Penn Charter’s Priyanka Jain (left) vies for the ball with Morgan Rotelle of Norwood Fontbonne Academy. (Photo by Chris Thistle)

Penn Charter’s Priyanka Jain (left) vies for the ball with Morgan Rotelle of Norwood Fontbonne Academy. (Photo by Chris Thistle)

by Tom Utescher

What started out looking like a lopsided middle school lacrosse match turned into a good game last Thursday, when the girls of Norwood Fontbonne Academy ventured down to School House Lane to take on the Quakers of Penn Charter.

PC led 9-2 with a minute remaining in the first period, but the visiting Bears slipped one in before halftime, then continued to score after the interlude, eventually succumbing by a respectable score of 12-9. Penn Charter, which has faced a spate of tough Inter-Ac League opponents, improved to 2-5 on the season overall, while Norwood, which plays in the Girls Catholic Academies League, was 2-3 overall after Thursday’s non-league setback.

Charter, which never trailed, went up 2-0 in the first four minutes on markers by Annika Murray and Emma Wilson, then Maddie Burns broke the ice for Norwood with five minutes and 22 seconds elapsed. PC got rolling again two minutes later, with Avery Myers assisting on a successful bounce shot by Murray.

Norwood goalie Elysha Rice (eight saves) stopped a shot by PC’s Wilson, but Wilson then fed the ball from behind to set up a goal by Priyanka Jain. Consecutive strikes by Leah Sax were sandwiched around an NFA time-out, and the Quakers led 6-1 a little over nine minutes before halftime.

Norwood received two goals from Molly Visco before the period expired, the last one with 10 seconds to go. However, Charter had added points by Jain, Murray, and Kaylee Dyer, and enjoyed a six-point lead during the halftime huddle.

In the second round, a more determined Norwood squad improved its ball possession performance and climbed back into contention. Burns and Sonja Bjornson gave the visitors a pair of goals in the first five minutes, but Stella Singer and Hannah Kuper answered for Penn Charter.

Next, a Bears goal angled in from the left by Hannah Dowling was countered by Jain’s third marker of the day for the home team, making it 12-6 with a dozen minutes remaining in the game.

After that Norwood’s Burns completed a hat trick of her own, but the next NFA shot, fired by Catharine Walter, was turned aside by Charter goalie Hayley Hunt (seven saves). A little later, a ball originating from the stick of Norwood’s Olivia Malen deflected into the Quakers’ cage off of a PC defender, and it was a four-goal game (12-8) with five minutes to go.

The Quakers’ total remained unchanged as NFA’s Rice made back-to-back saves. At the other end, Hunt foiled an attempt by Malen, but after that, Norwood notched the last goal of the day. Converting off the rebound of a teammate’s shot, the Bears’ Visco stuffed in her third goal with 1:57 on the clock, setting the final tally at 12-9.

While Penn Charter boasts an experienced, well-established coaching staff, a weakness in the NFA program has been its seemingly annual changes in command. This year, the Bears are performing for Susan Merlini, a former player at Gwynedd Mercy Academy. Merlini also has a regular teaching position at Norwood, so it’s hoped that she will be able to stay around and bring some continuity to the NFA stick squad.