Schools, students, and coaches who compete in the Inter-Academic League probably feel a sense of kinship when the Inter-Ac is mentioned. Almost any student-athlete can relate to the feeling of a league win. As for the championship, that carries the most weight.
Rachael Garnick, a senior on the Penn Charter softball team, said her "stomach drops" from excitement at the mention of an Inter-Ac title.
The cocaptain knocked on wood while discussing the prospect of the Quakers' first league championship since she has been a member of the squad.
"We don't want to count our chickens," Garnick said. "Anything can happen in this league."
"Winning a title would honestly mean the world to me," she said.
After finishing fourth in the league with a 6-6 record a season ago, the Quakers (14-4) control their own destiny this year. They have a perfect Inter-Ac record through the first eight games.
"I didn't expect this big a turnaround, but sometimes everything falls into place," coach Don "Doc" Mittica said.
"We've matured," Mittica said. "The seniors have come up super-big this year. They are different players."
The Quakers have four remaining league games: two against Baldwin, one against Episcopal, and another against Agnes Irwin.
Penn Charter is two games ahead of both the Churchwomen and the Owls, who split the regular-season series against each other and were defeated by the Quakers.
"It was pretty surreal being able to beat both Agnes Irwin and EA in the same week," sophomore Kayla Quinn said. "It was a big moment for us, knowing that we are able to beat anyone in the league."
The players credit a spring-break softball trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C., with developing greater team chemistry, and getting any early season "kinks" out before league play began.
"We are a young team and we like to have a lot of fun," senior cocaptain Jess Drossner said. "We don't take ourselves too seriously. We are never cocky. We take it one game at a time."
The Quakers are scheduled to play three of their last four league games this week, with back-to-back games against Baldwin and a matchup with Episcopal on Friday, which also happens to be senior day.
Garnick, for one, isn't worried.
"One thing we've been great at this year is that when the pressure is on, [we] stay composed, we play our game," she said.
Last week's rankings in parentheses.
1. Neshaminy (1) 14-1
2. Pennsbury (2) 15-2
3. C.B. East (4) 12-3
4. Hat.-Horsham (3) 11-3
5. Pennridge (6) 12-3
6. C.B. South (7) 11-5
7. Conwell-Egan (5) 13-5
8. Nazareth Acad. (8) 14-1
9. St. Hubert (9) 12-2
10. Haverford (10) 13-2
Under consideration (listed alphabetically): North Penn (9-6), West Chester Henderson (13-0).