Quakers juniors Sabrina Shaffer (center) and Ava Coyle (right) keep an eye on Notre Dame High scorer Mia Leonhardt. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

Out along Sproul Road in Villanova, the Penn Charter Quakers saw their 2019 field hockey season come to an end last Monday with a 9-0 loss to the Academy of Notre Dame in the opening round of the Pennsylvania Independent Schools championships.

Seeded sixth for the postseason tournament, PC was encountering number three Notre Dame at exactly the wrong time, as the Irish were angry. Late in the Inter-Ac season, they had lost to Episcopal Academy and then to Germantown Academy, and the league championship had been on the line at the time of the Episcopal game.

Episcopal, seeded second for the PAIS tournament behind The Hill School, won its opening-round game over Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, 5-0, to end the season of the seventh-seeded Blue Devils.

In PC’s swan song last week, four Notre Dame goals came from Mia Leonhardt, a senior who will sign with the University of North Carolina. She knocked in the first two goals of the day, opened the second-half scoring and added her final goal with 11 seconds remaining in the game.

Down 2-0, the Quakers were awarded their first penalty corner with a little under six minutes elapsed, but did not get off a clean shot. On a corner at the other end, Riley Gillin gave the Irish a 3-0 lead with 21:59 remaining in the first half. PC called timeout, but less than a minute after play resumed, Notre Dame received its fourth goal from Vivi Trumpbour.

The Quakers earned a corner soon after that, but as with some opportunities later on, they couldn’t quite finish. They would force Irish goalkeeper Paige Kieft to make six saves in the contest.

A marker by Sophia Amos gave the hosts a 5-0 advantage at halftime. She would score again in the second period, when Leonhardt would add her last two goals and Abby D’Anjolell added the other point. At least the PC sticksters who will be returning next season won’t have to deal with most of these Irish players again; the only AND scorer who was not a senior was D’Anjolell, a junior.

Penn Charter sophomore Darcy Felter (right) tips the ball over the stick of Notre Dame’s Evelyn O’Neill. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

Zora Johnson, PC’s 11th-grade goalie, made eight saves.

Almost every team involved in postseason play sees its season end with a defeat. As the Quakers’ season concluded, they could look back on some tangible improvements made by the team during in the 2019 campaign.

A number of PC’s games against some of the traditional powers in the league had been closer than in years past. They placed fifth in the Inter-Ac, and one of their matches against fourth-place Agnes Irwin was only a 2-1 setback. They fell by a 1-0 score to defending league champion GA.

“I think a willingness to learn had a lot to do with that,” commented second-year head coach Maiyah Brown. “They were ready to get better. Even then, I don’t think we showed our best game in some of those close losses. We still have more potential.”

After sparse numbers in some recent seasons, 45 girls turned out for the upper school squads back in August.

“Usually you expect to see a number of them drop out, but almost everybody stayed with it, came to practices and worked hard,” Brown said.

Teams like Notre Dame and Inter-Ac champion Episcopal have many year-round field hockey players on the roster, and it’s no secret that PC could use more of them. Brown noted that an increasing number of PC athletes are expressing an interest in joining club teams, and she said she will work with other players in a more organized training program than in the past.

“Being at the school for two years now, I’m becoming more involved outside of just the school season,” the Quakers’ skipper said. “When you have people continue to train after the season, it shows on the field.”