by Tom Utescher
Scoring the first three goals of the afternoon, host Penn Charter led the whole way in last Thursday’s Pa. Independent Schools Tournament opener, but visiting Hill School hung around for quite awhile before the Quakers wrapped up a 16-10 victory.
Building a 7-5 halftime edge into a 10-5 advantage early in the second period, PC saw the visiting Blues close back within a single goal at 10-9 with 14 minutes still to play. Senior Molly Pighini scored back-to-back goals in a 40-second span to ignite a 6-0 run for the home team.
In the Independent Schools bracket, the two squads were one seed apart, with PC (7-8 overall) getting the nod for the eighth seed largely because of a 13-5 head-to-head victory over Hill (7-10) at the start of the season. The Quakers’ second victory over the Blues last week earned them a second-round meeting with top-seeded Episcopal Academy, which received a bye for the opening round.
Charter came into Thursday’s game fresh off a disappointing Inter-Ac League finale. On the road two days earlier, the Quakers hung in for a half but then saw host Agnes Irwin pull away smartly to win, 22-12.
The PC players knew Thursday’s encounter with Hill wouldn’t be a cakewalk. Both teams had suffered a number of injuries early in the season, so you couldn’t draw too many conclusions from games at the start of the schedule. While PC finished up with a 4-8 record in the Inter-Ac, Hill placed second in the Mid-Atlantic Prep League by virtue of a 13-12 loss to champion Lawrenceville School.
“Hill was definitely playing better later on than when we played them back in March,” said PC assistant coach Tori Small, a Penn Charter alum and former head coach of the Quakers. “We saw that they had some close scores against good teams like Germantown Friends and Friends Central.”
Still, the coaching staff wasn’t going to dial up the pressure on their players for the Indy tournament opener.
“It’s so late in the season, it’s a fun time of the year, and it’s a fun tournament to be in,” Small said. “We tried to keep it light in practice and just have them enjoy being around one another and enjoy playing as a team as the school year winds down.”
The Quakers and their fans enjoyed the opening stages of Thursday’s tournament opener, as senior Emma Ebert, junior Leigh Steinberg, and sophomore Avery Shoemaker all scored in the first six minutes. Hill got on the board with senior Hilary Yoh’s free-position bounce shot a little under eight minutes into the action, then PC’s Pighini traded goals with the Blues’ Kathleen Carmichael as the score seesawed to 4-2.
Kelly Kubach, a Charter senior who signed with the University of Michigan last fall, assisted a marker by Shoemaker and then scored one of her own off of a pass in transition from Ebert.
That made it 6-2 in the hosts’ favor with under eight minutes to go in the period, but Hill regrouped to secure three of the last four goals in the first half, setting the score at 7-5 for the intermission. At this point, PC starting goalie Maddie Mahoney (seven saves) turned over the cage to senior keeper Allison Rogers, who missed a number of games this spring after she suffered a concussion.
In the initial four minutes of the second stanza, Ebert, freshman Hannah Fox, and Kubach all put the ball in the back of the Blues’ cage for a 10-5 tally, but Hill School wasn’t going to submit passively. As the clock ran down between 19:16 and 14:08 remaining, the Blues put together a four-goal spurt, making it a one-goal game at 10-9 and forcing a Penn Charter time-out.
The Quakers responded well to the sideline lecture by head coach Channing Weymouth, driving hard to goal as the visitors obligingly committed fouls. Pighini’s pair of free-position goals at 12:51 and 12:10 put PC on more solid footing, and Charter kept on rolling until the count reached 16-9. Rogers, who seemed a little shaky when she first took over in goal, got her bearings and came up with some tough saves to contribute to the stretch of unanswered goals for the host team. She finished with 10 saves.
With 1:42 on the clock, the last goal of the day was scored by Hill School’s Yoh, completing a personal hat trick. Elizabeth Sitko led the Blues with four goals and Elizabeth Cossel added two.
The winners got four goals apiece from Pighini and Shoemaker, three from Kubach (one assist), two each from Ebert (one assist) and Steinberg, and one from Fox.