by Tom Utescher
Penn Charter soccer players ambled down School House Lane last Wednesday to scrimmage against the girls of Germantown Friends School, and although the teams were fairly far apart on the scoreboard at the end of the encounter, it was a valuable exercise for both sides.
A talented but youthful Penn Charter team was missing its high scorer for the occasion, and started four players whose names didn’t appear anywhere on the 2013 roster. The Quakers got a chance to see how well the newcomers would fare in varsity interscholastic competition, and how well they would blend in with the veterans.
On one of the hotter afternoons of the summer, the teams played three 25-minute periods, with PC ahead 5-0 at the end. Charter is able to field a starting line-up in which more than half of the athletes have been seriously engaged in soccer travel team programs for a number of years. GFS can send out players headed to Division I college programs in other sports, but outside of school practices and games, almost none of the Tigers spend much time with a soccer ball at their feet.
In Penn Charter, GFS was facing an opponent as strong as any it will see all season. Forgetting about the score, but remembering the overall level of play and identifying the aspects of their game they’d like to improve, the Tigers could prepare themselves for future opponents.
Last fall, Penn Charter won the Inter-Ac League title and the Pennsylvania Independent Schools championship, both for the first time. Four senior starters graduated from that team (including two NCAA Division I recruits), and four underclassmen, one of them a 2013 starter, did not come out for the squad this fall.
For Wednesday’s scrimmage, the Quakers were also missing their leading scorer from a year ago, current junior Jlon Flippens. A member of the junior national team program for several years, Flippens was away on an official visit to the University of Maryland last week.
PC has only two seniors on the roster this season, Abigail Evans and Eliza Jacobs. Evans is team co-captain along with Dominique DeMarco, a junior who has already made a verbal commitment to play for Colgate University. Along with Flippens, varsity veterans Josie Dutton and Hannah Fox fill out the junior class for the Quakers.
Two current sophomores and one freshman played varsity ball last year for Charter in 2013. The 10th-graders are Macaul Mellor and Mireyah Davis. Davis, primarily a basketball player, filled a vacancy in the PC goalcage last fall and proved a quick study. Dom DeMarco’s highly-skilled younger sister, Giovanna, started as an eighth-grader last year and made an immediate impact.
Three other 10th graders have moved up to the varsity: Brigitte Gutpelet, Alexis Hnatkowsky, and Alex Kuper.
Freshman goalie Mackenzie Listman started in last Wednesday’s scrimmage, as did a new members of Penn Charter’s ninth-grade class, Francesca “Frenchy” Pellerito. Greer Guyer is the fourth ninth-grader on the roster, and eighth-grader Ally Paul has been brought up to the varsity squad.
Darci Borski, Associate Director of Athletics at Penn Charter, is back for her second season as head coach, and her returning assistants are Kellyn Jaspan, Ashley Maher, and Caroline Williams.
The Germantown Friends Tigers reached the finals of the Friends Schools League tournament for the third year in a row in 2013, falling to Friends Central, 1-0. The 2013 starting line-up included four seniors, and one of them, goalie Caroline Myran, had already begun to see varsity playing time as an eighth-grader.
Three other varsity players who did not graduate are no longer with the team. Some early-season injuries have also hampered the Tigers; among others, senior tri-captain Grayson Melby was unable to take the field against PC last Wednesday. The seniors are working under the third head coach they’ve had since ninth grade, and the hope is that new skipper Jeremy Hurdle [see story in 7/17 LOCAL) will provide stability for the program going forward.
There is some continuity for the Tigers as assistant coach Rachel Bradburd returns to the sidelines, while a solid new addition to the staff is Samantha Swerdloff, a former Rutgers University standout who also played semi-pro soccer.
The new regime can rely on a large group of seniors, nine in all. Melby’s fellow captains are Sophia Linguiti and Sophie Trotto, and five other 12th-graders were on the varsity team last year: Schuyler Alig (who’ll help fill the goalie spot long occupied by Myran), Julia Mankoff, Greta Meyer (who will sign with Stanford for lacrosse), Taryn Milbourne (the school’s premier sprinter in track and field), and Emma Wagner. Another multi-sport senior athlete, Lydia Harvey, is joining the varsity this fall.
Although there is a full JV team waiting in the wings, the current first-string line-up includes just one junior, Lizzie Becker (a basketball point guard and basketball pitcher), and three sophomores, Caroline Caraballo, Lilly Dupuis, and Hannah Hanson. Becker, Caraballo, and Hanson were all varsity soccer players in 2013.
Meyer’s younger sister, Celia, is one of five freshman on the team; the others are Corin Grady, Riley Knowles, and twins Portia and Teasha McKoy. Teasha McKoy gives the Tigers another option in goal, in addition to Alig.
Alig started in goal for the first of last Wednesday’s three periods, with Listman guarding the Quakers’ cage at the other end of the field. GFS took the initiative on offense at the beginning, but didn’t get off any truly threatening shots. On a ball served from the left by Dom DeMarco, Dutton broke the ice for Penn Charter on a header from just beyond the far post.
The visitors went up by two on a point-blank shot by Pellerito from in front of the Tigers’ cage. Germantown’s Alig turned aside a pair of solid shots fired by Giovanna DeMarco from the right side of the box, keeping the count at 2-0 until the end of the period. She was replaced by Teasha McKoy for the start of the second 25-minute session, with Davis entering the nets for Charter.
Collecting a pass from her sister, Dom DeMarco sent a shot over the GFS goal early in the period, and soon after that the Quakers went up 3-0 on the second goal of the day by Dutton. On a restart about 30 yards out in the center of the field, she launched a ball that dipped right under the crossbar. The younger DeMarco threatened a few minutes later, but McKoy charged out and cleared the ball away with a slide. Going up on offense, the Tigers had Linguiti get off a promising shot, but PC’s Davis was up to the task and saved it.
The count rose to 4-0 with nine minutes left in the second period. With a defender on her, Giovanna DeMarco carried the ball through the middle of the box and shot it past McKoy as the keeper advanced towards her. McKoy’s twin, Portia, almost responded in kind at the other end of the pitch, but Davis leapt up and extended herself to tip the ball away. Near the end of the period, a cross by the Tigers’ Wagner set up another shot by McKoy, this one straying a little wide to the right.
The original starting goalies were back in for the start of the third stanza. Alig was quickly put to work by Penn Charter, and she turned away a ball struck from the left side of the box by Paul, the Quakers’ eighth-grader.
After deflecting the ball up over the goal on a long-range shot by GFS, PC’s Listman came back out of the game and Davis played the final 10 minutes.
Denied earlier, a persistent Paul netted the last goal of the day for the Quakers with six minutes remaining, joining up with Pellerito for a charge across the middle of the 18 yard line.
Attacking in the final minute, the Tigers had Portia McKoy taken down in the box, but there was no whistle, and bout ended with a 5-0 tally.
After a series of rigorous non-league bouts against teams such as Archbishop Ryan, Pennington School, and Villa Joseph Marie, Penn Charter will begin the defense of its Inter-Ac title with a September 23 match against Episcopal Academy, the 2012 champion. After a September schedule that features meetings with four Inter-Ac teams, Germantown Friends will begin league play against Shipley School on October 7.