Hampton 3-sport standout Kelly helps guide girls soccer team to WPIAL playoff berth
Saturday, October 23, 2021 | 11:01 AM
Sophia Kelly had a tough decision to make this past summer.
A week-and-a-half at the beach, or basketball and soccer practices? She made the unusual choice.
“I didn’t go on vacation this year,” said Kelly, a senior at Hampton. “I opted out.”
Kelly is a rare three-sport female varsity athlete at Hampton, going from soccer in the fall to basketball in the winter to lacrosse in the spring without any time off between seasons.
“I don’t know how she does it,” senior girls soccer forward Ruby Copelin said. “I couldn’t even imagine. It’s just like one after the other. I get tired after one practice a day. She has many, nonstop. She never gets a break.”
When Kelly’s family visited Vero Beach, Fla., in late July for a summer vacation at a beach house, she remained in Pittsburgh to focus on preseason soccer practice and basketball workouts.
“(My family was) kind of shocked,” she said. “But it was all right.”
The 5-foot-10 Kelly is a starting forward for coach Bill Paholich’s WPIAL playoff-bound girls soccer team. The Talbots closed the regular season with aagainst Plum on Oct. 20.
After an 0-2 start, the Talbots went 11-0-2 over their next 13 games. They finished second in Section 1-3A with a 9-1-2 mark and earned a No. 7 seed in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs. The Talbots were scheduled to host No. 10 seeded Thomas Jefferson on Oct. 25 in the first round.
“She’s played very well for us,” Paholich said. “She is one of our playmakers up top, her and Jillian (Antol). They pretty much control the flow and they set a lot of people up.”
Kelly, who played goalkeeper as a freshman and sophomore, started at forward last season as the Talbots won their first girls soccer section title since 2008 and then earned first-team all-section honors, averaging 12 points, as a shooting guard for the Section 2-5A champion girls basketball team.
She played lacrosse for about half of the 2021 spring season before leaving the team to focus on Junior AAU basketball and the visibility to college coaches that it provides.
“It was hard,” Kelly said. “We tried to work our way through it. But I ended up feeling I was hurting the team. (Girls lacrosse coach Kelsey Viets) and I came to an agreement. She gave me the boot that I needed. It ended up being good for me, but it was hard for a while.”
Kelly, who is on pace to finish with 10 varsity letters, said she plans to return to lacrosse this spring since the senior is done with AAU basketball.
“She’s impressive, being able to really star in three sports,” girls basketball coach Tony Howard said. “Playing different sports, you are always in shape. Her footwork is amazing and her athleticism obviously is just as good.”
Kelly was among eight girls soccer players who were honored at Senior Night on Oct. 18, following a 4-2 nonsection loss to Montour. The seniors — Zofia Lamory, Nicole Fortes, Ava France, Maggie Perkins, Angelina Conley, Jillian Antol, Copelin and Kelly — received gift baskets, a mason jar full of personal messages from their teammates, a bouquet of flowers and photo books. They posed for photos in front of life-sized posters bearing their names and numbers on a chilly night at Fridley Field.
“She’s one of my really good friends,” Copelin said of Kelly. “She’s fun to be around and she’s positive and when we are down, she helps cheer us up.”
Kelly has the support of her coaches at Hampton. Because she is usually in the WPIAL playoffs, her seasons bleed into one another. She often misses preseason workouts for basketball and lacrosse.
Because of school rules, she is not allowed to practice or play with two sports teams on the same day.
“It’s hard,” she said. “The coaches all know and they understand and they support me. … I do a lot of stuff on my own.”
Kelly comes from an athletic family. Her dad Jason played football at Gannon and her mom, Cara (Eisenschmid), played basketball at the PSAC school. She also has two athletic brothers.
Sophia played seven sports at one point or another throughout her life — softball, volleyball, cross country, track, and soccer, basketball and lacrosse — before settling on three.
“I had to narrow it down,” she said.
Kelly is still trimming her college options. She is unsure which sport, or sports, she will play at the next level. She has talked to Division II schools such as Mercyhurst and Wheeling.
“I’m keeping all of my options open right now,” she said. “I’ve been talking to schools about all three sports. I have to choose. I don’t know which one I’m going to do yet. For some schools, I am talking to coaches for two sports. I really don’t have a preference. I just like competing.
“I’m still in the recruiting process, but I’m pretty confident that I can find somewhere.”
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