Despite short playoff run, Hampton girls lacrosse team savors season’s successes

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Saturday, June 10, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Hampton failed to reach the WPIAL girls lacrosse semifinals this season for the first time since 2015, but the journey was worth the while.

“To get as far as we did for a predominantly young roster — only two seniors — is a great success in my opinion,” coach Kelsey Burke said.

“All in all,” senior attack Kelli Gibson said, “I think we did very well considering how many seniors we lost last year.”

The fourth-seeded Talbots finished 13-6 overall, losing to No. 5 seeded Chartiers Valley, 10-7, on May 18 in the WPIAL Class 2A quarterfinals. Chartiers Valley limited Hampton all-WPIAL senior Emi DiLiberto to one goal, matching her season low, on one shot while face-guarding the star midfielder for most of the match.

“It’s always going to happen,” DiLiberto said. “It’s part of the game.”

DiLiberto, a Vassar recruit, finished with 83 goals, narrowly missing the program single-season record of 85 set by Megan Cook in 2021. DiLiberto also scored 74 goals in 2022, third-most in program history, and ranks third in program history with 182 career goals despite having her freshman season wiped out by the covid lockdown.

Gibson was third on the Talbots with 36 goals and added a team-best 13 assists.

“I’m really proud of my team,” DiLiberto said. “There were a lot of people, especially the juniors and sophomores, who really stepped up this year.”

The two seniors, DiLiberto and Gibson, went 45-18 overall and 30-1 in section play in their three seasons. Their lone section loss was an 8-6 setback to visiting Plum on April 18 that snapped the Talbots’ 31-game section winning streak dating to April 2019. Prior to the loss, the Talbots had gone 61-1 in their previous 62 section games dating to mid-April 2016.

DiLiberto and freshman goalie Taylor Whitman this season were named first-team all-Section 1-2A. Gibson and junior midfielder Sienna Rex (38 goals, 6 assists) earned second-team honors and sophomore defender Olivia Graswick was honorable mention.

Other top returnees next season include attack Lindsay Fiscus (11g) and defenders Greta Hamlin, Addie Hastings and Elena Herchenroether, all juniors, and sophomore midfielders Lizzy Saponsky (11g) and Ava Nee.

The ‘23 season was dotted with memories, from dramatic victories over North Allegheny, Peters Township, Franklin Regional and Indiana, to the huge backyard bonfire at Gibson’s house in the week leading up to the WPIAL playoffs.

“I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have that team,” Gibson said. “We got so close. It was great.”

Gibson has big plans for the future. She is enrolling in the Army and reports to Fort Sill, Okla., on June 20 to begin 10 weeks of basic training followed by eight weeks of advanced individual training.

She has already taken vocational aptitude and physical assessment tests in advance of basic training. The 5-foot-3 Gibson also plays tuba in the Hampton marching band and is involved in carpentry and the SkillsUSA competition at Beattie Career Center.

“I’ve known (joining the Army) was an option since I was little, since middle school,” Gibson said. “My sophomore year, I started to seriously think about it, and my junior year, I was like, ‘This is what I’m doing.’”

Burke, a ninth-year coach, runs strenuous practices at Hampton, and Gibson said the conditioning demands will prepare her for the rigors of boot camp.

“We had a very rough year with our coach this year,” Gibson said. “I love her to death, but sometimes she can be a bit harsh. Throughout the years, the conditioning got pretty bad, and some kids just decided it’s not worth it. … This year I just kind of like pushed through it. My mom said that’s why I’m going to do so well (in the Army).

“My recruiter actually went to one of our practices and watched. He said to me, ‘That almost looks harder than some of the stuff you’ll do in basic training.’”

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