BY JEREMY GOODE
(PHOTOS BY PATTY MORGAN)
Another Tuesday, another Inter-Ac match Haverford would need to travel to -- on Halloween. This time, it would be to Germantown Academy in Fort Washington, 15 miles away. It seemed like every week Haverford was traveling to away games in the middle of the week. Two weeks ago it was Episcopal, last week it was Springside Chestnut Hill, and this match it would be the Patriots of Germantown Academy.
Regardless, Haverford would play unfazed, beating Germantown Academy 4-0, and now needing one more win to clinch the Inter-Ac title.
“We have had this constant message that these midweek games are tough to go away and play,” Haverford head coach Keith Cappo said. “That was our focus, just to not have that impact the way we performed. They had a great training session yesterday to prepare us for this, and they really implemented the game plan that we wanted to utilize from the get-go.”
The Fords’ game plan was certainly well executed. And it would start with Mckai Hoilett. Not even six minutes into the contest, Hoilett would run 40 yards down the field with the ball after shaking a defender off him. His one-on-one shot with Germantown Academy’s goalkeeper would ultimately be saved, but it was a strong start for Hoilett and the Fords.
One could even say it led directly to his first goal of the game, as eight minutes later Hoilett would take the ball down the left sideline, using his speed to lose defenders, as he shot to the right post of the goal, getting it passed the goal line to the back of the net for a 1-0 Haverford led with 26:01 remaining in the first half.
The quick goal would give the Fords a boost on the scoreboard and on the field. Afterwards, it seemed as though Haverford would really control possession, field position, and have several opportunities on net.
For Hoilett, the goal was a long time coming.
“It was my first goal of the season and getting that lead for us early on felt pretty good,” Hoilett said.
And the backline and goalkeeping of Haverford not only blanked the Patriots offense, but they were also responsible for turning defense into offense. After Thomas Kaplan headed a Germantown corner kick away from goal, Hoilett would once again run downfield with the ball, later dumping it off to Finn French in front of the goal who would sneak it underneath the goalkeeper, making it 2-0 Haverford with just under 11 minutes to play in the half.
Both teams would fight off the other through their defense in the remaining minutes, and Haverford would go into the half up two goals.
“I felt like our guys were recognizing the moments when we needed to counter attack,” Cappo said. “That was a good part of our game plan; to use our speed and to counter attack and get into opportunities to get crosses off or get in behind their back line. I thought the guys did a really good job recognizing that; playing the balls into space…. and having good finishes.”
After halftime, defensemen Thatcher McCoy would jump into the action in the second half -- literally. Haverford’s Sebastian Perez-Gasiba would send a corner kick on net, for which McCoy jumped and headed it just inside the top right post for a commanding 3-0 Fords lead with 31:13 remaining in the match.
Often, when running that corner kick set, Kaplan is the one to put a header in the net. This time it was his fellow defender McCoy was the one who was active on the other end of the field. First to join McCoy in celebration? Kaplan.
Like Hoilett, McCoy is not known for his scoring, so it was pretty special to score and further put the game away against Germantown Academy.
“I don’t get to score a whole lot, so that was nice to put it in the back of the net there,” McCoy said. “I just saw my opportunity and it was a great ball from Seb (Perez-Gasiba), and I tried to finish it.”
The Fords would put their final touches on the scoreboard less than four minutes later, scoring their fourth goal of the match. This one, Hoilett’s second, would also be off a defensive play by Haverford, as Jackson Raleigh would block a Germantown Academy pass and then pass to Hoilett at midfield. This time, Hoilett would take the ball up the right sideline and draw the Patriots goalkeeper way out of his box. He dribbled around him and put a shot on the wide-open goal for his second goal of the match; 4-0 Fords with 27:41 remaining.
With the way things were going, it had felt like just a matter of time before the game opened up the way that it did for Haverford. Even Hoilett would agree.
“Even if I did not score, I felt like we would score on another chance later on in the game.”
Even Cappo mentioned that he felt his squad left a few goals on the field that they ultimately just did not finish.
For nearly the rest of the game, Cappo would open up his bench for a lot of the guys who have not played much in conference play. In their 20 minutes of off and on gameplay, while the backups for Haverford would not score, they had a few strong chances and still completed the shutout.
Right now, the objective is simple enough for Haverford: win out, and you are Inter-Ac champions for the second year in a row. Challenge one against Germantown Academy… check. For the last challenge against Episcopal Academy they will have to wait on until Nov. 11.
Cappo is pleased how well his team responded to the conference standings situation, staying strong mentally and physically.
“We have very strong senior leadership, which for us has been paramount this year,” Cappo said. “They lead by example, they pick each other up, and they keep it focused where they don’t look ahead. It’s facing each challenge in front of us.”
There is only one option for the Penn Charter Quakers to do to wrap up their season and achieve their goal: win.
And even that may not be enough, since Haverford is a half game up and if they win out their remaining schedule they will repeat as Inter-Ac champions. Regardless, the Quakers know what they must do on their end. They certainly accomplished the challenge on Nov. 1, defeating Malvern Prep at home 3-0, keeping alive their chances of being co-champions with Haverford in the Inter-Ac.
“We knew coming in that we had to win to keep pace,” Penn Charter head coach Bob DiBenedetto said. “We are going to be very content to keep on winning. All we can control is us.”
It could have been the chilly temperature for an early November match, but the Quakers did not start as strong as they would have liked. Malvern Prep’s Rhett Bower was fouled outside the 18 close to Penn Charter’s endline just over 90 seconds into the match, giving the Friars a free kick. Eventually, the Friars would force a corner kick off their free kick, except they ultimately would not be able to do anything with it. Bower would later get the ball at midfield and pass towards net for a teammate to jump on and put a shot on net three and a half minutes later. Fortunately for Penn Charter, no one on Malvern Prep was able to make a play on the ball, as goalkeeper Pete Punchello dove on the ball.
Bower would assist a teammate with a pass down the right side, as Malvern Prep was able to get a shot on net which went wide right for a Penn Charter goal kick with 27:40 remaining in the first half.
That shot could have been the wake-up call for the Quakers, and they began to run sets and possessing the ball in Malvern Prep territory. After recording a corner kick with just under 26 minutes left, the Quakers would put the corner kick right in front of the net, which Justin Gantz would head downwards to the back of the net, giving Penn Charter a 1-0 led with 25:11 remaining in the first half.
“I was not marked front post and Will [Adair] put it right on my head and then I scored on an open net, so it was pretty easy from there,” Gantz said.
It was Gantz’ first touch of the game off the bench.
The next 25 minutes would come and go without a score, as the Quakers would go into the half up by one goal while they still held onto a clean sheet. With 10 minutes remaining, Penn Charter would have a strong chance on net as Jak Kraemer took a free kick from 35 yards out and put it on net. It remained a loose ball with several Quakers around it for a few moments. Malvern Prep would eventually clear. Teammate Noah Amankulor would have a shot with three minutes left on a loose ball around the six, but he had to shoot with the ball in midair and could not get enough on it. The shot went beyond the goal line for a Friars goal kick.
Penn Charter would also see great defense from their back line, as Britton Armbrister cut off a lot of Malvern Prep plays, clearing the ball out of Penn Charter territory many times.
The second half saw a little bit more urgency out of the Quakers. Being up one goal in the Inter-Ac is no way to live, certainly not comfortably. Willem van Beelen would put a cross in front of the Friars’ net that went untouched thirty seconds into the half. James Melnick would rocket a shot inside the 18 nine minutes later that was saved by Malvern Prep.
Interestingly, Penn Charter would score their second goal roughly around the same time point in which they scored their first goal in the first half. Penn Charter would force a turnover around midfield, and then suddenly Kick Kraemer ended up with the ball in front of the net, easily putting away Penn Charter’s second goal with 26:01 to play. This gave the Quakers a bit more breathing room, and Melnick would note the significance of the strong start to begin the second half.
“It means everything,” Melnick said. “It gets your team off to the right start, it gets everybody’s hopes up… everybody is getting going…. Everybody just wants to go and score goals.”
For Gantz, Kreamer’s goal allowed the Quakers to relax a little more and play more loosely.
“It definitely gave us more comfort,” Gantz said. “It made pressing so much easier because we knew they would kind of drop their heads after that second goal.”
From that point on, the offense would really flow for Penn Charter. Kick Kreamer would get some more shots on net. So would Amankulor. After van Beelen was fouled just outside the 18, van Beelen’s free kick went straight to net, and Gantz would put a second header in for a goal, giving Penn Charter a commanding 3-0 led with 17:34 left.
Being able to play with a lead is crucial for DiBenetto. Add in the many major obstacles that hindered play, including the wind and frigid temperatures, DiBenetto knew how far playing aggressively and increasing a lead can take his team.
“It’s huge playing with a lead and we were really worried about the wind in the first half,” DiBenetto said. “My goal was to get out of the first half zero-zero to be honest with you. So, for us to be up 1-0 with the wind, we felt good going into the second half.”
Besides the strong offensive showing, it was another clean sheet for goalkeeper Punchello and Penn Charter’s back line. While the goal scorers and offense in every sport gets a lot of the attention and recognition, this Quakers team relies on their defense to give up very little; the defense is why Penn Charter has dominated in the Inter-Ac.
“They think they get a bit disrespected with how much credit they get, but they have been amazing all season,” Grantz said. “I don’t know how many clean sheets they have but it’s got to be close to double digits at this point. They’re the reason we are in every game.”
The needed win keeps Penn Charter’s Inter-Ac co-championship aspirations alive. Still, if Haverford defeats or ties Episcopal on Nov. 11, they would be crowned Inter-Ac champions. DiBenetto understands the situation and is pleased with the season his Quakers have accomplished, regardless of where they finish in the standings. Their regular season ends with a match against Germantown Academy.
“We want to beat GA and we want to go 7-1-2 in this league, and I’ve been in this league for 28 years and I’ve never seen a team with one loss not win the league,” DiBenetto said. “It’s not easy in the league to win seven games. It’s not easy in this league to lose one game. So, I’m really proud of them, and that’s how I want them to finish; I want them to finish knowing that they only lost one game in what I think is the best league around.”
Agnes Irwin traveled to Germantown Academy on Halloween, earning a 2-1 win. Freshman Jen Kelly scored the first goal while 8th grader Dylan Ohm scored the second. Olivia Bongiorno and Jen Kelly recorded assists.
On Nov. 2, Notre Dame defeated Baldwin 3-2 to wrap up Inter-Ac play before PAISAAs.