Freshman phenom brings scoring punch to Hampton girls soccer team

Saturday, October 17, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Hampton girls soccer coach Bill Paholich needed one workout to realize freshman Madison Hurst had a chance to be special.

The diminutive 14-year-old opened the staff’s eyes when she kept pace with the lead pack during the Talbots’ preseason one-mile run.

“We always do a mile conditioner … and she was right up there with the first people,” Paholich said. “OK, she got your attention a little bit. Now, let’s see what she can do on the field. We started putting her in some positions and seeing some things and we were, ‘OK, this might work out.’ ”

Hurst is the team’s leading scorer with 11 goals, including three in her first varsity match, a 4-1 victory over Kiski Area, and the winner in a 1-0 double-overtime thriller at previously undefeated Franklin Regional in a Section 1-3A showdown Oct. 7.

“She’s amazing,” said senior Megan Cook, whose precise crossing pass set up Hurst’s goal to avenge an earlier 4-1 loss. “As soon as she came in (to the program), we knew.”

Hurst didn’t play middle school soccer for Hampton (9-1, 9-1 overall), instead competing for the Beadling travel club, so she was a bit of an unknown when the Talbots opened tryouts.

A striker/midfielder, she quickly displayed excellent speed, game awareness and a strong finishing shot. Beside her debut hat trick, she also scored multiple goals against Knoch and in the second matchup with Kiski Area. She scored at least one goal in seven of the Talbots’ 10 matches through Oct. 13.

“After the first game, I was shocked that she was only a freshman,” Kiski Area coach Michael Spagnolo said. “She has a lot of talent, and it’s scary to think that she’s going to be there for three more years. I’m sure that there’s no stopping her.”

Hurst, who doesn’t turn 15 until April, is perhaps the most promising Talbots freshman since Mallory Schaffer in 2005. Schaffer went on to become a two-time All-American at William & Mary.

“She has all the attributes of a fine striker,” Spagnolo said of Hurst. “She’s tough to guard. She has good movement off the ball when she doesn’t have the ball. She has a nice first touch. She seems to know angles, and she finishes well. She has all that it takes.”

Behind Hurst’s prolific scoring and a steady team defense, the first-place Talbots extended their winning streak to eight with a 10-1 victory over Armstrong on Oct. 13. They outscored their opponents 34-2 during the stretch.

Hampton was scheduled to play Knoch, North Hills and Gateway in a five-day span starting Oct. 15 before visiting Plum on Oct. 21 in a nonsection regular-season finale. The Talbots have clinched their fifth straight WPIAL playoff berth and are on the verge of their first section title since 2008.

Hurst’s winner against then-No. 5 Franklin Regional touched off a joyful celebration. Cook and Hurst tackled each other in the goalie box and soon were joined by the rest of their exuberant teammates.

“It was crazy,” Hurst said. “It was so wild.”

The euphoric players asked Paholich if they could split up the team buses for the return trip from Murrysville, with the seniors and juniors in one bus and the freshmen and sophomores in the other. Their coach, of course, agreed.

“It was really fun,” said Cook, who scored the winner in a 2-1 double-overtime victory at Gateway on Oct. 12. “It was a blast.”

Hurst credits her teammates for easing the adjustment to varsity soccer. Following a recent Saturday morning practice at Fridley Field, she was reluctant to talk about her own achievements, preferring to show gratitude to those who “took me under their wing.”

“The transition was pretty hard,” she said. “I struggled in the beginning. But my teammates helped me get through it, being a freshman, and they made me feel at home.”


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