By: Cole Nowak
PHILADELPHIA- The Inter-Ac is one of the best soccer leagues in the state of Pennsylvania, and this contenders show it. Expect to see wire-to-wire finishes and nothing to come easy for these teams all season long. The games will involve an element of physicality, but the team who can balance it perfectly with finesse will ultimately be successful.
Let’s take a deeper look into what these teams have in store for this season.
The Episcopal Academy
2021 Record- (9-3-1 overall, 2-1 league)
This Episcopal Academy team is extremely happy to be back and have things in full swing coming off of the shortened COVID season. Throughout this campaign, the churchmen want to keep themselves in check by staying humble through the ups and downs, while being the hardest working team on the pitch for the full 80 minutes. EA is led by seniors Tristan Whitaker, Sam Malloy, and Mark Dzwonczyk who will look to bring energy, while controlling the pace through the middle of the field.
Insight from the team:
“Last year was brutal, it’s great to be back with all of the guys. Since we've been saying since the start of practice, this is a special group of guys. We are super excited for the season, and I really think we have something great here,” said Whitaker.
“Every game in the Inter-Ac is a battle, we have a very impressive league. We have teams that are unbelievably well-coached. They are very skilled, as was as the team tonight (Germantown Academy), they played a great game. It came down to one goal, we had some chances, they had some chances. We just took ours and came out with the win,” said head coach David Knox after winning the league opener 1-0 at home against Germantown Academy.
2021 record: (7-2 overall, 1-2 league)
Germantown Academy is a talented group of skilled players. When the team is able to put all three phases of the game together, they are a dangerous club. Coming into league play, the Patriots had displayed what can happen when they put it all together posting an undefeated non-league start to this season. The only team in the Inter-Ac to do so. They will be a tough opponent to any conference foe.
GA is led by senior defender Connor Wetzel, senior midfielder/forward Sean Lipschutz, and senior forward Christian Combs.
Insight from the team:
“I believe the way we move the ball and our possession is our strong suit. We definetly are not the biggest and strongest team out there, but I feel we are one of the quicker teams. I feel if we get the ball one-two touch off our feet, we will be able to find success,” said Wetzel.
“Coming from 3-14-2 when these guys were freshman, success will be defined by how far we go in states and what we do in the Inter-Ac," said GA head coach Kurt Wetzel. "These guys have not had a winning season and I believe they have a common goal in mind shared through the team. Success may not be measured by wins and losses, the Inter-Ac is one of the toughest leagues to play in as you could tell by today. Every game is going to be that way,” said Wetzel, after their hard-fought 1-0 league-opener loss to EA.
The Haverford School
2021 record: (2-6-1 overall, 1-2 league)
The Fords have a nice blend of veteran players and young talent looking to make noticeable contributions. Haverford tested themselves throughout non-league play in order to feel prepared for the strength of schedule in the Inter-Ac. They played South Kent, St. Benedict and Chaminade High School who are viewed as national powerhouses. In these contests, they hung tough and did not lose a game by more than a goal.
Haverford puts emphasis on fostering meaningful relationships between every player and coach. Their mantra “Ford Family” is emphasized throughout the team because it stands for every member’s contributions are valued.
Insight from the team:
“It feels amazing to be back, we have already played eight or nine games. We were only allowed six games last year. We were unable to build a lot of chemistry. We did not get a lot of momentum. This year with the full Inter-Ac schedule, we will be able to develop both chemistry and momentum which will lead to success. We have a great group of guys,” said senior captain Torin McClave.
“I think we have showed through our games this far that this team plays with a lot of grit and heart. It really is about just channeling that, and just learning to play with each other and for each other. And, I know we will have a great season down the line if we do that,” said McClave.
“Veteran striker and captain, Asher Laackman, heads up an offense and is joined up top by senior striker Torin McClave. The offense finds its creative fulcrum in the strong central midfield play of seniors Matt Pressler and Sam Tryon and junior Joe Pariano. The quick counter of senior winger and captain Will Kendall and sophomore Sebastian Perez-Gasiba offer a goal scoring threat from wide play. Defensively, the Fords look to continue their run of strong defensive teams with the wingback play of juniors Z Nekoumand and Andrew Kirwan and central defender sophomore Thomas Kaplan. The Fords are excited to welcome sophomore shot stopper, Connor Cresswell, who joins them from the Philadelphia Union Academy,” noted Haverford head coach Daniel Keefe when breaking down the Fords' roster this season.
2021 record- (3-4-1 overall, 1-2 league)
Malvern is an aggressive group that will look to out condition and outwork opponents this season. Malvern looks to hone in on their goal scoring, this will come through patience and capitalizing on prime scoring opportunities. Last season, the Friars went out on loan to the Philadelphia Catholic League during the Covid pandemic but are back to the Inter-Ac as they eye up a winning season.
Insight from the team:
“After not being in the Inter-Ac last year, it really hurts not playing in the Inter-Ac. I am really looking forward to every single game this season, our first Inter-Ac win, a few goals maybe,” said senior Colin Krause. “Our main goal is to be a contender in the Inter-Ac, its tough. Every team is good, every game will be a battle. But I believe our team will be a contender and not have a bunch of pointless games by the end of the season,” added Krause.
“The team is very close, the culture is strong. There is a good mix of seasoned, year-round soccer players and multi-sport athletes that creates an environment in which players are developing game by game. We have a strong backline with solid aerial challenges and players that move from zone to man-to-man marking very well. The midfielders read the game well and adjust based on the needs of the game. Our forwards are young, creative and impactful,” said Malvern Prep head coach Susan Barr.
Providing a strong defense are seniors Johnny Diederich and Kody Kolar and senior Gavin DiEgidio and sophomore Rhett Bower lead power to the offense.
“The 2020 season was clearly about gratitude that we were able to play 9 games. 2021 is about relishing the competition and trying to win every game. I look forward to every day on the pitch with these players, particularly the seniors whose leadership is always evident,” said Barr.
William Penn Charter
2021 Record: (1-6-1 overall, 1-2 league)
This edition of the 2021 Quakers brings a grind it out mentality. This was showcased in their double OT 2-1 victory against Haverford on Friday Oct. 8th. This game was filled with immense physicality, but the Quakers stayed level-headed and pushed through adversity on the way to their first win of the season. PC’s home crowd went crazy and stormed the field to celebrate the win with their team. This may be exactly what the Quakers need to get going in a positive direction. Penn Charter head coach Bob DiBenedetto creates a fun culture for this club, while keeping them focused match in and match out.
Insight from the team:
“Since August, we have battled every day and the games just have not went our way," said senior captain Jason Stern. "To finally get our first win, it is a huge win and puts us back in front of the Inter-Ac. Every game is a battle, does not matter first place or last place, home or away. Every game is a war,” Stern added.
“They have been positive, positive things will happen as you saw today and the other day at Springside. Positive things will happen, we are just going to keep the momentum running. We are a friendly team; everyone gets along with each other. The practices are fun, and you really just need to believe. Just believe you can win games,” said DiBenedetto.
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy
2021 record: (7-6 overall, 3-0 league)
Entering the 2021 season as the favorites to top the league, SCHA is ready for the challenge. This team believes that every detail is important. These Blue Devils look to hold themselves to a standard on and off the field while keeping a positive energy that will rattle through the club. This team is stocked with talent that is in prime condition coming off of a summer season where their clubs made runs at regional and national tournaments.
Insight from the team:
“Defensively. we have done well, three shutouts so far in the Inter-Ac. The area we need to work on is definitely finishing, if we finish, we will be a great team and have really great potential in an attempt to win states and the rest of the Inter-Ac,” said senior captain RT Gentner. “We have a great group of guys. Everyone comes in ready to play with intensity and everyone wants to be here and loves soccer,” added Gentner.
“Considering what happened last season, we need to appreciate each game, each training session, each touch on the ball that we get to have with one another. We also need to be conscious of the fact that the pandemic rages on as well and to be realistic in knowing that all of this could end at a moment's notice. As such, we need to make sure we are doing our best to stay in the moment and do the best we can with every opportunity we get,” said SCHA head coach Brian Zalasky.
“We have a strong senior core, with two having successful club team experiences over the summer which saw them advance to Regionals and Nationals. Specifically, Sean Stackhouse, RT Gentner, Casey Baker, and Mojé Badejoko will hopefully provide a strong spine to our squad and build off the successes of their freshmen and sophomore seasons. (PAISAA State Championship in 2018 and an Inter-Ac League title in 2019). We also have a strong mix of youth to boot, including juniors Daniel Heep, Colin Woehlcke, Ryan White and others," said Zalasky.
Tuesday, Oct. 5th
Germantown Academy 0, Episcopal Academy 1
Malvern Prep 1, Haverford 2
Penn Charter 0, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy 1
Thursday, Oct. 7th
Haverford 1, Penn Charter 2 OT
Springside Chestnut Hill Academy 1, Germantown Academy 0
Tuesday, Oct. 12th
Haverford 0, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy 1
Penn Charter 0, Episcopal Academy 1
Malvern Prep 1, Germantown Academy 4
Upcoming fixtures (all games at 4:00pm)
Friday, Oct. 15th
Episcopal Academy @ Springside Chestnut Hill Academy
Malvern Prep @ Penn Charter
Germantown Academy @ Haverford
Tuesday, Oct. 19th
Haverford @ Episcopal Academy
Penn Charter @ Germantown Academy
Springside Chestnut Hill @ Malvern Prep