Hampton boys soccer team’s WPIAL reign ends suddenly

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Saturday, October 29, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Hampton boys soccer coach Matt McAwley is practical enough to know this season wasn’t going to end anything like last season.

“It’s very, very rare that a (player’s) last moments on a soccer field is a moment of winning everything,” McAwley said. “We were fortunate last year to experience that moment. This year was the other side of it … where eventually, the journey comes to an end.”

One year after winning the WPIAL and PIAA boys soccer championships, the youthful Talbots saw their 2022 season come to a halt in the blink of an eye.

No. 6 seeded Hampton allowed three goals in a four-minute span to open the second half in a 3-0 upset loss to No. 11 Ambridge in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs Oct. 22.

The Talbots, who had lost 10 of 11 starters from their championship team, finished 12-7.

“We didn’t get the result that we wanted,” junior midfielder Luke Fiscus said, “but I still think we had a pretty good season knowing we lost basically our whole team.”

The rebuilding Talbots went 9-3 in Section 1-3A and four players, all juniors, were named all-section in voting by the coaches — forward Coleman Docherty, midfielder Oliver Spinola, defenseman Conner Killmeyer and Fiscus.

Highlights included a 2-1 victory at rival Mars in the opening week of the season, as well as overtime victories against Gateway, North Catholic and Slippery Rock.

The postseason berth with such an inexperienced roster reinforced the strength of a program that went 4-13-1 in 2015 in McAwley’s first season at his alma mater. The Talbots haven’t missed the WPIAL playoffs since.

“The standard that (we) hold is to make the playoffs every year regardless of how many starters we lose,” said McAwley, who in mid-October was named the state boys soccer coach of the year for the 2021-22 school year by the PIAA. “This year was a continuation of that standard, and the boys were competitive in every single game they played in.”

The Ambridge loss was the final high school soccer game for five seniors — forward Zach Ronald, goalkeeper Marco Sciulli and reserves Sam Campbell, Jackson Farmakis and Garrett Michaud.

“They contributed a lot of time, effort and dedication to the program,” McAwley said of the seniors. “They will be missed incredibly.”

The Talbots will return nine of their 11 starters — the four all-section juniors, as well as juniors Aidan Cole, Hudson Struble and Hayden List, sophomore Caden Muchenski and freshman Carson Colvin.

“A lot of those new players finally got varsity experience,” Fiscus said. “That should help us out next year to have a successful season.”

Docherty scored team-high 22 goals, including hat tricks against Armstrong (twice), Knoch and North Catholic. Fiscus scored 13 goals and led the Talbots with double-digit assists.

“(Docherty) had a fantastic year. He came in hungry and ready. It wasn’t a surprise to us what he did,” McAwley said. “(Fiscus) is a very dynamic player that can score goals but is also able to see those passing lanes.”

Despite breaking in nearly an entirely new starting lineup, the Talbots enjoyed a pair of three-game winning streaks and a four-game winning streak this season.

But Ambridge broke a scoreless tie 24 seconds into the second half, and the Talbots went on to suffer their most lopsided shutout playoff loss in nearly two decades (4-0 to Peters Township in ‘03), a span of 53 postseason games.

“It was definitely very difficult for everyone,” Fiscus said, “especially the seniors who, sadly, we weren’t able to get the result that we wanted.”

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