Elise Smigiel, a six-foot GA senior headed to Marquette University, opens up her stride going through the midfield as she's marked by PC's Darcy Felter, a junior committed to the University of North …
Last week, the 2021 lacrosse schedule put the girls of Penn Charter through the wringer once more. The previous week, two tough league games had been followed by a Saturday square-off against Conestoga High School, ranked ninth in the nation at the time.
Last week, the Quakers took on traditional archrival Germantown Academy on Tuesday (winning 22-9), then played three straight games Thursday through Saturday. Bouncing non-league opponent Lawrenceville School, 15-6, on Thursday and winning an Inter-Ac League match over Baldwin School the following afternoon, 25-9, Charter was back out on the pitch Saturday afternoon to face a strong rival from New England, Sacred Heart Academy of Greenwich, Conn.
As in the bout with Conestoga exactly a week before, the Quakers faced a significant deficit early in the second half. They trailed 9-4 with 23 minutes remaining, but came back to win, 12-11, on a goal by senior Mia Ferraro (a Southern Cal signee) with 15 seconds left to play.
Junior middie Darcy Felter, who has committed to North Carolina, was credited with two goals, two assists, and four draw controls.
Asked about PC's slow start against Sacred Heart, and also against Conestoga the weekend before, she explained "It takes us a little while to get going in these big games. We have to kind of figure things out when we start out."
Head Coach Colleen Kelly suggested, "The difference in this game was that now we had the experience of being down by more than a goal or two and coming back. So now we have this belief that it's possible."
The locals ended the week with a record of 11-0-1 overall, and 6-0 within the Inter-Ac. Their exploits the previous week had boosted them to the 19th spot in last Monday's US Lacrosse Magazine's national poll.
Of Penn Charter's two Inter-Ac League games last week, the most important involved a visit to Germantown Academy on Tuesday afternoon. After a relatively slow start on the season, the young GA club had made future opponents sit up and take notice by knocking off the Academy of Notre Dame on April 13.
For the Patriots, earning that respect was rewarding, but it also meant that the PC Quakers were going to be taking things seriously when they stepped onto GA's Jordan Field. Charter put in six goals before the Patriots scored their first. With a 12-5 halftime score, the contest was not entirely out of reach for Germantown, but the Quakers rifled in three goals in as many minutes at the start of the second round, and continued on to win, 22-9.
In this contest, Quakers junior Charlotte Hodgson was squaring off against two former schoolmates from Norwood Fontbonne Academy, GA senior Elise Smigiel and her freshman sister, Lucia.
Felter and PC senior Kaylee Dyer (Michigan) each netted two early goals as Charter charged to a 6-0 lead in the first seven minutes. With eight-and-a-half minutes elapsed, Germantown Academy got on the board with a quick-stick shot by freshman Caitlin Luviano.
With 10 minutes left in the first period, the visitors were ahead 9-2, and they led 12-5 at the half after Elise Smigiel scored for GA with 25 seconds to go. The Quakers' three-goal outburst at the start of the second half made the outcome pretty much a foregone conclusion, although the young Patriots kept battling all the way through.
After Tuesday's Inter-Ac encounter, a three-game Penn Charter homestand on consecutive days started on Thursday with a non-league bout. Visiting Lawrenceville School found itself facing an uphill battle very early in the game, as the Quakers assumed an 8-1 lead in less than 15 minutes and then cruised to a 15-6 victory with six goals from Dyer.
Ferraro, a Norwood alumna, had been in COVID-19 quarantine since the previous week, and had missed the Conestoga clash and Tuesday's GA game. Back in action against Lawrenceville, she scored a hat trick, while two goals apiece were credited to Hodgson, her junior classmate Lane Murray, and freshman Grace Walter. On a relatively relaxed day in goal, Kubach and Joyce only needed to make three saves between them.
Commenting on her unwanted Coronavirus vacation, Ferraro said, "I used it as an opportunity to train on my own and get better. I worked on my right hand a lot [she's a natural lefty), on shooting harder, and being more deceptive and less predictable."
Upon returning to the field, she revealed, "My main idea was to make an impact and be a leader as a senior. It's amazing to see how everything has fallen into place on this team."
On Friday, Inter-Ac rival Baldwin also fell fairly easily. The Quakers charged to a 5-0 lead in five minutes, then eased up a little. Later in the opening period, the Bears were back within four, but PC pulled away to win after that, 25-9.
Ferraro filled the net five times, Hodgson had four goals, and Dyer, Walter, and Felter each had a hat trick. There were two goals apiece for Buckley, Murray, and sophomore Alex Glomb, and junior Grace Turner accounted for the other point. In goal, Kubach had three saves and Joyce booked two.
Saturday's match against Connecticut's Sacred Heart Academy had been a late addition to the schedule, and senior defender Maggie Turner (Harvard) and junior attacker Lane Murray had made other commitments.
It had also been decided that banged-up junior Maddie Shoup would be relived of her midfield duties to focus more on attack. Her sophomore sister, Gracie, would take the center draws for much of the game.
The Quakers knew their New England opponents would be well-coached. Sacred Heart's third-year mentor is Aly (Messinger) Costigan, a New Jersey native who played for North Carolina and was an associate head coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
After Penn Charter scored a minute into the match, Sacred Heart answered with five straight goals as the first-half clock ran down to 11:45. The Tigers kept PC keeper Kubach guessing with quick lateral passes right across the face of the goal.
At the other end, it would take the Quakers some time to learn that outside shots weren't going to be very effective against the Sacred Heart goalie.
"She had my number today," Felter admitted. "She was quick"
Penn Charter got its offense going again, but the Quakers remained a step or two behind the Tigers for the rest of the opening period. The Nutmeg State squad had the advantage in draw controls and displayed solid ball possession skills. Slight lapses in focus by the Quakers - passes thrown too short or too long or a defensive misstep - were probably the result of some accumulated fatigue at the end of two demanding weeks of competition.
Charter got back within two goals (4-6) fairly late in the half, but Sacred Heart scored again with 5:18 remaining. The visitors soon had possession of the ball once more, but during a four-minute stretch of offense, they were unable to obtain a four-goal advantage.
"Our defense really dug in and we showed that we could stop them," Felter said. "We needed that."
However, the Tigers' Coach Costigan was an ace attacker in her day, and her offense came out hot for the start of the second half. As usual, PC changed goalies at halftime, and new netminder Joyce was welcomed by two goals against her in the first two minutes. The Quakers now faced their largest deficit of the day, a five-point shortfall at 9-4.
It's hard to run on pure adrenalin for an entire game, but Charter was able to do it for the rest of this one. The Quakers' self-generated energy boost did not affect their judgment, though. Mentally, they remained composed as they worked their way back into contention.
With 21:40 left, Felter drove from the left, this time firing a bounce shot and scoring her first goal of the afternoon. Two minutes later Sacred Heart answered to make it 10-5, but the Tigers would not score again until less than 90 seconds remained in the game.
After netting the first two of six straight goals, the Quakers called time-out with 14:40 on the clock and the score 10-7. That figure stayed on the board until the time dipped under 10 minutes, then at 9:22 a Sacred Heart player was hit with a yellow card. Felter took advantage for PC's eighth goal, and after another strike by the Quakers, the Tigers called time-out, now only ahead 10-9 with 7:29 left to play.
PC pulled even with 5:26 left, when Maddie Shoup got off a descending shot that went in about knee-high inside the left post. On yet another PC approach from the left, Hodgson sent a shot past the goalie's shoulder to give the Quakers their first lead (11-10) since the second minute of the contest.
The locals came up with the subsequent draw, but then a pass that sailed high out over the sideline turned the ball over to the Tigers. The visitors tied the match at 11-11 with 1:23 on the ticker, and they had possession of the ball in Penn Charter's half as the clock dug into the final minute.
PC got the ball back and started up the field with just under 30 seconds to go, and Ferraro fired with 15 seconds left for the game-winner.
Coach Kelly said of her players, "Their goal was to go four-for-four this week, and they did it. They want the ball in the tough spots; they play with poise in clutch situations."