by Tom Utescher

Kristina Kubach of Penn Charter (left) tries to impede the progress of Germantown Academy’s Nicole Gilmore (#2), while Sarah Armato (#13) comes up on the play from behind and Hannah Fox closes in from the right. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

No titles were on the line in last Friday’s soccer match at Penn Charter. Still, the Quakers’ guest was traditional rival Germantown Academy, and the winner of the game would be positioned in second place after Episcopal Academy at the end of the first round of Girls Inter-Ac League competition.

On paper, it looked like this could be a pitched battle. PC had the home field advantage (and on grass, instead of GA’s turf), but the visiting Patriots had tied defending league champ Episcopal, 1-1, while Charter had succumbed to the Churchwomen by a 2-1 score.

In reality, Friday’s encounter was not as close as those other league clashes. Freshmen Hannah Fox and Jlon Flippens gave the Quakers a 2-0 halftime lead, and a marker by senior Kelly Kubach put PC up 3-0 in the middle of the second half before GA tri-captain Maddie Stambaugh got the Patriots on the board with 16-and-a-half minutes left to play. Charter junior Lauren Dimes answered the visitors’ goal just two minutes later for the 4-1 final.

Although his squad had been edged out by Episcopal just two days earlier, Quakers coach Eddie Mensah felt his ballclub was ready for a breakout performance.

Following Friday’s contest, he noted “We actually had more scoring chances and more corners against Episcopal than we did today. We did everything except finish in that game; we only got the one.”

The Quakers have had relatively few seniors on the roster over the past several seasons, and while there are still some young players suiting up for the varsity, PC is more mature and experienced as a team than it’s been in some time.

“We have a lot of girls who have been with us for a couple of years, and the team we’ve been trying to build is coming together,” Mensah said. “Our talent level is starting to show. We had two freshmen, a junior, and a senior score for us today, and that’s one of the things that makes us dangerous right now – that if you mark somebody, somebody else can score, and then somebody else after that. If we get more clinical with our finishing, we can make some waves in the league.”

Both teams enjoyed spurts of activity on offense in the opening stage of Friday’s game, and 10 minutes in, GA began to gear up for a corner kick only to have a rather belated offsides call cancel the restart.

On a subsequent Penn Charter sortie into enemy territory, the Quakers took the ball up towards the left corner and then sent a cross into the middle. Fox made a well-timed run onto the ball in the center of the box and scored the game’s opening goal with 31:19 left in the first half.
Four minutes later, the electronic scoreboard at the field shut down and the passage of time became a subject for speculation for those without timer functions on their watches. Through the middle of the opening period Germantown seemed a little sluggish in its ballhandling and lost possession due to aggressive marking by the Quakers.

“We didn’t possess as well as we usually do, and that threw us off our game,” observed GA coach Chris Nelson. “We were never able to sort out that part of our game today. We didn’t know a lot about Penn Charter coming in – they played a good game of soccer and obviously they did a great job of finishing today.”

Later on, GA showed signs of life, but couldn’t level the score. The Pats had a long free kick that was served well into the box, but after two players headed the ball up in the air, no one got off a legitimate shot. Instead, Charter entered the intermission with a 2-0 lead, following a play that developed with a little over two minutes to go in the half. Emma Ebert, senior co-captain of the Quakers along with Kubach, made a throw-in from the left sideline not far from the corner. Stepping onto the field, she got the ball back from Dimes and then hit it across into the box, where Flippens converted for the goal.

Despite the PC advantage, GA senior back Nicole Gilmore was turning in a solid defensive performance, and the situation would’ve been worse if not for her and her classmate Natalie Toner, the team’s veteran goalkeeper. Toner (who recorded nine saves), is a team tri-captain for the Patriots, as are Stambaugh and defender Lauren Budinsky.

Although these particular 12th graders haven’t finalized their college plans yet, one senior on each team has already determined that she’ll play a sport besides soccer in college. Charter’s Kubach will soon sign a letter of intent to play lacrosse at the University of Michigan, and the Patriots’ Fran Sweeney, a midfielder in soccer and a guard in basketball, will play the latter sport at Emory University.

As the second half unfolded on Friday, PC junior Kristina Kubach (Kelly’s sister) sent a lead pass to classmate Julia Casasanto, who fired a long shot that tracked wide to the right of the Germantown goal. GA came back for a corner kick, and after a few bounces in the box, the ball was headed just over the PC crossbar by junior KerryAnn Lawlor. About 10 minutes in, the Quakers’ Dimes went off on a break across the Patriots’ 18 yard line, but had the ball prodded away from her by Gilmore.

Dimes eventually got her goal, but it would come after a marker by Kelly Kubach, who settled the ball in the box just right of center, then fired to the left side of the visitors’ net to make it 3-0 with a little over 20 minutes remaining in the game.

Around four minutes later, GA avoided a shutout by PC senior keeper Ashleigh Brown (six saves). PC’s Kelly Kubach made the initial stop on a corner kick by the Patriots, but GA kept the ball inside the 18. It was sent inside from near the left endline and Stambaugh laid into the ball from beyond the right post to ring up the goal.

Charter recouped that point pretty quickly on perhaps the prettiest scoring play of the afternoon, as Dimes dribbled the ball down almost to the right endline and deftly shot it in from a very difficult angle. The final score of 4-1 went up on the resuscitated scoreboard with 14:19 left to play.

Afterwards, Quakers mentor Mensah said he was happy to see elements his players had labored on in practice contribute to the victory.
“The two things we talked about most were passing the ball well and really competing for 50/50 balls,” he related. “In one way or another, all our goals today were the result of our passing. That has gotten much better since the pre-season, and so has our movement off-the-ball. It’s the kind of thing where you don’t see the results immediately; you see it when you get to a certain level, and we’re starting to reach that.”
In seeking to maintain that degree of ball control, Charter be challenged in the second round of Inter-Ac games simply due to the fact that every one of them will be played on the road.

GA was 3-1-1 in the league following Friday’s setback, having postponed its first meeting with Springside Chestnut Hill due to last Tuesday’s drenching rain. The Pats will make up that game and play everyone in the Inter-Ac a second time. Aside from the lapse at Penn Charter, Coach Nelson was generally happy with the way his club has competed.

“It’s a good tough league,” he said, “and it’ll be interesting to see what happens when we have a second go at people.”