GIRLS WATER POLO
The Quakers continued their winning ways as the top seed in last weekend’s Eastern Prep Tournament, emerging as champions for the third straight year with a pair of victories over Inter-Ac rivals on Nov. 4.
First up for PC following a first-round bye was Episcopal in EA’s home pool, with the Quakers handling their business in a convincing 12-5 victory. The win improved Penn Charter to 3-0 this season against EA, with junior Eliza Black and sophomore Lili DeMartinis continuing to lead the offense. Black tallied four goals, two assists and two steals, while DeMartinis notched three goals and three assists. Freshman Chelsea Gadsden continued her phenomenal season by making 26 saves in goal and sending her team to the championship later that day.
“We came out with a strong opening game,” head coach Brian Hecker said. “Our girls were focused and ready. Defensively, we played a smart game with great communication.”
A week before their PC/GA Day showdown (11:30 a.m. start on Saturday, Nov. 11), the Quakers went head-to-head with the Patriots for an Eastern Prep title and emerged victorious with an 18-8 triumph. Five players scored at least three goals, something Hecker said “is unheard of.” Junior Zoe Page led the way with five scores, with classmate Ryan Hatty adding four of her own. Black, DeMartinis and sophomore Caroline Sumner had three apiece, and Gadsden had four assists.
“Our girls put together their best effort of the season,” Hecker said. “It’s hard to stop an attack with five different threats on offense. We will need to refocus and be ready on Saturday, because all previous games go out the window when it comes to PC/GA Day.”
Incredibly, the Quakers have won 15 of their 19 games this season, surpassing last season’s win total of 14. They have already achieved two of this season’s goals — make Flight 1 of the Beast of the East Tournament and win Easterns. Now, Hecker is hoping for one more to tie a bow on this exceptional year, especially for the program's five seniors: Macie Bergmann, Claire Lewis, Ellie Choate, Kala Zingle and Grace Agosto.
“In order for us to call this season a success and to give the seniors the sendoff they deserve, we are hoping to win on PC/GA Day,” Hecker said. “These seniors have been an outstanding group. They have all had an incredible impact, and their spirit, energy and passion will be missed. They have left the program better than they found it, which is all you can ask for.”
BOYS WATER POLO
It’s been an action-packed week for boys water polo, who played five games — four at the Eastern Prep Tournament — and won three.
Before Eastern’s, the Quakers played their penultimate Inter-Ac game of the season on Oct. 31, picking up a 17-11 win over Malvern Prep. Getting a big lead allowed Nyce to play sophomore Lev Puma in goal for the fourth quarter in acknowledgment of his service as a dedicated backup to junior starter James Walters.
After a couple of days off from competition, the Quakers returned for four games over two days at two different sites at Easterns over the weekend. The team kicked things off the morning of Nov. 4 at Haverford School with an 8-3 win over Calvert Hall (MD). The three goals allowed were a season low, and Nyce got more solid production from Puma and fellow sophomores Nate Keller, Calvin Zulick, Andrea Blando and Avi Mondgock, as well as freshman Xander Bowen.
“We committed to playing a defensive game and were conservative on offense to make sure we didn’t turn the ball over,” Nyce said. “We played strong defense in the final quarter to preserve the win and give our starters a rest for the long weekend.”
Later that afternoon, PC dropped a 10-9 overtime contest to Gilman, another Maryland-based school. The Quakers got out to a two-goal lead in the first quarter before ultimately being thwarted by a mistake-free, disciplined Gilman squad. Senior PJ Duffy led the way with six goals, and junior Taggart Kohles came up with eight steals.
The action shifted to Episcopal on Nov. 5, with PC securing a thrilling 11-10 win over Gonzaga College High from D.C. Senior Elliot Dziedzic had five goals and three steals, and senior captain Vikram Verma added two goals and an assist. Walters posted 11 saves, two steals and an assist.
Just like the girls water polo squad, the boys faced off against GA in their final game of the tournament, with the Patriots earning a thrilling 16-15 double overtime win in the fifth-place contest. Senior Mac Haines had two goals, assists and steals each, while Walters made a season-high 16 saves while also posting four steals. Although the Quakers (15-12) lost, the one-goal contest was an improvement on a 15-6 loss to GA back on Oct. 17.
Saturday’s PC/GA Day contest (10 a.m. start) will hopefully end with a win for the program’s five seniors: Haines, Duffy, Verma, Dziedzic and Laurence Toncich-Mandel.
“Big final weekend coming,” Nyce said ahead of his first PC/GA Day. “Our confidence is much higher and we believe we can win on Saturday if we execute what we have been practicing. We know how to defend their best players and we know we need to limit our own mistakes and play smart on offense. It’s a huge event for our team, and we expect an entertaining game.”
Boys soccer is the lone PC team that enters PC/GA Day having a chance to both beat GA and win an Inter-Ac title in the process. A win over the Patriots, paired with a Haverford loss or tie to Episcopal on the same day, will deliver Penn Charter its first league title since 2016.
To get to this step, the Quakers first had to beat Malvern in their penultimate league game of the season on Nov. 1. PC did just that, earning its second 3-0 win over the Friars this season, setting the stage for a dramatic conclusion on Nov. 11. (PC’s game against GA will begin at 10:30 a.m., while Haverford and EA will kick off at noon.)
“We were very good and controlled the whole game that day,” head coach Bob DiBenedetto said of his team’s victory over Malvern. “Everything we needed to do well to win that game, we did. We overpowered them by possessing the ball well and finishing our opportunities.”
Before the Quakers (14-5-4, 6-1-2) could focus on PC/GA Day, they had two PAISAA contests to play as the tournament’s No. 7 seed. First up was a home game against No. 10 Germantown Friends School on Nov. 3, with Penn Charter taking care of business in a 3-0 victory.
“We didn’t have a great first half, but the boys played well overall,” DiBenedetto said. “They knew they were better than the way they were playing, and we had a nice little spark in the second half to start the tournament off in a good way.”
The PAISAA ride ended in the quarterfinals on Nov. 7, as the team fell to No. 2 Phelps School 4-0. It was the first loss for the boys since Oct. 3, ending an 11-game unbeaten streak in which they posted a 9-0-2 record.
Now, they turn their attention to Saturday’s main event, knowing full well they must do their part to beat GA if the team still wants to have a chance to become league champions. It will be a huge day for the program, especially for PC’s 14 seniors — Britton Armbrister, Julian Atacan, Henry Cavanagh, Joey DiBenedetto, Jevyn Dyer, James Foley, Justin Gantz, Jackson Haro-Moss, Jacob Kestenbaum, Nick Kraemer, Jimmy Melnick, Owen Miner, Pete Punchello and Jake Zaretsky.
““The boys are focused and up for it.” Bob DiBenedetto said. We’ll go out there and play for each other, and these seniors have the opportunity to do something special by ending their season with only one Inter-Ac loss. It will be a battle of wills, and we’re poised to do it. We know we’ll get our opportunities, so it’s just a matter of finishing.”
The Quakers went 2-1 in three games over the past week in the lead up to Saturday morning’s showdown with Germantown Academy. The Quakers and Patriots will kick off the day’s festivities at 9 a.m. on Maguire Field.
First, the team had to take care of business in its second-to-last regular season league game, picking up a 3-2 win over Baldwin on Oct. 31. Junior Jul Toomey scored all three of PC’s goals, continuing her strong campaign as one of the team’s top offensive threats.
Then, the fifth-seeded Quakers opened the PAISAA Tournament on Nov. 3 with a 4-0 first round win over visiting Mercersburg Academy. For a team that has often struggled this season cashing in on its goal-scoring opportunities, coach Ashley Maher was pleased to see the girls put four in the back of the net with PC/GA Day looming. Sophomore Lauren Bucksar scored twice, while seniors Haley Lewinski and Liv Linus also found the back of the net.
“Every game we seem to leave multiple chances unanswered, and that does us a disservice,” Maher said. “It boosts our confidence, especially going into the next game where the competition is more difficult. We’re still striving to be the most confident version of ourselves.”
The Quakers’ (14-7, 5-6) PAISAA ride ended in the quarterfinals with a tough 2-1 defeat at the hands of No. 4 SCH Academy on Nov. 7. The Blue Devils scored the first two goals of the game, and while Bucksar added one late in the second half, it was too late to complete the comeback.
While the loss was certainly disappointing, the team quickly reset its focus to Saturday’s battle with GA. In most cases, a postseason loss would be a team’s last game of the season, so Maher is elated to have one more game with her team, particularly the program’s nine seniors: Linus, Lewinski, Julia Perricelli, Maia Kafer, Gia McCusker, Maddie Listman, Ava Egan, Sara McPhedran and Alix Sztejman.
“We had this devastating loss that left us heartbroken, but we just looked at each other and said, ‘OK, we still have Saturday to prepare for’,” Maher said. “It’s such an electric, exciting day where anything can happen. We want to strike first and not let the nerves get the best of us.”
For the first time since being established in 2007, the PAISAA Tournament has added girls tennis to the docket. The Quakers are certainly excited to have the opportunity to play at least two more matches together in what has become another successful season for the program.
In the PAISAA opener on Nov. 7 versus SCH Academy, PC emerged with a tight 3-2 victory. Both doubles teams picked up wins, and junior Leila Feldman rebounded from a 6-1 opening-set loss to rally to take the next two, including a 10-6 third-set tiebreaker win.
“It was really tight, so that was the match right there,” head coach Rob Isaacs said. “Wins like this can only help us, because they help prepare us and keep the girls sharp.”
The win advanced the Quakers (9-6, 7-4) to the PAISAA semifinals, where they traveled to face Baldwin on Nov. 9. After taking both regular season match-ups, the Bears made it 3-for-3 with a 4-1 triumph over Penn Charter.
With their run in the PAISAA Tournament finished, the Quakers will duel with the Patriots on PC/GA Day (11 a.m. start time). Last time out on Oct. 3, Penn Charter picked up a dominant 7-0 win and hopes for more of the same in the rematch, especially for captains Savannah Abernethy and Frances Guenther, the program’s two seniors.
“Big matches are a different animal, and our girls are amped up for PC/GA Day,” Isaacs said. “Anyone can go out and win on any given day, so previous results don’t matter when there’s something extra on the line. The girls will be ready to go.”
Despite a fifth straight loss on Nov. 4 at Haverford School, the Quakers played a competitive game against a very good football team and will take that confidence into this Saturday’s main event against GA (1:30 p.m. at Maguire Field).
The Fords ultimately won the Nov. 4 game 17-7, but led just 3-0 after one quarter and 10-7 at halftime a week removed from beating SCH Academy by four touchdowns. After forcing six turnovers in their first three games of the season — all wins — the Quakers went the entire month of October without getting one. That changed against Haverford, with senior Ohifame Ijeboi recovering a fumble and sophomore Matt Furda picking off a Fords pass in the end zone.
“We hadn’t created any turnovers in league play, so getting two was really important,” head coach Tom Coyle said. “It was a good effort, but we also left some plays on the field on both offense and defense.””
Still, after allowing 31 or more points in three straight games, the Quakers (3-5, 0-4) got back to playing physical defense and did not surrender many big plays, something that plagued the team recently.
“We tackled well and created turnovers, which is something we can try to build on,” Coyle said. “It was a great confidence boost for our defense.”
On offense, Ijeboi scored the game’s lone touchdown and rushed 20 times for a season-high 148 yards. The two-way star, who is committed to play at the University of Minnesota, has rushed for 793 yards while racking up nine total touchdowns. Still, the Quakers have scored seven points or less in three consecutive games, something that will need to change if the team is to end the season with a win over GA.
Both PC and GA enter Saturday’s game 0-4 in Inter-Ac play following strong non-league starts to their seasons.. Coyle is hoping to end the season on PC/GA Day on a high note, especially for the program’s 10 seniors, who have been instrumental on and off the field: Ijeboi, Mason Avrigian, Gavin Michener, Zack Curtin, Tom Cordaro, Michael Filoon, Joey DiBenedetto, Jimmy Melnick, Matt Martz and C.J. English.
“We’re excited to play against GA,” Coyle said. “We all understand the importance of this day. Our kids will be excited when they take the field, and we want them to enjoy the day and bring the best version of themselves. Both teams experienced winning in September, and both have had challenges in October. It will come down to our ability to make plays on offense, get stops on defense and get a couple of turnovers.
“We want them to walk away feeling good and that they did everything they could to win this game for this school and community.”
While it has been a challenging season at times for the field hockey program, everything seemed to change for the better once the Quakers knocked off GA 3-2 on Oct. 10. It was the program’s first league win since the 2019 season and seemed to add more fire to a group that never got down even as losses were piling up.
Over the past month, the team has played more competitive hockey and been in just about every game. PC knocked off Baldwin 3-2 on Oct. 31 and followed it up with a 7-0 victory over visiting Friends Central on Nov. 7 in the Commonwealth Cup, an offshoot of the PAISAA Tournament.
“There is joy in scoring goals and joy in watching your teammates score goals,” interim head coach Rachel Dyer said. “Our team is in a place where they are working hard and enjoying being on the field together. Even though we’ve struggled in some games, the camaraderie is unmatched. We’re on a rise now, and we want to finish with some hope.”
By virtue of knocking off Friends Central, the Quakers hosted Germantown Friends School in the Commonwealth Cup championship on Nov. 9, securing a 6-0 victory and concluding a dominant showing in the four-team field. PC (7-11, 1-8) has won a season-high three consecutive games.
Playing two additional games together ahead of Saturday morning’s finale against GA at 10:15 a.m. was not something the team took for granted.
“The energy has been so high lately, and I’ve seen joy in their faces every day,” said Dyer, a 1992 PC graduate who was captain of the school’s first varsity field hockey team. “Even after losses, they came together and brought the best out of each other. They helped each other through the rough days and came back the next day on top of the world. That is contagious, and so much fun to be a part of.”
Following a successful showing at PAISAAs on Oct. 28, both cross country squads were idle from competition last week, leaving Saturday morning’s PC/GA Day race as the final competition on the 2023 fall schedule.
After finishing second behind Notre Dame at league champs, the girls team emerged victorious from PAISAAs for the second time in three years.
All that’s left to do is beat GA, especially for Grace Neuwirth, the lone senior on the roster.
“Winning PC/GA day has always been the number one priority for the season,” head coach Candice Lee said. “We already have all the tools to win; they just have to stay focused.”
On the boys side, the Quakers finished second behind Episcopal at both league champs and in the PAISAA race, continuing their trajectory of gradual improvement over the past couple of seasons. With only one senior on the roster (Elijah Leckerman), this team’s core will all return in 2024, an exciting prospect for the program.
“The boys will be highly motivated to be at their best,” head coach Tim Zwall said. “This is the day you circle on the calendar. It is a highly competitive day, but also a day filled with fun and pride for Quaker Nation.”
Both races commence at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11.
Freshman Jasper Dittus played well in the Inter-Ac Match Play Championship on Nov. 1 as Penn Charter’s sole representative. The inaugural event brought together the league’s top 16 ranked golfers, grouping them in four pods of four for the first nine holes, with the winner of each pod forming a new foursome to play a back nine together.
While Dittus’ day ended after the first nine, it was a valuable experience for the young golfer to already see himself amongst the league’s best.
“He’ll go down in history as one of the original 16 to play in this event with the best golfers in the best league in the state,” head coach Ari Flaisher said. “He placed second in his pod, and I think he realizes his potential to be an outstanding Penn Charter and Inter-Ac golfer for the next three years.”
The Quakers then kicked off PC/GA Day early, with the golf match played three days in advance on Nov. 8 at Huntingdon Valley Country Club. The Patriots won the day, 6.5-1.5, to take an early 1-0 PC/GA Day lead; the event had a match play format, meaning each school’s top eight golfers were pitted individually against one another for nine holes.
Senior captain Sammy Davey won his head-to-head match-up, while freshman Jack Sheward earned half of a point after posting the same score as his GA counterpart.
PC/GA Day was the last round of high school golf for Davey and Max Gross, two of the program’s four seniors. Additionally, Penn Charter’s roster also features seniors Jake Morgan and Evans Burnite, and all four were supremely impactful on Flaisher in his first year helming the program. The coach was effusive in his praise for the quartet, who helped establish a culture of inclusivity during their time within the program.“I enjoyed them as a group,” Flaisher said. “They were welcoming and a great resource for me. I showed up to lead them, and they let me, which says a lot about them as humans. The underclassmen will benefit for years to come because of them.”