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GIRLS LAX: Episcopal Academy’s Quinn Whitaker Provides Vintage Performance in PAISAA State Championship

By Marc Narducci Photos: Ryan Nix, 05/29/24, 5:15PM EDT


Photos/Videos: Ryan Nix & Marc Narducci

By: Marc Narducci

VILLANOVA, PA – She scored a double hat trick in a state championship game, but Episcopal Academy junior midfielder Quinn Whitaker only really cared about one thing.

“I just wanted to do whatever it took for the seniors and just to win for this team,” Whitaker said moments after scoring six goals as Episcopal Academy earned a 9-6 win over Inter-Ac rival Agnes Irwin in the Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association (PAISAA) state championship at Villanova University.

This was a game in which the opponents couldn’t have been more familiar with each other.

PSD Reporter Marc Narducci catches up with EA junior Quinn Whitaker and seniors Sydney Richter & Lainey McGonagle after winning the 2024 PAISAA State Championship:

Agnes Irwin made one of the great seasonal comebacks in tying Episcopal Academy for the Inter-Ac championship.

The Owls lost their first two Inter-Ac games and that seemed to be too deep a hole to climb out of, but they somehow fought their way back in truly impressive fashion.

After starting 0-2, the Owls won their final eight Inter-Ac games, which included an 11-10 triple overtime win at EA and a 9-8 home victory in the Churchwomen in the final regular season game.

So, the teams finished 8-2 and co-champions, but it was EA, the top seed in the PAISAA tournament which naturally had huge chip its collective shoulder.

“We knew there was going to be a lot of emotion in this championship game, losing to Agnes Irwin twice before,” Whitaker said. “So, it was definitely big for us to just remember who we are and what we are like as a team.”

What they are is a team built on tremendous balance. Today was Whitaker’s turn, but it could be a number of her teammates who could earn scoring honors on any given day.

Nobody should be surprised that Whitaker was in the spotlight. She has committed to national power Boston College and calling her one of the top players in the Inter-Ac is underestimating things greatly.

Whitaker is the most difficult of attackers to defend because she has a game that combines both power and finesse. She is strong enough to run through traffic and score, can blow a goalie away with a wicked shot, but also has such a great finishing touch near the goal.

“She makes it look every easy,” EA coach Josie Tomaino said of Whitaker. “She is a very effortless player; she plays with a lot of grace and a lot of poise.”

If Whitaker’s athletic ability isn’t enough to cause an opponent concern, she also offers a cerebral approach to the game.

Episcopal Academy junior Quinn Whitaker #7 - PSD Photo by Ryan Nix

“I think she is so smart and sees the field so well,” Tomaino said. “And then, that combined with her athleticism, we ask her to make a lot of big plays for us, either defensively or finding a teammate who is cutting through as she is dodging, she just sees the field really well.”

What was interesting is that during the recent 9-8 loss to Agnes Irwin, Whitaker didn’t score a goal.

Episcopal Academy surely took note.

Tomaino hasn’t become one of the top coaches in the area without making adjustments, and the biggest one in the championship involved Whitaker.

“We had her in a different spot in our offense that I think allowed her to shoot more and kind of opened up some space,” Tomaino said. “And so, you trust her with the ball and all of our attackers, but we wanted to kind of set her off a little bit more and get her inside and she did a nice job, finishing and creating.”

There were plenty of other contributors to this championship win. Junior Kate Dente, a Princeton commit, got EA going, but scoring her team’s first and third goals.

The other goal was scored by sophomore Sofia Gagliardi.

Senior Sydney Richter (Georgetown) provided clutch plays on draws. Classmate Lainey McGonagle (Pitt) covered plenty of territory in the midfield and made several big defensive plays.

2024 PAISAA Championship Highlights by PSD Reporter Marc Narducci:

There were plenty of other contributors on a team that plays a selfless style, with nobody caring about who earns scoring honors.

While Episcopal Academy entered the fourth quarter with a seemingly comfortable 8-3 lead, Agnes Irwin made this a competitive final period.

Did anybody think that an Agnes Irwin team that came back from an early season adversity, wouldn’t mount some type of charge?

The Owls did just that, scoring the first three goals of the fourth quarter. Junior Caroline Chisholm’s laser of a shot cut the margin to 8-6 with 3:12 left and the huge crowd, regardless of rooting interest, suddenly had trouble breathing.

Ironically, Chisholm will be joining Whitaker and Holland at Boston College.

EA then put the game out of reach on a goal by who else? Whitaker ran right in on goal and deposited No. 6 with 1:41 left. Only then did the Episcopal Academy contingent in the stands start feeling comfortable.

“Quinn Whitaker is a great player and I think that Episcopal is a lot like us, that any given player can get hot, so they are hard to prepare for offensively,” Agnes Irwin coach Lauren Wray said.

Agnes Irwin isn’t that easy to prepare for either.

Junior Mairyn Dwyer (U of North Carolina) led Agnes Irwin with two goals. The other goal scorers were seniors Elle Brady (Villanova) and Ella Springer (Johns Hopkins) and junior Catie Holmes (Maryland).

The list of big-time Division I recruits for both teams is impressive and neither will be going away next year, with so much of the talent returning for each squad.

While Agnes Irwin didn’t want the season to end this way, Wray told the players afterward something they probably already knew.

“I told the girls that one game doesn’t define us” Wray said. “I am so proud of the senior group, especially for their leadership, with us getting off to a slow start and then being able to rebound and have a really good run here in the second half of the season.”

And maybe things could have been different had Whitaker not provided such a strong performance that didn’t surprise her teammates in the least.

“We call her ‘Quinny Magic Stick,’” McGonagle said. “She can catch anything from anywhere, she can shoot from anywhere and she is a real key to this team. She had a phenomenal game and I think us working as a team allowed her to be able to finish.”

Nobody could agree more with that last sentence than Whitaker herself.

“My teammates were drawing a ton of attention because of how well they played last game, so it allowed me to be more open for this game,” she said.

And once open, she knew what to do.

The only thing Whitaker didn’t look comfortable at was being in the spotlight. She continually praised her teammates, and that wasn’t just lip service.

Episcopal Academy has become a powerhouse based on a balanced approach that on any given day, a number of players could beat you.

This just happened to be Whitaker’s day and what a day it was.