Early playoff exit lights fire under Hampton boys soccer

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Saturday, August 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The seniors on the Hampton boys soccer team have felt euphoria and agony over the years.

As sophomores, they were part of a memorable run to the WPIAL and PIAA championships, while last season ended with a one-and-done playoff dud.

They are working to make sure this season they land at least somewhere in between.

“I think that loss in the first round, the way that we went out, left a lot of these guys hungry and wanting more, especially after the year prior,” coach Matt McAwley said. “I think going into this year, there is a bit of a chip on their shoulder.”

The Talbots welcome back nine starters from last year’s team, which finished 12-7 after being upset by No. 11 seed and eventual WPIAL runner-up Ambridge, 3-0, in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. It was the program’s most lopsided shutout playoff loss in 19 years, a span of 53 postseason games, and spurred a determined offseason workout regimen.

“It was extremely disappointing and all of us talking after the game, all we wanted to do this year was win,” said senior all-WPIAL midfielder Luke Fiscus, the lone remaining starter from the ‘21 state champion. “I think everyone is going to be pushing a lot harder this year than they were last year.”

The Talbots also return all-WPIAL senior forward Coleman Docherty, who last season scored a team-high 22 goals, and a pair of all-Section 1-3A seniors, midfielder Oliver Spinola and defenseman Conner Killmeyer.

Other returnees include center back Aidan Cole, outside back Hudson Struble and midfielder Hayden List, all seniors; defender/midfielder Caden Muchenski, defender Dominic Jordan and forward/midfielder Gavin Copelin, a trio of juniors; and sophomore midfielder Carson Colvin.

“I’ve been looking forward to this season,” Killmeyer said. “I think we have the potential to do something. I’m excited to go back on the field with this group of guys and actually perform, finally. Being one-and-done is never a good feeling.”

The biggest challenge is filling the void left by departed goalkeeper Marco Sciulli. A pair of talented sophomores, Landon Bieker and Gavin Guinn, are vying for the starting job after sharing junior varsity duty and seeing some varsity time last season.

“That will be a very competitive battle, throughout the season, really,” said McAwley, a ninth-year coach. “They came in as freshmen, and they are both very talented. They earned a lot of minutes and a lot of experience.”

Hampton, which was scheduled to open the season at Gateway on Aug. 26, had 48 players try out in its bid to reach the WPIAL playoffs for the eighth consecutive year. It was the largest showing in several years, McAwley said.

“The senior class understands what it means to train like a champion and to play like a champion,” McAwley said. “They were on the younger side of that state championship team. They were still a very crucial part of it. I think this year we have the ability to be very competitive and make a push for things.”

Fiscus, who scored 13 goals last season and led the Talbots in assists, said there are many similarities between this year’s team and the ‘21 state champion, at least in terms of experience and chemistry.

He also said the bitter taste of last year’s early WPIAL playoff exit — coming after the 23-1 state title run — is not something he is willing to repeat.

“The biggest difference that motivated me is all that time when we should have still been playing and we weren’t,” Fiscus said. “My season was already over, and I’m just sitting there doing nothing when I should be playing in a WPIAL final or going on to states. That was the biggest thing that motivated me.”

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