the day, however, came when she broke the PC pool record by winning the 100 butterfly in 56.30. Additionally, eighth grader Nola Waldbuesser swam a lifetime-best in the 500 freestyle, earning a second-place finish (5:10.12); and Waldbuesser’s eighth grade classmate, Cate DeMartinis, also had a commendable meet, winning the 100 breaststroke in 1:09.62, less than two seconds from off her personal-best. 

Hecker went into the GA meet feeling optimistic, but the inclement weather impacting the team’s training schedule — in addition to two Quakers being out sick — made it tough to overcome.

“We had our hopes high but didn’t find the success we were looking for,” Hecker said. “I think GA obviously had this meet starred on their calendar — they were ready and that made them hard to beat. That said, I am pleased with the attitude and support I am seeing among teammates. It’s tough with the inconsistent training [schedule], but everyone is helping keep each other focused on our ultimate goals.”

Penn Charter’s (2-1, 2-1) final two dual meets of the Inter-Ac schedule will be recapped in next week’s edition: the meet that occurred at Episcopal Academy on Jan. 25, as well as PC’s final home meet of the season against Baldwin on Tuesday, Jan. 30 at 4 p.m. 


BOYS SWIMMING & DIVING

Four boys swimmers posing for media day

The Quakers dropped a pair of Inter-Ac meets upon returning from winter break, with the most recent being the team’s closest competition of the season to date. Despite a 101-75 loss to Haverford School on Jan. 23, Penn Charter was able to showcase its improvement as a team. 

Senior PJ Duffy won both the 50 and 100 freestyle events, while sophomore Avi Mondgock also produced a strong day, finishing fourth in the 200 individual medley and third in the 100 butterfly. 

“I think the team is more focused as we have been able to get some more consistency in the pool,” Hecker said. “We had some really solid performances against Haverford and I think it was great for the kids to just get another day of racing in.”

Prior to the loss against the Fords, Penn Charter (0-3, 0-3) returned to the pool for its first meet in nearly five weeks, falling to Germantown Academy 140-45 on Jan. 17. Sophomore Ben Berger produced a three-second improvement on his personal-best time in the 200 freestyle, while Duffy secured two second-place finishes in the 50 and 100 freestyle races, respectively. 

“Ben has been putting in a lot of hard work and saw some great improvements because of that,” Hecker said. “We are trying to build our numbers and focus on individual improvement to help the team find as much success as possible. Overall, our boys are showing great improvements from where they started as they compete for wins in this incredibly strong league. They are resilient and doing everything they can to stay sharp.”

The final league dual meet of the season, which took place on Jan. 25 at Episcopal Academy, will be recapped in next week’s edition. 


GIRLS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

Junior Alli DeLisi competed in a pair of out-of-town meets over the past two weeks, most recently in the Armory Officials Hall of Fame Invitational in New York City on Jan. 19. She placed second in the 600-meter run, finishing in 1:33.53.

Prior to that, DeLisi ran in the VA Showcase in Virginia Beach on Jan. 12, finishing first in the 1000-meter run (2:49.52) and fifth in the one-mile run (4:57.57).

“Alli was working on speed,” head coach Candice Lee said. “These were big invitationals, and she attends these meets to showcase her talent during her junior year.”

Elsewhere, a separate group of Quakers were in New York City on Jan. 14 to participate in the Kristian Marche Memorial Invitational. Sophomore Michaela Poland competed in two events, finishing ninth in the 200-meter dash (26.11) and 11th in the 400-meter dash (1:00.81). Fellow sophomore Zsuzsi Pollock achieved a 12th-place finish in the shot put, while junior Louella Whitaker had a strong showing in the pole vault, placing sixth at eight feet, with Lee complimenting Whitaker for continuing to work hard in this challenging event.

“The team’s performance was successful overall, as everyone ran a personal or season-best in their races,” Lee said. “It also provided the athletes an idea of how the state championship meet will look.”

The Quakers are off this week and will compete in their next Delaware Valley Girls Track Coaches Association meet on Friday, Feb. 2 at Lehigh University. Without many qualifiers to date for the Meet of Champs on Feb. 16, Lee is hoping to qualify in a couple of relay races in addition to some individual events.


BOYS INDOOR TRACK & FIELD

A small contingent of Quakers returned to action in the Philadelphia area for the first time in nearly two weeks at the Ursinus College High School Invitational on Jan. 24. Junior T.J. Zwall ran to a second-place finish in the 800-meter run (1:59.74), while classmate Luis Rincon also secured a second-place finish in the pole vault (13 feet, 6 inches). 

Last weekend, Zwall and fellow junior Nate Johnson traveled to New York City on Jan. 19 to compete in the Armory Officials Hall of Fame Invitational. The duo ran the one-mile race, with each placing inside the top 20: Zwall in 13th (4:24.24) and Johnson a bit more than two seconds behind (4:26.85, 19th).

Zwall and Johnson also headed south to Virginia Beach on Jan. 12 for the VA Showcase, this time to try their luck in the two-mile run. They produced another tremendous effort, with Zwall coming in fifth place (9:28.28) and Johnson again not far behind in 12th (9:34.76). 

Additionally, four Quakers participated in Meet No. 5 of the Track & Field Coaches Association of Greater Philadelphia (TFCAofGP) in Glen Mills on Jan. 12. The meet was an opportunity for some student-athletes newer to the indoor varsity team to showcase their talents. Sophomore Matt Furda produced the best finish of the event, finishing fourth in the 200-meter dash (25.05); ninth grader Zach Johnson placed eighth in the high jump (5 feet, 4 inches) while also finishing 19th in the 800-meter run (2:38.34); senior Sammy Davey secured a 10th-place finish in the 55-meter dash (7.91); and junior Samuel Beaver was 17th in the long jump (15 feet, 5.5 inches). 

Penn Charter will return to action for TFCAofGP Meet No. 6 on Friday, Jan. 26 at 4 p.m. in Glen Mills. 


Written by: Ed Morrone OPC '04

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