November has arrived, and our Penn Charter fall athletics teams aren’t done just yet. One squad is still in the running for an Inter-Ac title, while another was just crowned PAISAA champions. A few others will begin their own state tournament runs in the coming days, and of course it’s all leading up to the main event — the 137th PC/GA Day on Saturday, Nov. 11. Until then, let’s take a closer look at where each team stands as the end of another thrilling fall season approaches its conclusion.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
For the second time in three years, the Quakers are PAISAA champions! PC finished first out of 14 teams in the Oct. 28 race at Belmont Plateau in Fairmount Park, accumulating 91 points to. The Quakers finished 10 points ahead of second place Notre Dame, who claimed the last three Inter-Ac crowns, so the Penn Charter victory was a significant achievement.
For the second consecutive year, PC junior Alli DeLisi was the girls champion, finishing first with a time of 19:43.89 — more than 20 seconds ahead of the next closest competitor. In three career PAISAA races, DeLisi has won twice while finishing second as a freshman.
“It’s a testament to her dedication and determination,” head coach Candice Lee said. “She puts in the work to ensure she can compete at such a high level even if the competition is not there to push her.”
DeLisi needed some help if PC was to upset Notre Dame, and she got it in the form of strong performances from her younger teammates: sophomore Audrey Abernethy placed 19th in 22:34.64 while freshmen Chloe Greenwalt (21st, 22:48.40) and Jackie Plastaras (22nd, 22:53.74) were not far behind.
“All three ran exceptional races,” Lee said. “The goal was for all of them to place in the top 20, which Audrey accomplished. Chloe and Jackie fell just short, but they placed in the top 25 ahead of the Notre Dame girls who were our main competitors.”
Senior Grace Neuwirth and sophomore Natalia Modzelewski also had strong performances, finishing in 28th and 35th place, respectively. Not only has Lee guided the cross country program to two PAISAA crowns in three years, she’s also led the outdoor track & field team to two straight league and state championships, with DeLisi being prominently involved in those triumphs as well.
“PC has exceptional athletes who put the work in to accomplish goals that we set at the start of the season,” Lee said. “The girls believe in the program and trust the training. We have the talent to be a force for years to come as long as the current core group stays intact.”
PC’s final race of the season will take place on PC/GA Day on Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
For the third consecutive year, Penn Charter continued to improve its standing at the PAISAA Championship. Following a fifth-place finish in 2021 and a third-place finish in 2022, the Quakers placed second out of 16 teams at the 2023 event on Oct. 28. Their 79 team points trailed only Episcopal Academy, which won the race for the third straight season.
Junior T.J. Zwall had the best PC finish, placing fifth overall in 16:56.04. Sophomore Peyton Burnett was five spots behind Zwall in 10th (17:44.99), while junior Nate Johnson finished 13th in 18:06.42. Sophomore Ben Berger ran the race in 18:43.10 to claim 25th place, while freshman Matthew Dunn was one spot behind, finishing in 18:53.73.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” head coach Tim Zwall said. “That was our best PAISAA finish in a long time. They prepared themselves well and deserve a lot of credit for all the hard work they put in this season.”
The top three PC runners all improved from last year’s event, with Zwall jumping three spots from 8th to 5th, Johnson moving up to 13th from 21st and Burnett racing from 43rd all the way into the top 10.
“Peyton’s rise has been amazing,” Zwall said. “Speaking for myself as a coach, kids like him are the reason we do it. His growth has been so amazing that I don’t even have the words for it. He’s come so far with such a positive attitude.”
While the Quakers did not topple Episcopal this year, there’s a decent chance their steady improvement could continue in 2024, as all of Zwall’s top runners will return for another season together.
“The work ethic is there and the talent is there,” he said. “Hopefully, everyone stays healthy and we can continue onward.”
PC’s final race of the season will take place on PC/GA Day on Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m.
After winning one league game and tying another last week, Penn Charter is still in the hunt for its first Inter-Ac title since 2016.
The Quakers began with a dominant 4-1 win over Episcopal on Oct. 24, getting three goals from sophomore Willem van Beelen and another from senior Justin Gantz.
“We scored first on a penalty kick, and next thing you know they tied it up,” head coach Bob DiBenedetto said. “After that, we were attacking, and every time we did we got a good look at the goal. Our defense held strong, and Willem was on fire that day. If other teams give him space, he’s going to cause a lot of trouble.”
The next time out against on Oct. 27, PC played to a 1-1 tie at SCH Academy. While DiBenedetto thought the Quakers were the better team all game, they had at least a half dozen good opportunities to score and were only able to deposit one in the back of the net. While a tie is better than a loss and the team is 7-0-2 in its last nine games, the Quakers need wins this late in the season if they’re going to claim an Inter-Ac championship.
“We had a look in overtime, we just couldn’t put the game away,” DiBenedetto said. “Unfortunately, that’s high school soccer — you can feel like you’re the better team and still not win the game. We’ll take the tie, but the fact that we couldn’t finish all of those chances almost makes it feel like a loss.”
The path to a league title is simple: Penn Charter needs to win its final two games against Malvern Prep on Nov. 1 and GA on Nov. 11, while Haverford needs to either lose or tie its final game of the season against Episcopal on Nov. 11. Two PC wins plus a Fords loss would give the Quakers an outright championship, while two wins and a Haverford-EA tie would mean PC and Haverford share the title. The Fords have lost just one Inter-Ac game this year, and it was to EA on Oct. 17.
“If we beat Malvern then we give ourselves a chance to win the league on PC/GA Day, and that’s what we’re in it for,” DiBenedetto said. “We’ve held up defensively all year, so we just have to stay hot and score some goals.”
The Quakers (12-4-4, 5-1-2) also will participate in the upcoming PAISAA Tournament as the seventh seed out of 12 participants. PC will host Germantown Friends in a first-round game on Nov. 3 at 2:30 p.m.
Penn Charter split two games in the last week, dropping a tight battle with SCH Academy on Oct. 24 before rebounding with a 3-1 non-league victory over Lawrenceville on Oct. 27.
The Blue Devils completed the season sweep of the Quakers with a 2-1 victory after PC had won its last two league contests. SCH scored first before PC answered with a goal from freshman Ally Bradby, who has come on especially strong as an offensive playmaker in recent weeks. The Blue Devils scored the go-ahead goal midway through the second half, and head coach Ashley Maher said the team really missed sophomore defensive back Carly Lewinski, who was out with an illness.
“If we’re missing one of our starters, it’s really detrimental to us,” Maher said. “The girls played great, and we stuck with them all game. They were just able to sneak one more into the back of the net on a great shot. We were on our heels trying to answer back and we just ran out of time. We hope to see them again in states and have everyone on our team healthy.”
The win over Lawrenceville a few days later was the team’s seventh in its last nine games and featured goals from sophomore Cass McCusker and senior Alix Sztejman.
“The girls have done a great job all year at letting the last game go and focusing on the next one in front of them,” Maher said. “Lawrenceville plays a physical style, which should prepare us for whoever we see in states.”
The fifth-seeded Quakers (12-6, 4-6) will open PAISAA play with a first-round game on Nov. 3 against Mercersburg Academy at 4 p.m. In addition to a hopeful deep run in the state tournament, the team wants to win its final two Inter-Ac contests to finish with an even 6-6 record.
“Winning our last two Inter-Ac games is super important to us,” Maher said. “We want to send our seniors out on a high note and give all of our players the end of the season that they deserve. The hard work and passion they have put into this all season has been admirable.”
GIRLS WATER POLO
The Quakers won their fourth consecutive contest with a 14-7 victory over Episcopal on Oct. 24. It was the only game within the last week for the team, which has won seven out of its last eight games heading into this weekend’s Eastern Prep Tournament.
PC left no doubt that it was the stronger team against Episcopal, supplanting a slow offensive start with the team’s trademark shutdown defense. The swarming defensive pressure eventually started leading to some Penn Charter goals on counterattacks, with junior Eliza Black and sophomore Lili DeMartinis leading the way with four goals apiece. Senior Ellie Choate and junior Grace Magee notched three assists each, and freshman goalie Chelsea Gadsden produced another dominant effort with 25 saves.
“The team has come a long way since August and the coaches couldn't be more proud,” head coach Brian Hecker said. “The work ethic and drive to succeed shows in each one of our training sessions. Every player has improved in numerous areas of their games.”
The Quakers are now 13-4 on the season and are one win away from equaling last year’s win total. They will have three more chances to tie or beat the 14 wins from 2022, beginning with the Eastern Prep Tournament on Saturday. Penn Charter will look to defend its 2021 and 2022 Eastern crowns as the tournament’s top seed, with its first game taking place on Nov. 4 at 9 a.m. at Episcopal, where the Quakers will take on the winner of the Nov. 3 contest between EA and Hill School. PC will then play in either the third-place game later that day at 1 p.m. or the championship game at 2 p.m., depending on the result of the team’s morning contest. Germantown Academy and Lawrenceville School are the other two participating teams, and the Quakers are 7-0 against the field in 2023.
“The tournament should be a good one,” Hecker said. “As the number one seed and defending back-to-back champs, we have a bullseye on us. We have proven we can beat each team in the tournament, but that doesn’t mean anything come Saturday. We need to stay focused and play smart defense, which leads to our offense. We will need to bring our best to the pool.”
BOYS WATER POLO
The Quakers split their two games last week, picking up a win over Episcopal on Oct. 24 before dropping one the next day to a formidable Hill School squad.
Against EA, Penn Charter snapped a two-game Inter-Ac losing streak with a 15-11 win to complete a season sweep of the Churchmen.
“We played well enough to win,” head coach Andre Nyce said. “We did what we had to do.”
According to Nyce, Hill is the favorite to win the Eastern Prep Tournament this coming weekend. As the smaller and less experienced team, PC still played well in the 20-14 loss, even cutting the deficit to three goals midway through the fourth quarter before Hill scored the final three tallies of the game.
“They have some postgraduate players who transferred from schools in California, where water polo is more prevalent,” Nyce said. “Our guys adjusted to Hill’s narrow pool and shot well against a good goalie.”
The Quakers (12-10) will kick off their Eastern Prep competition with a 9 a.m. contest against Maryland-based Calvert Hall at Haverford School on Nov. 4. A win would advance PC to play Gilman School (also from Maryland) at noon later that day, while a loss would make the next game on Nov. 5 at 8 a.m., with the Sunday action shifting from Haverford to Episcopal. The Quakers are guaranteed to play at least three games and could play as many as four.
“It has always been my vision for this team to finish strong and play their best polo in November,” Nyce said. “I believe the sky's the limit for PC at Easterns.”
The Quakers began last week with a tough 7-0 loss to Baldwin School on Oct. 24, marking the second time the team was defeated by the Bears this season.
PC rebounded with a nice 5-2 road victory at SCH Academy on Oct. 30 to improve to 8-5 overall and 7-4 in league play.
And, for the first time since it was established in 2007, PAISAA will be adding girls tennis to its tournament schedule this year. Penn Charter received a first-round bye and will play its first match at home on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 2:30 p.m., facing the winner of SCH Academy-Germantown Academy in the quarterfinals.
The Quakers dropped their lone match in the past week, a tight 3-1 defeat to SCH Academy on Oct. 24 that was close from wire to wire.
PC scored first, with the Blue Devils tying the score just before halftime. SCH added a goal in the third quarter and it remained a one-goal contest until the Blue Devils were able to put the game away with an insurance goal in the closing minutes of the fourth.
“We came out strong and played them well,” interim head coach Rachel Dyer said. “It was a one-goal game the entire time, and the 3-1 score still doesn’t even reflect how close it was. It was intense and much more evenly-played than our first meeting with them [a 3-0 PC loss on Sept. 28]. We came away frustrated because we played a really solid game. We were in it the whole game and could taste it, so it was disappointing not to get the win.”
Still, PC has been playing much better since its 3-2 win over GA on Oct. 10, a victory that snapped a four-year losing streak in Inter-Ac play. Even though they lost each game, Penn Charter’s second go-rounds against Episcopal, Notre Dame, Agnes Irwin and SCH were all closer and more competitive than the first meetings.
“The feedback I’ve gotten from the girls is that they’re playing more like a team that trusts each other,” Dyer said. “Success is coming out of that. For most of them, field hockey is not their first sport, but they work at it. These incredible athletes have a competitive nature that allows them to work together, and the biggest difference has been the increased teamwork.”
Before the Quakers (4-11, 1-8) finish their season on PC/GA Day, they will participate in the four-team Commonwealth Cup, an offshoot of the PAISAA Tournament that begins on Nov. 7. PC will host Friends Central that day, and should the Quakers win, they will meet the winner of Germantown Friends School and Westtown School on Nov. 9.
The Quakers finished sixth out of 12 teams in the PAISAA Championship on Oct. 30 at Radley Run Country Club in West Chester. The team shot a 243, finishing behind team champion Malvern Prep, as well as GA, Mercersburg Academy, Haverford and EA.
Individually, freshmen Jasper Dittus (78) and Jack Sheward (80) paced the Quakers. Finishing behind them were juniors Wills Kaiser (83), Casey Felter (85) and Dean Kaiser (86), as well as senior Max Gross (92).
“It was cold and windy, and Radley Run is a little banged up with a lot of hills and blind tee shots,” head coach Ari Flaisher said. “Our freshmen led the way again, and we were closer than I thought we’d be to the fifth and fourth-place teams. It was a good experience — adding another round of competition is always a good thing, and we had some success.”
Dittus is the lone PC golfer who qualified for the Inter-Ac Match Play Championship on Nov. 1. The event at Waynesborough Country Club will feature the league’s top 16 golfers who will get to experience a day of match play competition as opposed to the more traditional stroke play. In match play, golfers compete for points by winning individual holes against the rest of the field, whereas stroke play counts one's total strokes for the entire round.
“The weather is supposed to be less than ideal, but it’s an incredible opportunity for Jasper,” Flaisher said. “If he’s not the only freshman playing, then he’s one of two, so it’s a great way for him to get some valuable experience in match play, where anything can happen. He has a pretty decent chance to do well as long as he can avoid the big numbers that younger players sometimes have trouble with. He’s not the most experienced golfer, but he plays older than his grade.”As a team, PC has one match left this season — PC/GA Day vs. the Patriots on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at Huntingdon Valley Country Club at 3 p.m.
Penn Charter sustained its fourth straight defeat on Oct. 28, a 42-3 loss at the hands of Malvern Prep. After a 3-0 start to its season, the Quakers now sit at 3-4 overall and 0-3 in Inter-Ac play with two games remaining.
PC had a tough mountain to climb against a bigger and more experienced Friars squad that has won five straight games and now sits alone atop the league standings. The Quakers turned the ball over four times, including deep in their own territory on the second play from scrimmage that led to a Malvern touchdown two plays later.
Senior Jimmy Melnick booted a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the first quarter to cut the deficit to 14-3. The Quakers had a couple of opportunities to punch one into the end zone, but ended the first half on Malvern’s 8-yard line and turned the ball over on downs on the Malvern 1-yard line on their final drive of the game.
Senior running back Ohifame Ijeboi rushed 17 times for 89 yards and sophomore quarterback Tom McGlinchey completed 15 passes for 155 yards, both of which were season-highs. Senior Gavin Michner hauled in four catches for 50 yards, which were also the highest totals of the year for him.
It marked the fourth straight game — all losses — where PC did not force a turnover. Conversely, the team has forced six turnovers in its three victories.
The game was halted with 7:28 to play in the fourth quarter due to an on-field injury. The Quakers will next take the field on Nov. 4 when they visit Haverford School for a 2 p.m. kickoff.
Written by Ed Morrone OPC '04
Photographs by Zamani Feelings & Anthony Bouie Sr. (football)