At long last, it’s arrived: another exciting school year has officially begun on School House Lane, meaning 10 Penn Charter varsity fall athletic programs have convened for the start of their respective seasons. Through PC/GA Day on November 12, this space will serve as a twice-a-week update for all things Quaker sports. With the season underway, let’s take a closer team-by-team look at the action so far.
Note: This report covers results from athletic events through Sept. 20
After a season-opening 21-0 shutout victory over Neumann-Goretti on Sept. 3 in South Philadelphia, the Quakers had to wait two weeks to play their home opener against Blair Academy (NJ) at Maguire Field this past Saturday.
It was well worth the wait, as senior captain and linebacker Liam Rowan recovered a Blair fumble in the endzone with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the decisive score in a gritty 17-13 Quaker victory. Senior quarterback Colin Schumm passed for 172 yards and ran for 48 more (all rushing yards came in the second half), while senior wideout Isaiah Grimes caught six passes for 96 yards and PC’s lone offensive score, and junior Zack Curtin rushed 15 times for 74 yards in support of a stout Quaker defense that was mostly impenetrable after an early blip.
“A lot of heart on that defense, a lot of desire,” said Rowan, who lined up at all three linebacker spots, as well as cornerback and defensive end during the game. “We get together every day during lunch or free periods to watch film, and we just never give up. It’s a ‘just us’ thing, being aggressive, being confident and rallying to the football.”
The two-week layoff produced a bit of rust, as well as the difficulties that come from being short-handed due to injury and playing in unseasonably hot weather, and that was evident early: the Quakers allowed a 14-play, 70-yard touchdown drive to open the game that ate almost nine minutes of game clock, and managed only a 31-yard Jimmy Melnick field goal on offense in the first half. But the team stayed together despite not playing its sharpest, and Blair’s next three drives ended in two punts and a turnover on downs, allowing PC to head into halftime trailing just 6-3.
With the defense standing tall, Schumm led an 8-play, 78-yard scoring drive to open the second half, culminating with an 18-yard strike to Grimes in the corner of the end zone to give PC a 10-6 lead, its first advantage of the game.
It would be short-lived, as Blair needed just three plays to go back in front 13-10 thanks to a 36-yard passing score with 8:11 left in the third. The next two PC drives ended in a turnover on downs and a punt, and a promising drive to open the fourth was quelled when a Schumm pass from the Blair 11 went off Grimes’ hands and was intercepted deep in the red zone.
“Turnovers happen in this game,” PC head coach Tom Coyle said. “Our offense turned the ball over, and the defense had to come out, be aggressive and try to make a play to make up for that disappointment.”
The interception could have taken the wind out of the Quakers’ sails, but that’s not what happened. Instead, with Blair pinned deep in its own zone starting the drive from its own 6-yard line, an errant snap on the very next play led to a fumble in the end zone. Before Blair’s quarterback could fall on the ball for a safety — which would have kept the visitors in front 13-12—Rowan burst through the line and ripped the 50/50 ball from the QB’s grasp for a PC touchdown.
“As soon as it happened,” Rowan said. “I just knew that was our moment for the defense to pick up the offense. I saw resilience. Our guys really stepped up when we were down, and we never gave up. We fought as hard as we could.”
Through two games, Rowan and the PC defense have allowed just 13 points. Blair’s final two drives ended with a turnover on downs and a punt, and the Quakers picked up two huge first downs on their final drive—an 11-yard pass from Schumm to senior Seamus McCain on third-and-eight and a seven-yard first-down run by Curtin, which allowed Penn Charter to run out the clock.
It wasn’t perfect, but football doesn’t have to be. After two games, the Quakers are a 2-0 team, with the opportunity to push that to 3-0 on Friday afternoon at home against Father Judge (4 p.m.), where Coyle was the head coach for 13 years before coming to Penn Charter in 2013.
“We’re becoming a better football team,” Coyle said. “We’re not a good team yet, but we’re working to become one. We could’ve dipped our heads and felt sorry for ourselves when things weren’t going our way. But after that turnover, we made a play on defense and then got a couple stops after we scored. That’s a winning football team. We’re going to coach them up and get ready to try to do it again on Friday against a good Father Judge football team.”
The boys soccer team already has eight games under its belt, as its coaches have assembled a jam-packed and difficult non-league schedule to prepare the team for its grueling Inter-Ac slate, which will begin the first week of October.
Thus far, the Quakers have scored wins over two Catholic League powers (Saint Joseph’s Prep, Roman Catholic), a Public League challenger (Boys Latin) and two out-of-state opponents (Archbishop Curley, Maryland and Summit Country Day School, Ohio). The three defeats have come at the hands of local stalwart Archbishop Ryan and two more non-Pennsylvania teams in Gonzaga College High (D.C.) and New Jersey’s St. Benedict’s Prep, the latter being one of the top-ranked teams in the country.
“The strength of our early season schedule will definitely have us prepared to play in a very strong Inter-Ac League,” head coach Bobby DiBenedetto said. “This year’s team combines a few young players added to the roster coupled with several returning starters.”
DiBenedetto pointed out several key players, including program veterans like senior Owen Black and juniors Jimmy Melnick and Britton Armbrister, while freshmen Willem van Beelen and Will Adair have both stepped into critical varsity roles already and, according to DiBenedetto, “have been welcome additions on attack.”
The team’s Wednesday game against Father Judge was canceled. The next scheduled game is Sept. 27 at home against Plymouth Whitemarsh (3:45 p.m.), though DiBenedetto and company are looking to add a game between now and then.
After a season-opening 4-1 loss to Summit Country Day School (Ohio) on Sept. 4, the Quakers have ripped off four consecutive wins over St. Hubert (5-2), Little Flower (8-3) and Germantown Friends (6-1), as well as picking up their first league win, a demonstrative 6-0 showing against Baldwin on Sept. 19. The 25-goal explosion during the win streak has been a major lift for new head coach Ashley Maher, who officially takes the reins as program leader after serving as the interim coach in 2021 and as an assistant since 2013. Penn Charter has won four league titles and two PAISAA crowns in that time, so the team is hoping for much of that same success under Maher moving forward.
“Starting this season as head coach has been very exciting, though not that different from my last nine seasons,” Maher said. “We’ve always coached as a team and will continue to do so.”
Because of some early injuries, Maher has had to move girls around in a plug-and-play approach. Some early headliners have been freshman Cassidy McCusker, who has scored three goals after moving up front from the back line; junior Haley Lewinski, returning from ACL surgery in her knee, also has netted three scores; sophomore Tristan Raymond, a spark plug on the outside, has tallied five goals; and junior Olivia Linus, a threat to both score a goal or assist on one, scored twice against Baldwin in the league opener.
Maher also pointed out the contributions of senior Bella Toomey, who has had to jump into net the last few games due to an injury to starting sophomore goalkeeper Rosey McNamee. The Quakers are weathering the early storm and still finding success despite adversity, which will come in handy when the league schedule begins this week.
“Our league is very, very competitive,” Maher said. “There are no easy games, so we’ve been preparing and training the players hard over the last month. We have exciting young players, and it will be fun to watch them continue to mix it up with our veteran players.”
Maher and company will continue Inter-Ac play on Friday, Sept. 23 vs. SCH Academy at 4 p.m.
Boys Water Polo
It’s been a busy start to the fall for boys water polo, tying boys soccer with eight games played so far. The Quakers have scored victories against two Maryland-based schools in Loyola-Blakefield and Mount St. Joseph’s in the Philmore Cup on Sept. 2-3, and another against Calvert Hall on Sept. 10. PC has fallen to two local schools (Hill School & Wissahickon) while also losing to three out-of-towners (Gonzaga College High in D.C., Gilman in Maryland and Y Pro, from Brooklyn).
The competition has been fierce, as head coach Bobby Wurtz is preparing the boys for a challenging league schedule, which begins on Oct. 7 at Haverford. Early standouts for PC, according to Wurtz, have been leading goal-scorer and senior Cormac Stevens, fellow seniors Scott Sweeney (the team’s best defensive player) and Juan Tovar, and junior P.J. Duffy. The team’s primary goalie, sophomore James Walters, has shined despite his underclassman status.
“The boys water polo team is led by a strong group of four seniors,” Wurtz said. “Although we have failed to close out some winnable games, I am happy with the improvements that have been made since last year. We have a lot of confidence as we move into the second half of our season.”
Up next for the Quakers is the Beast of the East Tournament in Berks County this Friday, where they will take on Wissahickon first; Saturday’s opponent will be determined by results from Friday’s contests.
Girls Water Polo
Head coach Brian Hecker and the PC girls water polo team are off to an undefeated start, winning each of its first three games: a 14-8 triumph over Hill School on Sept. 14 and a pair of victories over Lawrenceville (20-9) and Pingry (17-6) this past Saturday.
Against Hill, the Quakers had seven different goal scorers, led by four apiece from senior captains Merrill Gadsden and Lindsay Gadsden, while sophomore Eliza Black paced the defense with three steals.
Meanwhile, in Saturday’s doubleheader, PC exploded for 37 goals: against Lawrenceville, Merrill Gadsden posted eight goals and four assists, while eighth-grader Chelsea Gadsden made 11 saves in goal, and sophomores Black, Ryan Hatty and Zoe Page all scored twice. Later that day against Pingry, the Quakers picked up where they left off, with Hatty tallying four goals and three assists and Merrill Gadsden continuing her hot start by picking up six assists. The team again showed its depth with nine different goal scorers, with Lindsay Gadsden and sophomore Grace Magee finding the back of the net three times each.
“Coming off their Eastern Prep Championship from last year, the girls team is off to a great start after their first three games,” Hecker said. “Their hard work and dedication to getting better each and every day is preparing them to have another great season.”
Like their male counterparts, girls water polo will participate in the Beast of the East Tournament this weekend, taking on Cumberland on Friday, with Saturday’s opponent to be determined by results from Friday’s contests.
Boys Cross Country
Results: 9/10: 3rd place, Abington Invitational; 9/13: 1st place, Inter-Ac dual meet; 9/17: 4th place, George School Invitational; 9/20: 2nd place, Inter-Ac dual meet
Despite head coach Tim Zwall estimating the Quakers to have the fewest number of runners on their roster in the Inter-Ac at 11, the team has had a strong showing in its first three races of the season. Seniors Wes Trautwein, Jack Frank and James Glomb, along with sophomores TJ Zwall and Nate Johnson, will be PC’s headliners this season and five runners for whom Coach Zwall has high hopes. Rounding out the roster is junior Elijah Leckerman, sophomore Ross Lee and freshmen Liam Stewart, Alex Coupas, Peyton Burnett and Myles Jacobs.
Johnson (3rd), Trautwein (7th) and Zwall (8th) all had top-eight finishes in the season-opening Abington Invitational in which the Quakers placed third, while Trautwein, TJ Zwall, Johnson and Frank finished first through fourth, respectively, in last week’s Inter-Ac race, which saw PC upend Malvern and Haverford.
This past Saturday at the George School Invitational, Penn Charter finished fourth out of 19 competing teams, with TJ Zwall (11th), Trautwein (15th) and Johnson (20th) all securing top-20 overall finishes. The Quakers followed the weekend’s strong showing with another solid effort on Sept. 20, finishing second out of six in an Inter-Ac Invitational at Belmont Plateau, trailing only Episcopal. Trautwein, TJ Zwall and Johnson placed sixth through eighth, while Frank (10th) made it four finishers in the top-10.
“Things have gone great so far,” Tim Zwall said. “James Glomb just joined us, as he had been tied up with prior commitments to his primary sport of crew. James will give us a big boost in the team standings as the season moves forward.”
Next up, the boys will participate in this week’s Six Flags Invitational on Sept. 24.
Girls Cross Country
Results: 9/10: 10th place, Abington Invitational; 9/13- 1st place, Inter-Ac dual meet; 9/17- 3rd place, George School Invitational; 9/20: 1st place, Inter-Ac dual meet
Fresh off winning league and PAISAA titles last spring as the head girls track coach, Candice Lee is back for more with the PC cross country squad. Lee’s headliners are expected to be sophomores Alli DeLisi, Sam Jaffe and Alex Jaffe, as well as junior Grace Neuwirth, with senior Veronica Lentz, freshman Natalia Modzelewski and sophomore Louella Whitaker rounding out the varsity rotation.
The team kicked off its season by finishing 10th at the Abington Invitational, with DeLisi placing second overall. In the dual meet with GA, Baldwin and Agnes Irwin, the Quakers finished first, with DeLisi also finishing first, trailed by Sam Jaffe (fourth), Alex Jaffe (sixth), Neuwirth (seventh) and Lentz (10th).
Most recently at the George School Invitational this past weekend, PC finished third out of 16 teams, with DeLisi (second) and Sam Jaffe (18th) both placing in the top 20. The Quakers followed that event up on Sept. 20 by besting both GA (19 points to GA’s 39) and SCH Academy (15 to 50), with six PC runners finishing among the 10 best.
“The season is going great so far,” Lee said. “We lost four seniors that graduated and were lucky to add a large freshman class of runners to this year’s team. They have been putting in the work and continue to improve each week. The varsity team continues to work together and push each other at practice each day, and their hard work and dedication shows in the final results from each meet.”
The Quaker girls will also participate in the Six Flags Invitational on Sept. 24.
Led by head coach Gretta Ehret OPC ’05, the PC field hockey team is also off to an unbeaten start. The Quakers picked up season-opening victories over Shipley (2-0) on Sept. 13 and Friends Select (4-3) on Sept. 15.
According to Ehret, seniors and future collegiate athletes have led the way during the team’s promising start. Ashlee Bucksar, who will play field hockey at Liberty, and Alex Glomb, a Penn lacrosse recruit, have created scoring opportunities on the front line. Drexel lacrosse signee Bea Buckley and Sydney DelBello (Johns Hopkins field hockey) have been solid in transition in the midfield, while junior Zady Hasse has anchored the defensive line. Young players getting their first varsity experience that have Ehret excited for more include sophomores Fiona Brady and Kaylinn Bethea and freshman Ava Diaz.
“Our team is full of competitive athletes who want to improve every day,” Ehret said. “The girls have been showing good chemistry on and off the field while beginning to pick up higher-level concepts of the game. I look forward to watching the growth of this team throughout the season.”
The Quakers will next be in action on Wednesday, Sept. 21 at Academy of the New Church (4 p.m.) before returning home the following day to host SCH Academy at 3:30.
Led by new head coach Josh Victor, the PC girls tennis team is another squad off to a promising start to its 2022 season. Victor came to the Quakers from Cheltenham, the school he coincidentally picked up his first Penn Charter win over on Sept. 9, a 6-1 decision to kick off his tenure in East Falls.
PC fell to Baldwin 5-2 on Sept. 13 but has since picked up another victory against SCH Academy on Sept. 16 (4-3). Senior captain Lexi Barr is the Quakers’ No. 1 singles player for the fourth consecutive year, and Victor is also excited about some of the program’s youth. For example, the match against SCH came down to an exciting No. 1 doubles match, and sophomores Leila Feldman and Bridgitte Gold secured the win for Penn Charter.
“We have a strong contingent of freshmen and sophomores who set us up nicely for the future as well as the present,” Victor said. “These are exciting times in the Inter-Ac, which is very competitive at the moment. The first few wins have been great, and I look forward to many more. It feels great to be a Quaker. I am proud to be part of a community that values good citizenry, hard work and equity.”
The Quakers will be on the road for their next two matches: Sept. 21 at Hill School (3:45 p.m.) and Sept. 23 at Notre Dame (3:30).
The Penn Charter golf team has been at it since the final day of August, playing in three matches so far this season.
The Quakers fell to La Salle on Aug. 31 at Whitemarsh Valley Country Club by a score of 219-267 before rebounding with a win over Abington (314-332) on Sept. 7. Another match with La Salle last week saw the same result, with the Explorers narrowly prevailing 189-196.
Penn Charter got its first taste of Inter-Ac play on Sept. 20, finishing fourth out of six with a total of 213 points, trailing GA (200), Haverford (205) and Malvern (206).
Head coach Jim Sullivan’s squad continues its busy week against Springfield Township on Wednesday (3:30, Sandy Run CC) and Saint Joseph’s Prep on Friday (3:30, Huntingdon Valley CC).