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SOFTBALL: Historic Conwell-Egan Making the Entire Catholic League Proud

By John Knebels, 06/15/22, 6:45PM EDT


Photos: Lennie Malmgren, Colleen Claggett, Mark Zimmaro, Krystal Williams, Kathy Leister & Dan Hilferty

By: John Knebels

PHILADELPHIA – Conwell-Egan has garnered the most success of any softball program in the 50-plus-year history of the Philadelphia Catholic League.

But the PCL was not a member of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association until 2008, so during their PCL dominance from the early 70’s through 2007, Bishop Conwell/Conwell-Egan never had an opportunity to participate in a state final. 

Until now.

Led by crafty, no-walk pitching by junior Ahlana Sesar, a staunch defense, and a five-run fifth inning, Conwell-Egan defeated District 6 runner-up Claysburg-Kimmel, 7-2, on June 13 and became the first PCL team in history to advance to the state championship.

At 11:00 a.m. Friday, the Eagles (16-5 overall) will face undefeated District 7 champion Neshannock (25-0) at Penn State University’s Beard Field for the PIAA Class 2A crown.

“To be a part of this historic team is unbelievable,” said junior centerfielder Katey Brennan. “We are so lucky to have such a tight-knit group of girls. From the beginning of the year, we all knew this was going to be a special season.

“Our goal was to get better every game and make teams remember who we are. So far, we have accomplished that. We just need to keep it up for one more game.”

Brennan, the PCL’s Most Valuable Player, smacked a pair of doubles. Sophomore Lauren Bretzel and freshman Cecilia McBeth contributed key at bats.

A Conwell-Egan staff member sporting an inspirational team quote during the PCL championship vs. Wood - PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

Conwell-Egan junior Katey Brennan #5 - PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

With Sesar in command, their hard-hitting opponent was unable to cross home plate until the Eagles had already built a 7-0 lead heading into the home fifth. From there, Sesar kept the game simple and trusted her defense.

“I am beyond excited,” said Sesar. “Words truly cannot describe the feeling our whole entire program has right now. Knowing that we are making history really pushes us to want to take this championship home more than ever. Our hard work is paying off and this is proof of it.”

Junior right fielder Bella Palmer said the Eagles are trying to maintain their focus knowing there is one huge challenge awaiting them three hours from home. 

But that’s easier said than done.

“This is all we’ve worked for,” said Palmer. “We take one game at a time and go from there. It’s crazy to think that we’re the first PCL softball team to ever play in a state final, but it’s the best feeling in the world.

“Each of our games that we win make more history and that’s what pushes us even more. We all have been working our hardest, including our coaches, to reach this goal. Coach Hart always tells us to stay calm and collected, and that’s exactly what we did today. We hit the ball hard and had key hits. We played our defense like we know how and took home the win to go to the state finals.”

Conwell-Egan junior pitcher Ahlana Sesar #6 - PSD Photo by Mark Zimmaro

Conwell-Egan junior Bella Palmer #21- PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

Conwell-Egan finished with a 6-3 record in the Catholic League and reached the Catholic League final, losing a heartbreaking 3-2 decision against Archbishop Wood at Neumann University.

One look at the Eagles as they slowly exited the field and gathered around in a team circle displayed their depth of disappointment.

Coach Sandy Hart, who has won 10 PCL titles in her 29 seasons, gave her players one day off. Then the Eagles prepared to play in the District 12 title, and a palpable new life surfaced.

“I said, ‘Listen, this is our third season now,’” said Hart, a 1974 Bishop Conwell graduate. “There’s a saying: ‘This is where you were. This is where you are. This is where you want to be.’

“We just succeeded. We all made it count. The kids are making history.”

Conwell-Egan head coach Sandy Hart - PSD Photo by Lennie Malmgren

When Conwell-Egan arrived back in Levittown after winning Monday’s semifinal, the players partook in the school tradition of ringing a school bell, adjacent to the softball field, after a victory. Many members of the school’s football team joined in the celebration. 

“Our school staff, parents, and all of our friends have supported us so much to get here,” said Sesar. “It really shows, especially when they show up to a game two hours away to see us play.”

As the Eagles try to capture the most important victory in Philadelphia Catholic League softball history, numerous players and coaches were asked to share some positive vibes.

They were most happy to oblige. 

Lansdale Catholic Coach Paul Suder: “Conwell Egan is always one of the most consistent teams in the PCL and always well prepared. You know for sure you are going to have to play your best to beat them, and with that you may need a little luck. To me, they are like a softball factory. Every year I consider them one of the teams to beat. Sandy does a fantastic job with her teams. Lansdale Catholic softball wishes them the best of luck.”

Archbishop Carroll senior Cheyenne Niehoff: “I would honestly say that out of all our opponents this year that deserve to be far in states would definitely be Archbishop Wood and Conwell-Egan. They were the two that stuck out the most on the field. I’m very proud to see a PCL team doing so well in states, and I know that Conwell-Egan will represent the Catholic League the best. I wish them the best of luck, and I hope to see the best outcome for them as well.” 

Archbishop Carroll senior Cheyenne Niehoff #21 - PSD Photo by Dan Hilferty

St. Hubert’s coach Dan Milio: “Not surprised how well they are doing. Coach Hart runs a top-notch program and her kids buy in. When you are well coached and play the game the right way, anything is possible. Good for their program and good for our league.”

St. Hubert’s senior Gianna Grassifulli: “I think it’s great that they have a chance to go to the title and hope it is an awesome experience. I am extremely happy for them and I think everyone in this league would say the same. Yes, we are competitive in our league, but seeing a team from our league be able to play for the state championship is amazing and I can say I would root for them any day of the week.”

Archbishop Wood junior Dakota Fanelli: “It’s no surprise that Conwell-Egan made it to the state finals. They have a solid team packed with great hitters and fielders. Me and the rest of the Wood team are rooting for them to win. I hope they bring it home and show what the PCL is made of.”

Cardinal O’Hara junior Maeve Boston: “I think it’s really great that Conwell Egan has reached this level, and it just shows that Catholic League softball is continuing to get better and it is finally showing that they belong to play with the best teams in the state. I’m hoping they do well and bring it home for all Catholic League teams.”

Little Flower coach Tori Sherwood: “Conwell-Egan is a wonderful team who deserves going to the state finals. They are a very disciplined and competitive opponent to play against. I wish them the best of luck and am proud they are representing the PCL in the state finals.”

Bonner-Prendergast senior Bridie McCann: “I think it’s pretty exciting to see a Catholic League team head to the finals this year. I’m sure everyone is also excited about the history that they’re making for the PCL and wish them the best of luck.” 

Archbishop Wood coach Jackie Ecker: “It is no surprise that Conwell-Egan has made it this far in the state playoffs. They are a strong team who play together under incredible leadership by Coach Sandy Hart. I wish them the best of luck in the championship.” 

Little Flower sophomore Allie Szychulski: “I am very proud of Conwell-Egan for making it that far. Even if they are my opponents, I wish the best for them in their progress as they continue to make history for the Catholic League. They will represent the Catholic League well and make us all proud.”  

St. Hubert’s senior Gianna Grassifulli #23 - PSD Photo by Krystal Williams

Archbishop Wood junior Dakota Fanelli #8 - PSD Photo by Kathy Leister

Little Flower coach Tori Sherwood and Meagan Leary #5 - PSD Photo by Krystal Williams

Archbishop Wood head coach Jackie Ecker - PSD Photo by Lennie Mamlgren

Archbishop Ryan Coach John Kidwell: “That’s a great accomplishment for them. Sandy is a great coach who has been doing this for a long time, so I’m happy to see her and the team represent the PCL. We know first-hand how good they are with losing to them twice during the season and wish them the best of luck on Friday.”

Bonner-Prendergast Coach Tom McNulty: “Sandy is a great coach with a real good squad. I’m not surprised.”

Neumann-Goretti coach Brian Sitongia: “I think it's phenomenal. Sandy Hart is a great coach. She has the best player in the Catholic League and I wish them nothing but the very best. I’m very proud of how they are representing the Catholic League and I hope my own program could get to that level within the next few years.”

Archbishop Carroll coach Mike Lorine: “Conwell-Egan’s softball team is always so well prepared. Sandy has every player on her team not only prepared but ready to contribute. I love to play Conwell-Egan. Sandy is old-school smart and sharp as a coach, and every pitch is a battle.”

Lansdale Catholic senior Bridget Duffy: “It’s super exciting for them and the Catholic League. They are a super talented team and if anyone can do it, it’s them. It’s awesome to see a team from your league go so far. They deserve every second of this, and I wish them the best of luck.”

Neumann-Goretti coach Brian Sitongia & Caitlin Coghlan - PSD photo by Mark Zimmaro

Lansdale Catholic senior Bridget Duffy #15 - PSD Photo by Colleen Claggett

(Contact John Knebels at or on Twitter @johnknebels.)