Defending WPIAL boys soccer champion Hampton embarks on extensive rebuild

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Saturday, September 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The reigning WPIAL and PIAA champion Hampton boys soccer team faces a massive rebuild this season.

But maybe not as much as anyone might expect.

“It’s not a total melt-the-walls-down-and-rebuild-the-castle kind of thing,” coach Matt McAwley said. “It’s a younger group, but it’s all very talented players who are looking to prove a point.”

The Talbots graduated 10 of 11 starters from a magical season that included the program’s first WPIAL crown since 2011 and its first PIAA championship since ‘10.

Hampton went 23-1 — losing only to Class 4A North Allegheny in mid-October — and posted its first perfect section record (14-0-0) in 31 years. The Talbots even snapped a 13-game losing streak to nemesis Mars dating to August 2013, sweeping the section rival Planets.

But virtually every key player from that team is gone, including a trio of all-WPIAL players — playoff hero Zach Panza along with forwards Luke Staggers and Gabe Viszlay.

All told, the Talbots graduated 94 of their 105 goals scored last season.

“Last year was a fantastic journey, but every season is a new chapter,” said McAwley, entering his eighth season at his alma mater. “It will be an interesting test this year.”

Junior midfielder Luke Fiscus is the lone returning starter for the Talbots, who opened the 2022 season with a 2-1 victory over Gateway on Aug. 27. Fiscus finished last season with eight goals and nine assists; the rest of this year’s roster combined for three goals.

Along with Fiscus, two other juniors, forward Coleman Docherty and midfielder Oliver Spinola, will see much larger roles after getting quality playing time last year.

“There are a couple things we have to work on, but our team is looking pretty good,” said Fiscus, who is doubling as kicker for the Talbots’ football team. “We have a lot of great new players coming up.”

Others in line for starting roles include senior forwards Zach Ronald, Jackson Farmakis and Sam Campbell; junior Hayden List and sophomore Gavin Copelin at midfield; and juniors Aidan Cole, Conner Killmeyer and Hudson Struble and sophomore Caden Muchenski on defense.

Senior goalkeeper Marco Sciulli will get his chance in net after backing up three-year starter Thomas Bradfield, who was part of a Talbots defense that allowed nine goals last season, including just one in eight postseason games.

“Every year the expectations are relatively the same as we go game to game,” McAwley said. “This year there is no expectation to repeat. There is no expectation to make a final or anything along those lines. While that’s a goal that’s off in the distance, the first goal is our (next game).”

Said Fiscus, “We still have a lot of talented players. It’s more just about experience on varsity.”

The Talbots return to Section 1-3A, which welcomes defending WPIAL Class 2A champion North Catholic as part of the realignment. Departing the section were Freeport and Knoch, two teams that missed the WPIAL playoffs last season.

“This is talent that’s untested and that’s had some opportunities to show itself,” McAwley said. “But in the end it will be a year where they have to adapt quickly and get after it.”

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