The third quarter report cards have arrived. Shortly . . . final exams.
For the athletes and coaches who comprise fall athletics, the conclusion of the regular season beckons. In about two weeks, each sport will switch into postseason mode. Collectively, about 25 to 33 percent of the teams in the Philadelphia Catholic League won’t advance. Depending on their school’s athletic classification, however, some programs will participate in district tournaments in hopes of landing a spot in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) state tournament.
In boys’ soccer, eight of the 12 teams will qualify for the playoffs. Father Judge remains undefeated at 9-0. With records of 6-2, defending champion Archbishop Ryan and LaSalle are tied for second; Archbishop Wood (5-2) is right behind in fourth. Tied for fifth are Lansdale Catholic and Roman Catholic at 4-3-1.
After seventh-place Conwell-Egan (4-3), St. Joseph’s Prep and Devon Prep are battling for the eighth and final seed. Since SJP defeated Conwell-Egan, 6-5, on September 26 in a dramatic contest that saw the Hawks rebound from a 5-2 deficit, the Hawks maintain a distinct tiebreaker advantage over the Eagles.
Regardless of where the Crusaders finish, Father Judge junior Gavin Dunlop recognizes the main objective.
“In some ways it may be impressive to secure first place, but we knew we would be here with all the hard work throughout these past weeks,” Dunlop said. “Definitely can say all the teams have something different to bring to the table, and it’s sometimes a slow start to adjust to the play. Playoff seeding could really go any way. I think there’s gonna be some upsets that are gonna surprise the league.”
Girls’ soccer is similarly crunched together. Although the 10-team standings remain in flux with two games remaining, the six final playoff teams have been determined. After Archbishop Ryan (6-0-1) and two-time defending champ Archbishop Wood (7-1), teams three through six will include – in some variation – Archbishop Carroll (5-2-1), Cardinal O’Hara (5-2), Nazareth Academy (5-3), and St. Hubert’s (4-3-1). Key battles on October 9 include O’Hara visiting Nazareth and Carroll travelling to Hubert’s. In the quarterfinals on October 19, the sixth seed will visit the third seed while the fifth seed visits the fourth.
In field hockey, undefeated fierce rivals Cardinal O’Hara (5-0) and Archbishop Carroll (4-0) face each other October 6. The winner would basically clinch first place. Two-time defending champ Carroll will face an O’Hara team that has surrendered only two goals in five games. Then again, Carroll has outscored its competition by 49-0, but the toughest stretch of season awaits the Patriots.
Archbishop Wood and Lansdale Catholic are tied for third with 3-1 records, followed by 2-3 St. Hubert’s. The sixth and final playoff spot will probably go to Bonner-Prendergast. On September 22, the Pandas (1-2) upended seventh-place Conwell-Egan (1-4) by a convincing 5-1.
“Finishing first is important to us; however, the seed does not define our play,” Archbishop Carroll senior Sienna Golden said. “We play the with the same level of intensity and with our same level of confidence every game. We will come into these playoffs prepared to play the best field hockey we have all season.”
In the girls’ volleyball league opener on September 12, Archbishop Wood became the first team in five years to defeat Cardinal O’Hara during the regular season. The Vikings’ 3-2 victory severed two-time defending champion Cardinal O’Hara’s 48-game winning streak dating back to 2018. The Lions’ lone loss during that span occurred in the 2019 final, a 3-2 decision against Archbishop Carroll.
“The win against O’Hara meant so much to us,” Wood senior Tess Waltrich said. “The past two years we fought our way into the PCL championship and suffered a tough loss both times. Coming into this season was scary for us after we lost nine seniors last year.
“Any doubts we had about our team coming into this season were crushed when we beat O’Hara. Beating O’Hara was definitely not easy for us. Every player hustled for every point and we all worked together to pull out that win. After being second best for so long, we proved we have the skills, teamwork, and determination to finally bring home the championship this year.”
With three matches remaining, a three-way tie among Wood, Carroll, and O’Hara – all of whom are 6-1 – eventually needs to be broken. Conwell-Egan (4-2), Lansdale Catholic (3-2, including a stunning 3-1 upset over Wood on September 15), Little Flower (4-3), Archbishop Ryan (3-3), and St. Hubert’s appear to be playoff locks before quarterfinals begin October 23.
“The competition in the PCL is very competitive this year,” Conwell-Egan senior Molly Milewski said. “All of the teams are talented and anything can happen. The top two teams are highly skilled so they deserve to have the most success. It makes you want to work for a top spot in the rankings, too.”
In football, a three-team mix heads the PCL Blue Division. Since football decides its champion based on the regular season, defending champion Bonner-Prendergast, Conwell-Egan, and Neumann Goretti are the only teams that qualify for a possible title. The three teams will play each other over the next four weeks, starting with Bonner-Prendergast hosting Neumann Goretti on October 6. The PCL Red Division consists of four games and started this past weekend.
In girls’ tennis, the semifinals on October 10 will feature top-seed Cardinal O’Hara hosting four-seed Nazareth Academy, and two-seed Archbishop hosting three-seed Lansdale Catholic, which is competing for its third straight title.
Golf has already completed its season, with LaSalle snaring its 20th title since 2000 while Nazareth Academy, in its first season, finishing first. The boys’ and girls’ cross-country championship will be held October 21 at Belmont Plateau.
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