With the calendar turning to October, things are as busy as ever for our 10 fall varsity teams.
Note: This SportsZone report covers Penn Charter athletic events between Sept. 14-23.
Visit the Penn Charter Athletics webpage for the most up-to-date game schedules and scores.
GIRLS WATER POLO
The Quakers began their season with a 16-12 loss to Upper Dublin on Sept. 5 and had to wait 11 days to get back into the pool. Since then, the team has found its groove, winning six of eight contests over the course of one week, thanks to its participation in a pair of action-packed weekend tournaments.
Most recently, PC played in the Beast of the East Tournament on Sept. 22-23, making it back to the Flight 1 championship for the second straight year and third time in program history. The Quakers kicked things off with a dominant 10-3 win over Reading, leading 7-0 after one quarter and never looking back thanks to strong defense and ball control. The win set up a rematch with Upper Dublin; in a back-and-forth battle with strong defense on both sides, Penn Charter prevailed in a gritty 9-5 win. Freshman goalie Chelsea Gadsden made 10 of her 16 saves in a critical second half, and sophomore Lili DeMartinis led the offensive attack with five goals.
“The unsung hero of the game was senior Claire Lewis,” head coach Brian Hecker said. “Although her numbers don't show on the stat sheet, Claire played incredible defense on Upper Dublin’s first team all-state offensive player.”
Day two began with a showdown against perennial state powerhouse North Penn. PC trailed by just two at halftime, but North Penn’s depth was too much as the Quakers ultimately succumbed 14-6. The loss set up an exciting back-and-forth matchup with Muhlenberg, though PC ultimately fell 9-8 in overtime in a game in which DeMartinis clanged four close shots off posts.
“Overall, the girls had a great weekend as we head into the height of the season,” Hecker said.
The prior weekend, the Quakers picked up three wins on Sept. 16 during a round robin showcase at Perkiomen Valley — a 6-5 win over the hosts, plus a pair of convincing victories (19-10 over Central York and 12-1 over Reading).
In between the two showcases, PC (6-3) defeated Hill School 17-4 on Sept. 20. PC won 19-9 against Lawrenceville on Sept. 27 and will play Episcopal on Oct. 6.
BOYS WATER POLO
The boys water polo squad also competed in Beast of the East on Sept. 22-23, going 1-3 in a weekend full of exciting games. PC began the tournament with a tight 13-12 loss to Upper Dublin, with all of its scoring coming from three players — PJ Duffy (five goals), Elliot Dziedzic (three) and Mac Haines (three). Instead of facing perennial powerhouse Greenwich, as head coach Andre Nyce had hoped to use as a measuring stick, the Quakers were relegated to a matchup with Germantown Academy in which each team moved on to Flight 4 on the second day.
“Upper Dublin threw us off and we did not recover until the final game of the tournament,” Nyce said. “We were expecting a much different path, but we certainly played some close and entertaining games.”
The Patriots secured a 16-11 win over the Quakers, who were led by Taggart Kohles’ three goals and four steals.
Saturday featured the most drama-filled game, with PC dropping a 16-15 heartbreaker to Muhlenberg in three overtimes despite a brilliant game from goalie James Walters (10 saves, 2 assists, 8 steals). Dziedzic added a game-high seven goals.
“A wild game in which our team fought hard until the end,” Nyce said.
The Quakers ended on a high note with a 16-8 over Pingry School in their final game. Walters and Ben Weiss split time in goal and combined for nine saves, with Nyce reporting that “every player contributed in the victory.”
Like the girls team, the boys also competed in the Perkiomen Valley round robin the previous weekend, going 2-1 in the process. Nyce used it as an opportunity to get some younger players time in the pool. Weiss got his first varsity start in goal and led the team to a 15-6 over Perkiomen Valley, while Greyson Catlow-Sidler had three steals, a goal and an assist. PC fell behind Reading 10-5 in an eventual 15-13 loss, but the Quakers (6-5) scored five of the final six goals to make things interesting. Duffy scored nine goals, with three coming in the final period.
Finally, the team completed the day with a 14-10 win over Central York. Haines had three goals and two assists, while Liam Walsh scored his first varsity goal.
“It was all about the youth movement,” Nyce said. “We have a lot of sophomores and freshmen who are making progress in practice and were able to show what they could do in varsity games.”
After all the football he missed last season, there was no way Ohifame Ijeboi was going to let an early fumble get him down. The PC senior rushed 18 times for 101 yards and a touchdown while also hauling in two catches for 44 yards and another score, not to mention playing cornerback on a defensive unit that held Wyoming Seminary scoreless in a 22-0 win on Sept. 22. The victory improved the Quakers to 2-0, outscoring their first two opponents 46-6. Ijeboi, who missed most of last season battling injuries, is healthy again and making plays for a team that graduated a slew of seniors from last year’s group.
“It feels incredible just to be out there on the field with my guys playing the game I love,” Ijeboi said. “Just happy to come out here and give it my all. There’s nothing like it.”
Against Wyoming Seminary, Ijeboi shook off a red zone fumble on PC’s first drive, helped the defense make a stop from the secondary, then caught a 27-yard pass from Tom McGlinchey for the game’s first score on the next possession.
“As soon as I fumbled, my first thought was to go out, make a stop on defense and get the ball back so we could score,” he said. “We knew there would be mistakes, some ups and downs. For me it was just a next play mentality.”
Elsewhere, after accounting for two touchdowns in the opener (one pass, one rush), McGlinchey threw two more TD’s against Wyoming Seminary, the other being a 30-yard strike to Tate Taylor with 4:05 left in the second quarter.
On defense, freshman AJ Bouie recovered a fumble and junior Eian Kilpatrick had a goal line interception on the final play of the first half to thwart a scoring drive. The Quakers also had three sacks and forced Wyoming Seminary into an intentional grounding penalty in their own end zone, resulting in a safety. All in all, a young team searching for its identity led by its two-way star is 2-0 ahead of its first road game of the season, a Sept. 29 contest at Pittsburgh-based Kiski School. Not a bad spot to be in, all things considered.
“I know a lot of seniors left, so I embrace being a leader on this team,” Ijeboi said. “Put all of that pressure on me — I like that role. I feel like other teams are down on us, so we play with a bit of an edge. I feel like I have my mojo back, and our team is progressing each week. We just have to stay locked in.”
After a season-opening 7-0 loss to Episcopal on Sept. 13, the Quakers have won their last four matches, including the last three by identical 4-3 scores. The lineup has stabilized, with Mariah Mays, Karya Karabucak and Leila Feldman settling into the top three singles slots, while the Nos. 1-4 doubles teams feature Layla Joshi and Bridgette Gold; captains Savannah Abernethy and Frances Guenther; Olivia Vail and Jordan Simon; and Payton Small and Sarah Gross.
The trio of 4-3 wins came within a four-day period: PC defeated Agnes Irwin on Sept. 19, Hill School on Sept. 20 and SCH Academy on Sept. 22, leaving first-year head coach Rob Isaacs pleased with the progress his team has made.
“My main takeaway is the team has come together to win some big points when it needed to,” Isaacs said. “Sometimes it’s easy to think the last clinching match on the court was more important than the others, but it’s more the totality of winning big points when it matters. That’s what turns 3-4 losses into 4-3 wins.”
In the 21 total matches played in those three wins — three singles and four doubles each — seven featured 10-point tiebreakers, with PC winning five of those seven, which Isaacs called “really impressive.”
The lopsided loss to EA has also served as a motivating force, with Isaacs saying the team already has the Oct. 2 rematch at Episcopal circled on the calendar because they all believe that EA will see an improved version of the Quakers that has made tremendous progress.
“We remain focused on our side of the court while being aware of the strengths and weaknesses on the other side,” Isaacs said. “It’s a rigorous league with always another match to prepare for. They have all the tools to win, and I’m here to support them as best as I can.”
The golf team has played in two Inter-Ac Invitationals thus far this season, and while the Quakers finished fifth out of six each time, they had an eight-stroke improvement from one to the next.
At Huntingdon Valley Country Club on Sept. 14, PC shot a 212 as a team; six days later at Waynesborough Country Club, that number fell to 204. Casey Felter led the way by shooting a 39, with Jasper Dittus and Sammy Davey each posting 40s. Jack Sheward shot a 41, with the other four Quakers all between 44-49. First-year head coach Ari Flaisher was pleased with the overall progress, as well as the fact that two of the four lowest scores came from Dittus and Sheward, the only freshmen on the varsity roster.
“From the jump I’ve observed a real culture of inclusivity,” Flaisher said. “Each member of the team feeling like they belong is immeasurable, tangible and really helpful.”
Flaisher also said the two ninth graders push each other as competitors, with first-year varsity golfer Sheward right on the heels of Dittus, who played as an eighth grader last season.
Flaisher said the key to PC jumping up to fourth or even third place in one of these Inter-Ac matches is avoiding big numbers on holes more consistently. The score cards have mostly looked strong except for a few bad holes here and there, and things can move in a better direction when double or triple bogeys turn into birdies, as they did for Dittus in his final few holes at Waynesborough.
Felter has been the most consistent thus far, and Flaisher is looking forward to Felter maintaining his form while others find theirs and eliminate bad numbers, beginning with the next match on Sept. 26 at Sunnybrook Country Club.
“I’m looking for more than one to shoot in the 30s,” Flaisher said. “We haven’t had that, which is why we haven’t been able to chase down GA in front of us. It needs to happen and it can, they just need to pay more attention to avoiding big numbers. We’ve been golfing a lot better.”
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
On Sept. 16, junior Alli DeLisi ventured south to Cary, N.C., to compete in the Adidas XC Challenge, an elite showcase for high school and collegiate runners that were divided up into 13 different classifications. DeLisi finished 12th overall out of 261 runners in the Girls Championship with a time of 18:07.20, a personal record (PR) by 32 seconds. With her fantastic performance, DeLisi is now the No. 6 ranked runner in the state of Pennsylvania, according to head coach Candice Lee.
“Alli is a huge contributor in having PC recognized locally and nationally,” Lee said. “She’s also a motivating factor to her teammates to work hard in practice to achieve success in competition.”
DeLisi rejoined the rest of her PC teammates for the Inter-Ac Duals on Sept. 19 at Belmont Plateau. She finished first at 19:50.40, while Grace Neuwirth followed in 10th place. A slew of sophomores and freshmen — Jackie Plastaras, 17th; Nora Prasad, 21st; Chloe Greenwalt, 23rd; Audrey Abernethy, 28th; and Natalia Modzelewski, 30th — placed in the top 30, while five more runners finished between 32nd and 50th. All told, the Quakers finished behind Notre Dame and Episcopal with 72 team points.
“This gave me a good judgment of the areas that we need to improve upon and what we need to work on in the upcoming weeks leading into (league) champs (on Oct. 16),” Lee said.
The team was scheduled to compete in the George School Invitational on Sept. 23, but the event was canceled due to severe weather. The brief respite led into an action-packed week that saw the Quakers visit Germantown Academy for a dual meet on Sept. 26 — the teams finished one point apart at the Inter-Ac Duals — as well as split participation in both the Carlisle and Paul Short Invitationals on Sept. 30. DeLisi and Neuwirth will run at Paul Short, while the rest of the squad will head to Carlisle. Those events will be recapped in the next SportsZone report.
“I expect Alli and Grace to place in the top 30 at Paul Short,” Lee said. “As for the Carlisle meet, I expect the team to compete and show me what they can do when they do not have their two leaders with them. Hopefully we can place in the top 10.”
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Juniors T.J. Zwall and Nate Johnson joined DeLisi at the Adidas XC Challenge in North Carolina on Sept. 16, with each boasting strong performances. Zwall placed 29th overall out of 323 runners with a time of 15:44.60, beating his PR by 26 seconds. Johnson, gradually working his way back from an injury, was 92nd overall, equaling his PR of 16:34.10.
“It was a really good experience for them to go down there against some of the top runners in the Southeast,” head coach Tim Zwall said. “They typically don’t see those types of kids in the Northeast, so it was an eye-opener. It tells me we’re building a program at PC that is making traction.”
Back in Pennsylvania at the Inter-Ac Duals on Sept. 19 at Belmont Plateau, the Quakers finished with 55 team points behind only Episcopal, who had the top five runners in the race. PC placed three in the top 10 — freshman Matthew Dunn, 6th (17:36.60); Johnson, 7th (17:42.50); and Zwall, 8th (17:42.60). Peyton Burnett (14th) and Ben Berger (22nd) each finished in the top 25, with those two plus Dunn making immense progress already as underclassmen.
“I was very happy with the results,” Coach Zwall said. “It was our first look at both EA and Belmont, and we held back a bit looking ahead to the George School Invitational. We had hoped to break up EA’s top five there, but didn’t get a chance due to the rain. We’ll have plenty of other opportunities against them.”
The Quakers will head to the Carlisle Invitational on Sept. 30 and compete against runners from more than 100 schools, allowing Zwall to see how his squad stacks up against some of the top programs in the state.
“We’re hoping for a top five finish,” he said. “That would be really good considering the size of our program compared to some of the other competitors.”
It’s been a relatively quiet period for the boys soccer team, which played just two games between Sept. 14-26: a 2-0 win over Roman Catholic on Sept. 14, followed by a 7-0 loss at Saint Benedict’s Prep, a Newark, N.J.-based soccer powerhouse that outscored its opponents 23-0 in its first three wins, on Sept. 20.
The win over Roman improved the Quakers (5-3-1) to 3-0 against Philadelphia Catholic League opponents, whom head coach Bob DiBenedetto routinely schedules for PC early in the season due to the overall quality of the league from top to bottom. Penn Charter still has one left: a Sept. 27 home meeting against Father Judge.
It was a different story against Saint Benedict’s, an elite program that DiBenedetto has scheduled nearly every season he’s been in charge due to the fact that they are almost always nationally-ranked.
“We get a lot out of playing them heading into our league,” he said. “It helps because we know Haverford, GA or anyone else isn’t going to throw anything at us that we haven’t already seen. We can use that as a mental edge.”
A scary collision between PC senior defender Joey DiBenedetto and senior goalie Pete Punchello knocked both out of the Saint Benedict’s game, and Bob DiBenedetto said he hopes both can return for the Inter-Ac opener against Haverford School on Oct. 3. He also expressed hope that senior defender Jimmy Melnick would make his season debut against the Fords. Melnick, who is also a punter and placekicker on the football team, returned to action on the gridiron during the Sept. 22 game against Wyoming Seminary.
“I think the boys are ready for Haverford; health-wise we are still waiting to see,” DiBenedetto said. “As we say, every game is a playoff game in our league. To me, the first game is just as important as the last one, because you need those standings points to win it.”
Soccer is a game with little margin for error. Sometimes the ball bounces your way, as it did for the Quakers during their 5-0 start to the season; other times, you find yourselves on the other side of those lucky breaks.
PC opened its Inter-Ac schedule with a pair of tough 1-0 losses to Episcopal and Notre Dame on Sept. 19 and 22. Head coach Ashley Maher praised her team’s effort while also lamenting some missed opportunities that PC left on the board in both games.
“They played their hearts out and left it all on the field,” she said. “We just came up short. We sent balls wide or over the post and that put us behind the eight ball. They battled, but that’s how it goes.”
The team was down multiple starters against the Irish, making matters more difficult. Maher knows that without a traditional playoff structure in the Inter-Ac, every game resembles a postseason contest, so an 0-2 start is not ideal. That being said, EA and ND are two of the more talented teams in the league and are both off to 2-0 starts, and PC lost to each by only one. So, the Quakers (5-2, 0-2) are close, with still plenty of time to get things right, beginning with their next two games against Agnes Irwin (Sept. 26) and SCH Academy (Sept. 29).“In my brain, I hope that we got our losses out of the way early,” Maher said. “They are focused on what’s next and not dwelling on the past. They keep their confidence up and don’t get deflated. Anything can happen moving forward, and we will be prepared to improve upon what has not been working. We have to finish on the chances we do have.”
The Inter-Ac schedule makers were not kind to PC out of the chute, pitting the team against Notre Dame and Episcopal for the first two league games of the season. ND and EA each went 9-1 in Inter-Ac play a season ago and combined for 33 wins overall, a stiff challenge right away.
The Quakers lost 10-0 to the Irish on Sept. 14 and 8-0 to Episcopal on Sept. 19, but interim head coach Rachel Dyer was content with how the team competed and said the scoreboard was not entirely indicative of how things played out.
“They are two awesome teams, and I don’t think we could have prepared any better,” Dyer said. “The EA game was scoreless after a quarter and 2-0 at halftime, and we surprised Notre Dame in the first quarter too. We just don’t have the depth of these programs, so it’s hard to sustain that for an entire game. We made mistakes, but both games we had a lot of heart and grit, and we can use what we learned for what lies ahead.”
Dyer praised the quiet leadership of Zady Hasse, the team’s most experienced player, as well as Grace Walter, its vocal leader. And while Harbor Campbell is only a sophomore, she has also stepped up with her voice and her strong play in the center midfield.
“They all lead differently, and combined that brings us so much success,” Dyer said.
Written by Ed Morrone OPC '04
Photographs by Zamani Feelings