Bittersweet ending for seniors on Hampton girls soccer team

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Saturday, November 5, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Hidden beneath the emotional hugs following Hampton’s first-round playoff loss was a sense of pride and accomplishment.

The Talbots finished 14-4 and reached the girls soccer playoffs for the seventh consecutive season, losing to No. 11 seed Montour, 2-1, on a late goal in the WPIAL Class 3A opener Oct. 24.

“It was very sad,” coach Bill Paholich said. “There were a lot of tears.”

Yet as the finality of the moment washed over the No. 6 seeded Talbots and the program’s eight seniors, there were few regrets following another successful season.

“Even though it wasn’t how we wanted it to end, I was super proud that in every game everyone was willing to work hard,” senior defender Kate Chapman said. “There was never a game where I was like, ‘I wish I could have done more.’”

The Talbots’ seniors went a combined 50-17-4 in their four seasons, including 40-8-2 in section play.

Senior forward Audrey Bianco, who had a team-high 18 goals and eight assists in her first season with the team, and senior defender Skye Bierker earned all-Section 1-3A honors. Junior midfielder Madison Hurst (10g, 6a) and sophomore midfielder Sara Kenst (11g, 3a) were also named all-section.

Bierker will play at Loyola-Chicago and Bianco, who played club soccer her first three seasons, is looking at Carnegie Mellon.

The other graduating players are Lucy Interthal, Amiya Johnson, Hannah Kirkpatrick, Marlee Rudy and Brittany Towers.

The season included many memories, including an early seven-game winning streak, a 3-2 overtime victory against Kiski Area and a sweep of Oakland Catholic highlighted by a 3-1 victory Oct. 17 at Highmark Stadium, home of the USL’s Pittsburgh Riverhounds.

“We improved from day one,” said Paholich, in his 10th season. “That’s what you look for every year.”

The players also had their fair share of anguish, watching the struggles of a beloved teammate. Interthal missed the season with a rare neurological disorder that causes weakness and impairment in motor function in the legs and arms.

She attended Hampton’s games and practices in a wheelchair.

In a Sept. 26 match at Hampton, top-ranked Mars’ players wore blue and white wristbands that read “Lucy #22,” Interthal’s uniform number, as a show of support.

“Honestly, it was a little rough,” said Bierker, who has known Interthal since preschool. “But Lucy is such an amazing person. She’s on the upswing. She’s getting better, and I can’t wait to see her back on the field.”

Interthal will attend Gettysburg and hopes to play soccer next fall.

The Talbots will return eight starters, led by two-time all-WPIAL pick Hurst, Kenst, junior goalie Isabella English, junior midfielder Julia Hermann and sophomore midfielder Olivia Hoffman, who was second on the team with 12 goals and seven assists.

Other top players coming back are sophomores Maria Zebrine, Kendall Hoolahan, Sydney Lewis and goalie Olivia Graswick and a trio of gifted freshmen — center backs Adele Cole and Harper Struble and midfielder Molly Interthal.

In the WPIAL playoff game, Hampton tied the score at 1 on Bianco’s goal with five minutes to play, but Montour netted the game-winner two minutes later.

“I’m not going to lie,” Bierker said. “It hurt a lot. There were lots of hugs. It was one of those bittersweet moments. You know it’s the end, but you are happy that it happened.”

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