by Tom Utescher
March went out like a Lion, and so did Penn Charter’s girls lacrosse team, which braved chilly, rainy conditions to post a 17-6 victory at Gwynedd Mercy Academy on Thursday, March 31.
The visiting Quakers held a 3-2 edge eight minutes into the action, then put the pedal down and roared away to a 13-4 halftime lead. The victory resulted in a 3-0 record for PC, which opened its season at home with a 13-9 win over Friends Central on March 22, then took a 10-7 decision at Mount St. Joseph on March 28.
Seniors Kate Higgins and Blaine Steinberg, who each scored four times in the win over the Mount, fired in six and five goals, respectively, against Gwynedd, while sophomore goalie Kelly Kubach turned away six shots by the Monarchs. Gwynedd got two goals each from senior Jamie Baumgardner and sophomore Nicole Fisher, and in the cage freshman keeper Claire Lacon logged eight saves.
“Kelly never played goalie before this year, but she stepped up to take the position,” noted first-year PC coach Mary Fran Riffel.
Higgins, who’s headed to Gettysburg College next year, and Steinberg, who’s bound for Dartmouth, are Penn Charter team tri-captains along with classmate Liz Wills, who’ll play field hockey at Bucknell.
In addition to the captains and Kubach, Charter’s starters for the Gwynedd game were juniors Sarah Butler and Amanda Fleming, sophomores Katherine O’Donnell, Margot Pighini, Julia Vahey, and Anna Wills (sister of Liz), and freshmen Lauren Flemming and Leigh Steinberg (sister of Blaine). Outside commitments caused two regular starters, sophomores Emma Ebert and Priya Sivalingam, to miss last Thursday’s game.
“We have a lot ahead of us, but it’s a good way to start the year,” said Riffel, who played Division I collegiate lacrosse at Temple University. “We have a young team, but they have a ton of heart and a lot of athleticism. They go hard to goal, and they go hard for ground ball pick-ups.”
On the day of the Gwynedd contest, rain had not been forecast to begin until evening, but it was underway by mid-afternoon.
Riffel related, “We told the girls the field conditions weren’t great and it would be more difficult to catch and throw, so they had to focus more. I think they did a good job of that.”
In the early minutes the Quakers possessed the ball much of the time, getting out to a 3-0 lead thanks to a natural hat trick by Higgins. The Monarchs called time-out with 17:54 to go in the first half, and when play resumed Baumgardner and freshman Morgan Meehan each scored in a span of 27 seconds, making it 3-2.
“I think our defense may have fallen asleep a little bit,” Riffel remarked, “because up until that first time out, the other team hadn’t crossed the restraining line.”
At 15:47 and 15:21, back-to-back strikes by Blaine Steinberg and O’Donnell got Charter rolling again, and the first of Amanda Fleming’s three goals gave the visitors a 6-2 advantage just under a dozen minutes before the intermission. Gwynedd was slapped with a yellow card penalty, but Baumgardner put in a shorthanded goal with nine minutes remaining.
After that, though, the Quakers jammed in seven straight goals to spread the gap to double digits. Butler and Leigh Steinberg each notched a goal during this spree. GMA senior Meg O’Brien got one back for the home team with just six seconds left, but PC was still up 13-4 at the interlude.
The Quakers captured the initial draw in the second half and scored in the opening minute. They added three more for a 17-4 tally with 10 minutes still to play. After that, Charter passed the ball around and didn’t really drive hard to goal, and Gwynedd garnered the final two points of the afternoon.