Hampton boys lacrosse sends off ‘special’ senior class

Saturday, May 29, 2021 | 11:01 AM

Hampton All-WPIAL attack Max Saltrelli realized four years ago his then-freshman class was going to be “something special.”

Little did he know exactly what was in store.

The Hampton boys lacrosse Class of 2021 had a four-year career unlike any in the program’s history. They reached the WPIAL finals twice, became the first school’s lacrosse team to win a PIAA playoff game, won 44 of their 60 games and, of course, saw an entire season wiped out by the covid pandemic and another season impacted by the coronavirus.

“All four years I knew our class was something special,” Saltrelli said. “We had kids who really loved the game and wanted to get better and worked together as a team. There was really a brotherhood this year.”

The Talbots’ unique run ended with a 9-8 loss to No. 4 seed South Fayette on May 19 at Mars in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals. Hampton (11-5) reached the playoffs for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons and routed Trinity, 16-1, in the first round. But South Fayette overcame a 4-2 late second-quarter deficit to deny the Talbots a rematch with rival Mars, which had beaten them in the WPIAL playoffs each of the previous four seasons.

Against South Fayette, Hampton pulled to within 9-8 on Grant Dunmire’s goal with 2:30 to play but Lions goalie Aidan Pierce turned away the Talbots’ final charge. South Fayette had scored with 21 seconds to play in the second quarter to cut Hampton’s lead to 4-3 and again with 32 seconds to play in the third quarter to tie the score at 6-all.

“It was a very winnable game,” junior midfielder Dylan Beranek said. “Looking back, there were things we could have done. But (South Fayette) played a great game, and you have to give it to them. But it was definitely a winnable game.”

Afterward, there were few regrets from the 13-man senior class of Saltrelli, Dunmire, Ryan Beranek, Austin Garrett, Elliott Gmiter, Eli Hartle, Rom Hurst, Matt Huskey, Colton Kelly, Joe Liberto, Dylan Mitchell, Juan Oliver and Gus Wolf.

“I thought everyone, from seniors all the way down to the freshmen, really was focused, putting in work,” said Huskey, the Talbots’ standout goalie. “We had a couple guys out with injuries and covid protocols. But we worked through them and had a pretty good season and made a playoff run. It didn’t end how we wanted it to, but we got to play.”

There were hurdles along the way. Dunmire, one of the team’s top midfielders, missed the first month of the season with a broken hand and the Beranek brothers, a pair of key starters, missed two weeks midseason while in covid quarantine. The Talbots had only two juniors on their roster, so any losses tested their depth.

“It really felt like an uphill battle all year,” Saltrelli said.

Saltrelli, who scored 65 goals this season and finished with 163 for his career, will attend Washington (Mo.) University and major in mechanical engineering with an eye toward robotics. Also a talented soccer player, he won’t play either sport in college, meaning the South Fayette game was his final action in competitive sports.

“The whole playoff run, you knew that any game could be your last,” Saltrelli said. “It was kind of bittersweet, knowing it was your last go at it.”

Looking ahead, coach Jim Vollberg must fill the void left by his gifted senior class. The Talbots return three full-time starters, Dylan Beranek and defender Sean Donlan and midfielder Luke Hartle, both sophomores.

Dylan Beranek said the narrow playoff loss will motivate the underclassmen.

“I think that feeling of knowing that we could have won and that feeling of loss will help to push the younger guys,” he said.

Regardless of the early playoff exit — the Talbots had reached the WPIAL finals eight times in the past 11 years — the players were grateful to compete this season. The two-hour practices each day at Fridley Field provided a sense of normalcy in a year marked by hybrid schooling and strict covid protocols.

“I think this school year — I know for me at least — has been pretty stressful more than other years,” Huskey said. “But getting to go to practice, and for two hours nothing else matters except playing lacrosse and getting better and being with your team. That was definitely a blessing.”


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