by Tom Utescher
In a girls’ soccer match that ended the 2013 season for host Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, the visiting Quakers of Penn Charter clinched at least a tie for the Inter-Ac League championship last Wednesday with a 5-0 victory.
The Quakers would go on to claim the title outright for the very first time, topping Germantown Academy on Saturday, 2-1. Charter wrapped up the championship with a final record in the league of 10-1-1, while Agnes Irwin was runner-up with a mark of 9-2-1, and Germantown Academy was third, at 8-3-1.
Meanwhile, the SCH Blue Devils ended a season they won’t be sorry to put behind them, winding up with an overall record of 2-18, and splitting their home/away series with Baldwin School to go 1-11 within the Inter-Ac.
Springside Chestnut Hill began the year without enough players in the upper school program to field a junior varsity team, and with two of its best varsity veterans sidelined for medical reasons. The Blue Devils’ personnel problems only got worse from there. One player dropped off of the team, but the true scourge was injury.
After last Wednesday’s match against Penn Charter, sixth-year head coach Jerry Hartey noted, “I looked down my bench today and there were five girls out hurt who would’ve been starting. For the past 10 games, we’ve had an average of only about 12 players available. We’ve had four concussions, a knee injury, two separated shoulders. It’s almost unbelievable; I’ve never experienced anything like it.”
Hartey knew that the final act in this drama would be a difficult one, as his squad faced powerful PC.
“They’re loaded top-to-bottom,” he said. “They have speed, they have skill, and they have size.”
But although the Quakers controlled play most of the time from the beginning of the game, it took awhile for them to make an impression on the scoreboard. After numerous attempts by a number of players, sophomore star Jlon Flippens, a member of the U.S. Under-15 Team, headed in the icebreaker with 18:35 remaining in the first half.
The 2-0 halftime score went up in lights with 7:40 to go, when eighth-grader Giovanna DiMarco carried the ball down near the right post and senior Lauren Dimes tapped it over the goal line.
Flippens and Dimes are both positioned up front as strikers, but the season didn’t start out that way. Some changes occurred when the Quakers faltered during a three-game stretch in early October. They had just thumped defending league champ Episcopal Academy 7-1, but Flippens, who scored five of those goals, was away on a West Coast college visit for the next game.
Traditional rival Germantown Academy presented PC with its first outcome that wasn’t a “W”, a 2-2 tie. There followed a 3-2 overtime loss to Agnes Irwin, and a 2-1 setback against longstanding Catholic League North power Archbishop Ryan.
“Looking back,” recalled first-year PC head coach Darci Borski, “it was one of those things that might have been necessary, because it refocused us and re-motivated us.”
Charter had been playing a 4-5-1 formation, with Flippens alone up top. Now they went with two center midfielders instead of three, moving up Dimes to create a 4-4-2 alignment.
“We also tried a couple of other new things, because what had worked at the beginning of the year wasn’t working as well anymore,” explained Borski, whose team would rout Agnes Irwin, 6-0, the second time around. “Because Jlon was so successful right from the start, other teams were focusing on her and putting several people on her. With two forwards, they can’t do that, and at the same time we’ve been aggressively attacking up the wings to get the cross from the endline. Giovanna has been so effective for us on the right wing; she has 15 goals and a bunch of assists.”
Dimes was a natural candidate for the second striker, for as Borski pointed out, “She has a lot of experience, she’s got a great shot, and she’s a good distributor. She and Jlon play well together up there.”
Still, considering the amount of time they spent in the offensive third last Wednesday during the first half, two goals wasn’t a lot to show for it when the intermission arrived.
SCH senior goalie Madi Sehn, whom Hartey said has improved considerably this season, made some difficult stops, but at the same time the Quakers also shot a lot of balls high up over the cage.
“At halftime we reminded them of basic mechanics; get your head down, get your knee over the ball, those types of things,” Borski said. “Springside Chestnut Hill has some players that I think are very talented. We didn’t want to take them lightly and we needed to make more of our opportunities count.”
SCH junior Sinéad Brierley, compact but quite vocal, is a sparkplug for the Blue Devils in the defensive half, and can come up the field to pose an offensive threat, as well. Skillful sophomore Meghan McCool is unquestionably one of the top players in the league, and to witness her work rate on the field is inspirational. It’s not just her pure talent, but also the sheer effort she puts forth and the encouragement and guidance she provides to her teammates that are already making her a sought-after college recruit.
The fact that both of these players were injured in the opening weeks of the season certainly contributed to an inauspicious start for the Devils.
Penn Charter has been relatively fortunate in regard to injuries this fall, and there just aren’t any weak spots in the Quakers’ line-up. They were on the attack again as the second half got underway on Wednesday, and after several attempts were thwarted, they put their third goal on the board with 24:31 left to play. Sophomore Josie Dutton made an off-the-ball run up the middle and scored off a beautiful cross from the right side of the box by senior Steph Soroka.
Less than three minutes later, it was a centering pass from Dimes that set up a Flippens goal that made it 4-0, then with 14:11 remaining Dimes notched a second goal of her own, scoring from close range in the middle after Dutton served the ball inside.
Flippens’ second goal of the day was her 45th of the season.
“Not bad for someone who isn’t really a forward,” observed Borski. “She actually plays center mid on her club team, and she’s a center back on the national team.”
Another player relatively new to her role is freshman goalie Mireyah Davis, a new Penn Charter student this year.
Borski commented, “She’s a very good athlete, she’s got great size [5’11”], and she’s extremely agile. Basketball is her first love, but she has approached soccer very seriously this season and she trains hard.”
Last Wednesday, it was nice to see that even after PC went ahead by five goals, there was no quit in the SCH squad.
“They’ve played hard through adversity all season long,” Hartey stated. “I thought that Taylor Ferry [a freshman] did a very good job marking Jlon today. Penn Charter is just a very strong team, but we had a lot of other games this season that could’ve gone in our favor if we didn’t have so many people hurt. Injuries are just are just something you can’t control.”