by Tom Utescher
As four-time defending champion in the Friends Schools League and winner of six of the last seven field hockey titles in the FSL, Shipley School seemed likely to provide a tough out-of-conference challenge for host Penn Charter last Friday afternoon.
However, longtime Shipley mainstay Avery Safford has moved on to the University of Richmond, and when the regrouping Gators (2-4 overall) arrived at PC last week, they were also missing two current starters and three reserve players who had all come down with a bug making its away around the school.
With the host Quakers in fine fettle, the contest was not close, as Charter built a 5-0 halftime lead en route to a 9-0 victory. With two goals apiece, senior Katy Decker and sophomore Avery Shoemaker topped a list of seven scorers for PC, which improved to 5-2 overall while remaining 1-1 within the Girls Inter-Ac League. Shoemaker had recorded a hat trick in the Quakers’ 3-1 win over Lawrenceville two days earlier.
Charter had opened its Girls Inter-Ac season the previous week, beating 2011 league cellar-dweller Baldwin School, but then dropping a 3-1 decision to Agnes Irwin on September 14.
After the Irwin game, related PC coach Channing Weymouth, “We concentrated on off-ball movement, off-ball positioning, and overall teamwork. We focused on our offense and defense in the circle, our actual stance, and getting quick shots. We worked with our post players on their reflexes and finishing the ball.”
Shoemaker, who often is stationed near the left goalpost, helped get the Quakers back on track with her midweek performance against Lawrenceville. Next up was Shipley, another non-league opponent but one that usually appears on Penn Charter’s schedule.
“The girls were just fired up for a good Friday game, and Shipley beat us last year, so we had that incentive,” Weymouth explained.
Aggressive from the get-go, the Quakers made their first notch on the scoreboard just over two minutes into the action, when senior Anna Wills settled a pass from sophomore Tara Murphy and drilled a shot from high in the circle. On a PC penalty corner less than three minutes later, Shoemaker inserted the ball from the left and then gravitated towards the near post. Receiving the ball near the top of the scoring loop, senior Katherine O’Donnell took a few dribbles back down towards the goal and then sent a drive towards the left side of the cage, where Shoemaker was waiting for the tip-in.
The count rose to 3-0 with 21:32 still to go in the first half. Another Charter corner did not immediately produce a shot, but the Quakers kept the ball in the circle and from the midst of melee in front of the cage O’Donnell banged the ball home.
“Katherine had a great game today,” Weymouth stated. “She did a good job distributing the ball in the midfield. We had been focusing on distributing the ball quickly, and she did that well.”
The scoreboard got a bit of a breather, then the hosts added two more points in the last 10 minutes of the first half. Both came courtesy of Decker, and on both shots the senior was assisted by sophomore Sofia Toso. With the margin now up to five goals, there was a running clock for the rest of the game, without the usual stoppages for scoring.
In the second half the Gators were still unable to snap the shutout, but they did prevent PC from doing further damage for the first dozen minutes or so. The hit parade resumed when Layne Wolfington made it 6-0 with under 17 minutes left to play, and her sophomore classmate Grace Harbision harvested the next point for the home team.
With Shoemaker sinking her second goal and senior Claudia Stedman joining the list of scorers, the final tally was on the board with 7:29 remaining in the game. The clock was down to 3:10 when Shipley earned its first corner of the day, and Quakers goalie Emily Ominsky recorded both of her two saves during that final stretch. Ominsky had entered the game at halftime, after her 10th-grade classmate Kennedy Kline went through the first period without having to make a stop.
Everyone on PC’s varsity squad was able to get onto the field, giving Weymouth a chance to see her least-experienced players in a true game situation.
She pointed out, “We want them to use those opportunities to gain a better understanding of what we’re trying to do as a full team on the field, as well as working on their actual stick skills and footwork.”
First-year assistant coach Therese Doyle, a former Merion Mercy Academy and St. Joseph’s University standout, commented “All of the girls have come a long way in terms of working together as a team, and we want to keep progressing in that area.”