by Tom Utescher

Last Friday, defending Girls Inter-Ac League lacrosse champion Episcopal Academy was ramping up its level of play in anticipation of a showdown with challenger Notre Dame the following week, and the victim of the Churchwomen’s heightened intensity was host Penn Charter.

Priya Sivalingam of Penn Charter (left) pursues a fellow sophomore, Episcopal Academy’s Meghan Hubley. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

PC hung with Notre Dame in a recent 15-12 loss to the Irish, and Notre Dame only lost to Episcopal by a single goal in their first meeting, but Charter has struggled when engaging EA head-to-head. Their first game ended 12-5 and last week’s rematch found the teams farther apart, with a 15-3 final tally.

“They’re really talented and their speed of play is much faster than most teams in the area,” pointed out the Quakers’ Blaine Steinberg, a senior tri-captain for PC along with Kate Higgins and Liz Wills. “Ball possession was really tough; they pressure the ball better than any other team in our league, so on attack it’s hard to just make your simple passes around the eight [meter arc]. We got a little frazzled going up against a team that pressures out like that.”

The Quakers were just coming off a 12-7 victory over Friends Central in the first round of the Pa. Independent School Tournament, notching their second win over the Phoenix this season. Friday’s outcome gave Charter an overall record of 9-7 overall and 4-6 in the Girls Inter-Ac. PC’s last two league games come against teams they defeated in the first round of Inter-Ac bouts, Agnes Irwin (16-9) and Springside (16-7).

“We just want to finish out strong,” said Steinberg, who will play college lacrosse at Dartmouth. “We want to keep getting better and help the younger kids to develop.”

Higgins, who’s headed for Gettysburg, launched Charter’s first shot in Friday’s match against Episcopal (13-4 overall, 10-0 league), but her stick was checked by a defender at the last moment and the attempt missed. The Churchwomen made the initial mark on the scoreboard with four-and-a-half minutes elapsed, getting the first of six goals from midfielder Taylor Trimble, a Duke-bound senior who will play on the U.S. Under-19 Team at the world championships in Germany this summer.

Over the next few minutes, Trimble dished out two assists and scored a second goal of her own, moving the Churchwomen ahead 4-0 with 14:29 remaining in the opening period.
After first-year Penn Charter coach Mary Fran Riffel called a time-out, the Quakers captured the next draw and scored their first goal of the day, with Steinberg feeding the ball from behind the cage to scorer Julia Fleming, a freshman. That point went up on the board with 12:38 left in the half, but by the time the clock was down to 10:53, Episcopal had gotten off another four-goal burst to make it 8-1.

A minute later, PC’s Fleming sent a long pass inside to sophomore Emma Ebert, who dodged a defender and scored. Ebert then assisted a goal by Steinberg, who made a cut from the middle across the right post and hit the near side of the net. It was now 8-3 with 7:52 to go before halftime, but Penn Charter fans would not see their squad score again. The Churchwomen found the net twice before the break for a 10-3 tally.

At the other end of the field, the Episcopal defense kept close watch on Steinberg, clearly aware that she was one of the Quakers’ most dangerous attackers.

“I’ve played club ball with a lot of their girls and I’ve also played on some national tournament teams with them, so we know one another very well,” she commented.

In the second period EA added another half-dozen goals for a 16-3 final. Charter had scoring chances, but saw some promising shots turned aside by sophomore keeper Lindsey Reder, an Episcopal sophomore who finished with 12 saves. PC’S Kelly Kubach, also a sophomore but a first-year goalie, made nine stops in the game.

Episcopal’s Trimble was the high scorer by far, with junior Ali Singley and sophomore Kristen Hinckley adding two goals apiece and six other players contributing single strikes.
Despite the lopsided final score, Steinberg felt the Quakers could find a way to profit from the experience.

“We have a lot of young players and I think it’s good for them to play against girls like these,” she said. “They need to learn to handle that type of pressure, so that when they get older hopefully it’s Penn Charter that’ll be doing that to other teams.”