by Tom Utescher
Late in last Tuesday’s Inter-Ac League soccer match at Germantown Academy, the host Patriots were still striving to score one goal, while the visiting Quakers of Penn Charter were working for one more goal.
Neither ballclub achieved those objectives, but PC came away with a 1-0 victory in the game thanks to junior Conrad Williams’ marker with 13 minutes left in the first half.
Charter departed with a record of 3-1-1 in the Inter-Ac, while a relatively young GA squad was still searching for its first league victory, at 0-4-1.
There is a greater than usual degree of parity among the top teams in the league. One of PC’s wins in the first round of the schedule came against league leader Malvern Prep, which owns a victory over defending champ Haverford School. Still, Quakers head coach Bob DiBenedetto was not satisfied with his team’s performance at GA last week.
“I wanted to see us score another goal, because that really would’ve put the game away,” he said. “I think we had too many good opportunities not to have a second goal.
“I’ll take the ‘W’, but I wasn’t happy with a lot of things,” he continued. “When we win, it’s just on talent, and not with a lot of heart. This team doesn’t seem to have the drive, the urgency, of some of our other teams. That’s what’s missing, because we have the talent to be leading the league right now.”
The parity within the Inter-Ac has not been lost on GA skipper Chris Fehrle.
He noted, “Bobby and I were saying before the game that a team that could put two good weeks together could almost have a stranglehold on the championship.”
The big obstacle for his Patriots has been lack of offensive production.
“We have not scored a goal in the league since our opening game against Springside Chestnut Hill [a 3-3 tie],” Fehrle lamented. “The thing that’s been frustrating for the team in general is that we’ve been creating some good opportunities.
“We just need the composure to tuck one away and take some pressure off ourselves,” he went on. “It’s a learning process for us, because we play a lot of sophomores, and only a few of them got good varsity minutes as freshmen.”
GA junior Frank Koons put in a lot of hard work on the right wing all afternoon, and helped lead some early rushes by the Patriots. A serve into the box by the Pats was headed away by Charter sophomore Connor Sullivan, and later a close-range opportunity for Germantown slipped away when sophomore Harrison Combs misfired, striking the ball at an odd angle.
Charter pushed up on offense into the right corner a few times, but couldn’t put a good playable ball into the box. Junior Christian Lemmo charged up the middle with the ball after that, but was roped in by a GA double-team.
When the Patriots were awarded a direct kick a little outside the 18 in the middle of the field, the ball cleared the PC wall but then dipped down into the arms of the Quakers’ junior goalkeeper, Jay Jennings.
With 13-and-a-half minutes left in the period, Penn Charter worked the ball up along the right wing and senior Drew Shaifer sent it forward to Williams, who hit a long hard shot over into the left side of the Germantown goal. A point went up on the visitors’ side of the board with 13:25 remaining in the first half, and the score never changed after that. Shaifer had a decent chance of his own just before the intermission, but fired a little wide to the left.
Both teams made attacks early in the second half, and with five minutes gone another attempt by Shaifer was stopped by Patriots keeper Steve Combs, a senior. The Quakers harmlessly floated a corner kick high across the front of the cage, and remained on the offensive. Junior Max Jacobs spearheaded two charges around 10 minutes in; on the first one senior Nikki Roman cleared the ball for GA, and on the second Jacobs was called offsides as he chased after a through ball booted by senior Harrison Williams, Conrad’s brother.
In the middle of the period, GA headed a ball outside the left post of the Quakers’ cage, and at the far end Charter slammed a shot over the crossbar. Each team continued to create openings on offense, but neither could score.
With less than four minutes to go it appeared that the Quakers’ Shaifer was taken down over in the right side of the box, but after seeming to think about making a call, the official held his whistle. When the PC senior objected to a call against him a little later, he received the maximum penalty, a red card ejection (and the accompanying one-game suspension) with 58 seconds left to play. GA had time to travel to the other end of the field and earn a corner kick, but on the restart the ball was lobbed into the middle and caught by Charter’s Jennings as time expired.
While the Quakers’ DiBenedetto was disappointed that his offense couldn’t acquire an insurance goal, he wasn’t surprised that Jennings and the defense were able to grind out a one-point win.
“That’s what keeps this team together,” he said, praising the work done in the center by Sullivan, Conrad Williams, and freshman Billy Melnick, and the efforts of junior Dylan Schwartz and sophomore Griffin Barnes on the outside.