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BOYS & GIRLS SOCCER: Inter-Ac Update, Agnes Irwin Earns Key Victory Over Springside Chestnut Hill, Penn Charter and Haverford Share First Place (Week of 10/16)

By Jeremy Goode, 10/26/23, 1:00PM EDT


By: Jeremy Goode

PHILADELPHIA - The Agnes Irwin Owls solidified themselves as the number two team in the Inter-Ac League, as they escaped Springside Chestnut Hill on Oct. 17 with a 1-0 win thanks to a Payton Quinones goal during the 83rd minute. 

What might be even more impressive is how the goal happened, thanks to strategic coaching from the Owl’s head coach, Namit Deshpande, as he pulled the co-senior captain Quinones during the 76th minute for one last 10-minute rally. After a two-minute break on the sidelines, Quinones re-entered the game with just over 10 minutes remaining in the scoreless, defensive, chess-like match between two teams looking to claim second place in conference play. 

Four minutes into their last-effort push in regulation, Quinones, Deshpande, and the entire Agnes Irwin team would be rewarded, as Quinones would take a loose ball from teammate Colby Costa in front of the net, shoot on net which SCH goalkeeper Gracyn Lee-Torchiana defended, as Quinones would follow her rebounded shot and finish with a second shot, this time going to the back of the net. 

“Payton is one of those kids where I’m really just so proud of how hard she works out on the field,” Deshpande said. “She had moments where the game was not going her way, and I knew she just needed those two minutes to get her head straight. And then she got out on the field and took care of business.” 

For Quinones, it was a thrilling moment for her in her soccer career, and the most important play in winning a crucial game for Agnes Irwin. 

“I’m just really excited,” Quinones said. “It was getting late in the game and scoring that was so exciting. We just had to finish off the game, and we got the result, so it was good.” 

It may have been the biggest moment of the game, but a persistent Owls team paved the way for that goal from the beginning of the match. Nearly 10 minutes into the contest, Quinones set up Dylan Ohm with a pass to the left sideline, and Ohm used the Blue Devils baseline to force a corner kick. The corner itself got thru in front of the net, but Lee-Torchiana was able to fall on the loose ball to contain this Owls attack. 

Agnes Irwin would continue their offensive push five minutes later, and Lily Fusco moved the ball around strategically inside the 18, giving Sydney Strulson and other teammates opportunities to get a shot on goal. 

With 16 minutes remaining until half time, the Owls were able to run a play off of a free kick, putting up a strong shot on goal that was saved. With 18 seconds left in the half, Campbell Collins took an uncontested, last second deep shot from 25 yards out that went wide left to end the half. 

“I thought the way we ended the first half, we were really happy with the way we were playing soccer,” Deshpande said. “We started the first half really strong; we had our chances out there. Unfortunately, they did not go our way but the girls stuck to it and were able to get the result at the end.” 

The second half would see Agnes Irwin control the ball and keep it deep into Blue Devils territory. Fusco, Campbell, Costa, and Ohm, and Kelsey Young would put up convincing shots, all eventually being denied.

Based on the Owl’s performance in the first half as well as the second half, it was clear their offensive push could eventually  be rewarded, even going into the 70th minute and beyond. 

Quinones finally had her moment in front of Springside Chestnut Hill’s net, as she followed her initial shot to send Agnes Irwin home with a crucial Inter-Ac win, solidifying themselves as the number two team in the conference. 

Goalie Lindsey Reidenbach would record the clean sheet , giving a performance Agnes Irwin needed more than ever. Reidenbach faced a talented Blue Devils attack, and was responsible for saving several shots and standing tall in net without letting up any goals. 

Lindsey Reidenbach Interview

Payton Quinones Interview

Even with her strong play between the goalposts, Reidenbach would not refer to herself, instead noting the strong play in front of her in the backline. 

“They’re a great line; so many talented players,” Reidenbach said. “Our defense after our goal was lock down. Abby Ballinger really just holds it together back there.” 

The Springside Chestnut Hill team has won many of its conference games with high goal scoring, and Agnes Irwin was able to contain the Blue Devils scorers pretty well. Springside Chestnut Hill had a few convincing chances, but for the most part, were contained nicely throughout the match.

“The backline does a really good job of communicating and I think that’s the key to our success,” Reidenbach said. “It takes the stress off me knowing that I have them in the back.”

To say Agnes Irwin is on a run is not doing the team from Rosemont, Pa. any justice. Last year, the Owls finished with a .500 record in the Inter-Ac League.

This year, they are currently 6-2-1 in league play after losing to Penn Charter 2-1 on Oct. 20th and rebounding against Baldwin 5-3 on Oct. 24th.

For Deshpande, this game against Springside Chestnut Hill really represented Agnes Irwin’s season. 

“I keep telling the seniors they have worked so hard to get here; our season so far has been so good…” Deshpande said. “I was trying to keep them on track and let them know that this game is so important for their hopes of trying to get to that first-place spot.” 

After 80 minutes of game play, Deshpande can say that hard work has paid off for this experienced Agnes Irwin team. 

“They came out, they really truly executed,” Deshpande said. “Their bounce back from Episcopal was an awesome one, and we are hoping to get another shot at them in the future.” 

Around the League

Episcopal Academy beat Notre Dame on Oct. 20, 3-1. It was the first goal Episcopal has let up in league play. The goal itself was an own goal with two minutes remaining. Maya Bright, Quin Whitaker, and Ava Novelli all scored. Whitaker, Bright, and Devon Stewart recorded an assist. EA outshot Notre Dame 30-10.  The Churchwomen went on to defeat Germantown Academy on Oct. 24, 6-0.

Episcopal remains perfect in Inter-Ac play with a 10-0 league record, and is the outright 2023 Inter-Ac Champion (more on this to come!!). The Churchwomen conclude regular season play on the road against Springside Chestnut Hill tomorrow evening at 7:15 p.m. 

Penn Charter defeated Agnes Irwin on Oct. 20, 2-1. Claire Ballinger scored for Agnes Irwin and was assisted by Kelsey Young.

Penn Charter earns Tie at Haverford, scoring equalizer in second half

With the two top team in the Inter-Ac matching up against each other as the Penn Charter Quakers traveled to the Haverford Fords, it is understandable that the game ended in a 1-1 tie. 

“Any points on the road is big, especially at a place like this with an atmosphere like this,” Penn Charter goalkeeper Peter Punchello said. ”Happy to get the points; happy to stay tied for first. We’ll see how the rest of the season goes.” 

The beginning of the game was a classic back and forth. Both teams held possession on the opposing school’s half, and they would trade off opportunities. 

Penn Charter would be first to have a real opportunity of scoring during the eighth minute when the Quaker had a two on one a bit above midfield. The Quakers attempted to send a through ball to net, but Haverford’s Mckai Hoilett’s hips got in the way, ending Penn Charter’s threat. 

While Hoilett ended a promising opportunity for Penn Charter, the Quakers would continue to strike offensively. Willem van Beelen lined up a rocket from 25 yards out with 27 minutes remaining in the first half that just missed wide left for a goal kick. Minutes later, van Beelen had a shot deflected by a teammate that surprisingly still posed a threat on net, but the ball also snuck out wide left for a Haverford goal kick. 

Thomas Kaplan Goal

The Quakers’ Noah Amankulor also got in on the attack, blasting a one-timer cross he received 15 yards out, as Haverford’s goalkeeper Connor Cresswell caught the mid-screamer for a save. With just over 12 minutes left in the half, Amankulor would orchestrate a give and go to the side of Haverford’s goal, only for the shot to go across the goal and miss wide left. 

Despite Penn Charter’s offensive rush, it only seemed to make sense that it would be Haverford that scored shortly after. After a Penn Charter foul 35 yards from goal, the Fords’ Anthony Costa drilled a free kick around the six, where Thomas Kaplan was able to jump and put in a header for Haverford with nine minutes and twenty-six seconds remaining in the half. 

The remaining nine minutes would go scoreless. While Haverford had a 1-0 advantage, Penn Charter seemed comfortable where they were.

“We wanted to be a little more aggressive moving forward,” Penn Charter head coach, Bob DiBenedetto said. “I did not want the long balls to build up and I did not want them to have set pieces inside 30, because they’re so dangerous and they do them so well.” 

Peter Punchello Interview

Noah Amankulor Interview

Penn Charter would not allow another goal in the game, and they would add one of their own after a 30-yard shot by Sebastian Perez-Gasiba drilled the crossbar and eventually would fall into the hands of Punchello. After Punchello cleared the ball to the left sideline, the Quakers went on a run, and would end up with a three on one around the 18. A pass would eventually get to Amankulor around the six in front of Haverford’s net, in which Amankulor put the ball through easily on the helpless Cresswell, tying the game at one with 18:48 remaining in the contest. 

“We were down a goal, we knew it was for the league and we knew we needed to score, and we just have a lot of guys that are really motivated and just want to put one away, and that’s what we did,” Amankulor said. 

Seven minutes later, Penn Charter would have a shot to take the lead, as Cresswell left the goal line to deter a one-on-one shot. Jak Kraemer was able to dodge Cresswell and put a shot on net. Haverford’s Daniel Belden would use his body to block the open shot, miraculously keeping the game tied.

Penn Charter would see another chance to score with a minute and fifty-seven seconds left. Cresswell would get a hand on a low hard shot, forcing a corner for Penn Charter, which ultimately would not be able to capitalize. Haverford would send a last second throw in on net that was caught in traffic by Punchello to send the game to overtime. 

Haverford’s head coach, Keith Cappo, noted that he thought his team was a little tight and tentative throughout the entire second half. 

“I thought we gave up a poor goal there to equalize,” Cappo said. “But Penn Charter did create a lot with their pressure with their skilled players. In the end, its fair; the point, [what Haverford earned in the tie] but it was a tough outcome being up 1-0 at halftime.”

In both five-minute overtimes, each team tried to form offense but, with the short five-minute periods, there was not enough time to establish anything truly threatening. It seemed as though the Fords were in control of both overtimes, as Perez-Gaiba put on a shot on net with 2:42 remaining in the second overtime that was saved by Punchello as he dove to his right next to the goal post. 

The tie in the game creates another tie -- both Haverford and Penn Charter are now tied for the top spot in the Inter-Ac league. If both teams win out for the remainder of their schedules, they would be co-champions.

There was a lot at stake, and even DiBenetto acknowledged how important the game was for both teams. 

“Both teams are better than what you saw today,” DiBenetto said. “I think it was sloppy at times and I think a lot of that is nerves. You’re coming in, tied with a league lead, it’s such a big game and there is a lot of pressure on the boys going in.” 

The outcome might just put the Inter-Ac league in perspective. It could just be that both Haverford and Penn Charter are too close to separate. While it was a lost opportunity, Cappo still put the game into perspective and recognized all that was at play.

“It’s not the end of the world; obviously we are disappointed, but that’s a very good team who has had a tremendous year, who have some very good division one players,” Cappo said. “It makes it fun, it makes it stressful, but it’s fun to be able to compete like this every day."

Around the League

Penn Charter defeated Malvern Prep 3-0 on Oct. 14. They also beat Germantown Academy 2-0 on Oct. 17.