by Tom Utescher
Holding its first field hockey practice on Monday, August 18, Penn Charter was already seeing action against other teams by the end of last week. After traveling to Northeast Philly to scrimmage Archbishop Ryan on Friday, the Quakers played their first home match the following day against a visiting squad of Scottish schoolgirls.
Controlling play much of the time on Saturday, it looked as though PC was going to ride a lone goal by senior Sophie Eldridge to victory, but St. George’s School for Girls (Edinburgh) scored in the final minute to emerge with a 1-1 tie.
Having played the 2013 season without a single senior, it looked as though Charter was going to be at the peak of an age cycle this fall. Just with last year’s players returning, the Quakers should’ve had 10 seniors and five juniors on the roster, but that’s not the way things turned out.
For a large number of those older players, field hockey was not considered their primary sport, and many of them opted out of the program for 2014. This makes PC a relatively young team once more, with just four seniors and two juniors, and the rest of the squad made up of sophomores and freshmen.
Nevertheless, Quakers head coach Melissa Grosman sees a positive aspect to this realignment.
“We know that everyone who is here really wants to be here, and they’re all working hard,” said Grosman, who is now entering her second season as skipper.
Her assistant coach, new this year, is Mary Beaman, who played for St. Joseph’s University. Originally from Maine, Beaman remained in this area after graduating from St. Joe’s in 2010, and she’s a teacher for the School District of Philadelphia.
One member of this year’s senior quartet at PC, Eldridge, has already made her college choice, verbally committing to play hockey for Northwestern University. Her three classmates are the team tri-captains for 2014, goalie Kennedy Kline and field players Grace Harbison and Dolly Segal. Bella Smith and Ellie Zimering are the team’s two juniors.
Leslie Goodman, Christina Vahey, and goalie Janelle Sullivan are sophomores who were all on the varsity roster last season, and their classmate Daisy Slawek has now moved up to join them.
Freshmen form the largest class contingent for the 2014 Quakers. The six ninth graders are Lily Carpenter, Bella Hondras, Catherine McInerney, Ava Nicolucci, Alina Sosa, and Taylor Wheeler-Yard.
Out of necessity, several of the freshmen started – and all played – in Saturday’s set-to with the Scots. None of them appeared new to the sport, and they blended in relatively well with the older players.
Penn Charter attacked from the outset and earned some early penalty corners. St. George’s finally made it into the Quakers’ circle and took a corner hit midway through the first half, but actual goals would be hard to come by for both sides. The PC bench thought Eldridge scored on a drive with a little under two minutes remaining in the first half, but the refs ruled that the shot came from just outside of the circle.
The half ended with the tally still 0-0, although the Quakers might well have come away with two or three goals. With the new additions, the offense hasn’t had a chance to get fully in sync, and part of their lack of success was also due to a solid performance in the cage by St. George’s goalie, Hannah Gourley.
The Scots, who had previously played five other teams in the Philadelphia area and would be returning home the following day, started the second half more aggressively and generally gave a better account of themselves.
The Quakers recovered and pushed up on the attack, forcing penalty corners and generating a few shots for Eldridge.
One of them, about 10 minutes in, tracked wide to the left and another, with 13 minutes left to play, was turned away by Gourley with a leg pad. After several more PC corners, Eldridge scored on a drive from near the edge of the circle on the right with 6:15 remaining.
It looked like Charter would hold on for a narrow victory as the clock cut into the final minute, but St. George pushed up the pitch and was awarded a corner. They inserted the ball from the left endline straight out toward the edge of the circle, where Imogen Millar drove it back down into the Quakers’ cage with 41 seconds to go.
All-in-all, it was a successful outing for the restructured PC squad, but the Quakers know that going forward, positive outcomes will hinge on their ability to convert more of their offensive opportunities into points on the scoreboard.