SCH junior Savannah Sweitzer (left) is about to score the first of her three goals in last Wednesday’s game. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

The meeting between Penn Charter and Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in girls’ lacrosse was expected to be a close contest, and that’s the way things shook out last Wednesday. The score was tied three times before the visiting PC Quakers took a three-goal lead with under 10 minutes remaining in the game. The Blue Devils deposited two late goals, but Charter held on for a 7-6 victory.

Penn Charter, which received two goals apiece from senior Greer Guyer and sophomore Vanessa Ewing, leveled its overall record at 3-3.

“Defensively we played a very good game,” commented PC head coach Colleen Magarity. “Offensively, we’re not quite clicking yet. We need to move the ball a little faster and find the holes.”

Despite a hat trick from junior Savannah Sweitzer, SCH slipped to 2-3.

The Blue Devils had played in chilly wet conditions the previous day, defeating Inter-Ac League rival Baldwin School, 10-9.

After the PC game, Springside Chestnut Hill head coach Kasey Mock pointed out, “We played back-to-back games, and we have a lot of double roster (varsity and JV) players, so a lot of them played the equivalent of four games in two days. I proud of how they held up.”

With Wednesday’s outcome, SCH was 1-2 in the league, having opened up with a setback against the Academy of Notre Dame last month. PC (1-1) had started its Inter-Ac campaign with a loss to Agnes Irwin.

SCH had just gotten senior Catherine Cooney back off the injury list, but talented junior Kianah Watson was still out of action. Charter was relatively healthy after working through a few nicks back in March.

The Quakers didn’t have a specific game plan for SCH, since as Magarity explained “I just wanted us to focus on playing our own game, because with spring break and some other things, this is the first time we’ve had everyone back together.”

On Wednesday, midday rains had passed through and the sun was shining at game time, but there were strong gusts of wind which toppled one of the goal cages at one point.

Two-and-a-half minutes in, Guyer got the visitors on the board as she converted off of a free position on the left side of the arc. SCH goalie Delaney Sweitzer (Savannah’s twin sister) stopped a dump shot by the Quakers soon after that, but with nine minutes elapsed PC went up 2-0 on a sidearm whip from the right by freshman Kaylee Dyer.

The Blue Devils broke the ice with 14:25 remaining in the first half, when Savannah Sweitzer fed the ball from behind the cage to the scorer, sophomore Maggie Pearson. With 3:31 to go in the half, Sweitzer finished a long drive up the middle with the tying goal for Springside Chestnut Hill, and it was still 2-2 at the intermission.

Leah Sax (center), a PC sophomore, drives between two Blue Devil defenders. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

A young SCH defense (with the exception of senior Grace Rorke) had held up well through some long stretches of offensive possession for the Quakers.

“We’ve got a freshman and two sophomores starting back there, and we played really solid team defense,” Mock remarked. “That’s our focus, playing together and everyone doing their job.”

As in the first half, PC’s Guyer initiated the scoring in the second stanza. Sweitzer and her SCH junior classmate Catie Brook then deposited back-to-back goals to give the hosts their lone lead of the game, 4-3.

PC’s Lexi Joseph, a senior who committed to Duke University as a 10th- grader, came up from the defense to even things up at 4-4 with just over 15 minutes left to play.

The Blue Devils had an opportunity to regain the lead during a Penn Charter penalty in the middle of the period, but during that stretch the ball was mostly in the visitors’ sticks. Very soon after the two sides were back even, SCH had a player sent to the box with 11:35 left to play.

The Quakers capitalized with a scoring sequence that spanned the age spectrum on the team. Guyer, the senior bound for Fairfield University, assisted on a strike by eighth-grader Darcy Felter, and with 11:06 on the clock, Penn Charter had taken the lead for good, 5-4.

A minute later, PC sophomore goalie Hayley Hunt preserved her team’s edge by stopping a strong shot by Blue Devils junior Riley Redpath.

Charter reinforced its lead when Ewing put in consecutive goals with 9:19 and 8:21 on the ticker. Both times, she faded out to the right a little as she approached the crease, then shot into the top left corner.

The Quakers’ total of seven goals was now in the books, but exactly two minutes later SCH freshman Brooke Prochniak approached the right edge of the arc and fired a bounce shot for the Blue Devils’ fifth marker. Sharing center draw duties with sophomore Dakota Carter, the 5’10” Prochniak no longer looks like a ninth-grader on the field.

“She’s figuring it out and settling into her role,” Mock said. “There’s a lot of potential there.”

SCH was now back within two points of the leaders, and Delaney Sweitzer kept the hosts in it by turning aside shots by PC freshman Mia Ferraro (a Norwood Fontbonne Academy graduate) and by Joseph.

On defense, the Blue Devils’ Mock noted, “We didn’t want to just sit back on the eight [meter arc]; we wanted to pressure them and try to get the ball on the ground and go after the 50/50 ball.”

SCH got the gap down to one goal with 1:52 remaining. Savannah Sweitzer started from a free position on the outside and ran into traffic as she began to drive laterally through the arc. While falling, she flung the ball at the cage and found the back of the net.

PC skipper Magarity wasn’t surprised that the Blue Devils fought back hard.

“They’re a competitive team and they’re not just going to go away,” she said. “We needed to not help them by turning the ball over on passes. We have to keep working on improving our transition.”

With the score now 7-6, Springside Chestnut Hill was soon back up on offense, but PC’s Hunt came up with a big save on a low shot by Prochniak with just over a minute to go. The Quakers began to clear the ball out of the defensive half and then lost it close to midfield.

SCH went back on attack, but the ball came loose again. Ewing scooped it up for PC, then handed it off to Hunt in the goal circle as the final seconds ticked away.

Hunt was credited with five saves in the match, and Sweitzer had eight for the Blue Devils.