Penn Charter junior Bella Smith (right) jousts for ball possession with Westtown School’s Hannah Roman. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Penn Charter junior Bella Smith (right) jousts for ball possession with Westtown School’s Hannah Roman. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

It was a long time in the making, but Penn Charter finally put in the game-winning goal in last Friday’s home field hockey match. Coming with less than five-and-a-half minutes left to play, it was the only goal of the afternoon, and despite a scramble around the Quakers’ cage at the very end, PC hung on for the non-league win over the Moose of Westtown School.

Before senior Grace Harbison found the net late in the game, Penn Charter had controlled play much of the time, earning 14 penalty corners to Westtown’s five.

“We were dominating; we just couldn’t get it into the goal,” remarked second year PC head coach Melissa Grosman. “Then when we eventually put one away, I felt like things eased up a little and then we had more opportunities. Westtown was very good defensively. They were like a wall and it wasn’t easy for us to get loose to score.”

Charter improved to 5-7 overall, while remaining 2-6 within the Inter-Ac League. Westtown is one of three serious championship contenders in the Friends Schools league, along with the Academy of the New Church and Shipley. The Moose had tied ANC, but had not yet faced the Gators.

Penn Charter was coming off a disappointing league outing three days earlier, when the Quakers lost on the road to Agnes Irwin, 9-0.

“A lot of the lopsided scores we’ve had have come in games where we created some chances, but we couldn’t convert our corners and just couldn’t finish,” Grosman said. “We’ve been working with the forwards on cutting and working to get open – being more active to get the ball.”

Although Friday’s match was not a league contest, the Quakers were up to play Westtown, the team that had knocked them out of the 2013 Pennsylvania Independent Schools Tournament in the first round.

After the teams played mostly in the middle of the field for the first five minutes, Penn Charter pushed into its offensive third. The Quakers earned their first penalty corner six minutes in, and led this category 6-2 for the first period as a whole.

However, as Grosman mentioned, the visitors played tenacious defense, and PC didn’t actually get off many shots, either on its corners, or in running play. The Moose had back-to-back corners late in the half, but these also came to naught, and the intermission arrived with the score still 0-0.

Penn Charter resumed the attack as soon as the action resumed, chalking up a few more corners as senior Sophie Eldridge and junior Bella Smith spearheaded the Quakers’ assault. Westtown then generated a few minutes of offense, forcing PC senior goalie Kennedy Kline to make one of her four saves in the game. Charter reversed the flow, but still couldn’t penetrate the cage, eventually calling time-out with 15:57 left to play.

Still, it would be more than 10 more minutes until the Quakers finally solved the scoring riddle. On a corner with five-and-a-half minutes remaining, Eldridge (a Northwestern recruit) received the insertion and sent the ball down low. Her drive was blocked, but several Quakers, including junior Ellie Zimering, got their sticks on the ball to keep Westtown from clearing it out from in front of the cage. It was Harbison who applied the coup de grace and put in the winner.

“It was a real team goal, and I’m happy for Grace because she’s such a workhorse for us,” Grosman said. “Sophie was intense in the midfield, as she usually is, and today we were very strong on the left side with our two juniors, Bella and Ellie. Dolly Segal [a senior captain along with Eldridge, Harbison, and Kline] has improved tremendously. She has been a monster, and her defensive pressure has really helped us.”

Just a minute after Harbison struck, it seemed for a second that Charter had gotten an insurance goal, but on a shot by Smith from the right side of the circle, the officials ruled that the ball never crossed the goal line after hitting the left post.

The Quakers and their fans would’ve been very happy to have had a 2-0 lead at the very end of the game. Westtown made one final push, and as time ran out, the Moose were awarded a penalty corner. Even with no time remaining, a corner awarded to the losing team must be executed.

The visitors got the ball to the mouth of the goal amidst a crowd of players from both teams, and PC’s Kline, lying on the ground, struggled to keep the goal sealed while trying to avoid illegally covering the ball. This last infraction would’ve resulted in a penalty stroke, but instead a more routine foul was called and Westtown was given another corner. This time, the ball soon rolled out over the right endline off of a Westtown player, and the game finally ended.

“I’m proud of our girls, because we needed this today,” Grosman stated. “We were poised in the back, and our goalie, Kennedy, has risen to the challenge of playing with a very young defense and directing those young players where they need to be.”

At the end of the game, Grosman pointed out, three freshmen were playing in front of Kline, Lily Carpenter, Alexis Joseph, and Catherine McInerney. The overall defensive unit also includes freshman Taylor Wheeler-Yard and sophomore Christina Vahey.

Kline’s counterpart for Westtown, Hannah Weaver, made seven saves for the Moose.