Hampton eyes another run to WPIAL boys lacrosse finals

Saturday, April 10, 2021 | 11:01 AM

The Hampton boys lacrosse team waited 667 days between matches.

But after a 12-0 victory over North Hills in the 2021 season opener March 29, all appears well for the perennial WPIAL title contender.

“It’s just good to be back on the field,” coach Jim Vollberg said after an energetic practice April 5 under the lights at Fridley Field. “It’s been a long time.”

The Talbots (1-2) were scheduled to play Moon, Gateway and four-time defending WPIAL Class AA champion Mars in a four-day span starting April 12.

Senior attacker Max Saltrelli, the Talbots’ leading scorer, said last year’s covid cancellation infused the players with renewed focus.

“With this being our last year here, there is definitely more of a hunger to go out there and see what we can do,” he said.

The Talbots had approached last year with soaring expectations. They reached the 2019 WPIAL Class AA finals — their fourth trip in five years — and became the first team in program history to win a PIAA playoff game.

But after one scrimmage, covid-19 shut down their season.

“Last year was just heartbreaking,” said Vollberg, in his seventh season. “This year there is a little more energy than normal, for sure. It’s good to see everyone come back, and we’re optimistic for the season.”

Like most other WPIAL spring programs, the Talbots are lacking experience. Only six or seven of their 34 players had varsity playing time before this season. There are only two juniors on the roster.

“We’re young,” Vollberg said, “and they just need some time.”

Senior goalie Matt Huskey, however, said early practices and matches are promising.

“A lot of young guys have really stepped up,” he said, “and we are seeing major improvement across the board.”

Huskey is fronted by defenders Gus Wolf and Dylan Mitchell, both seniors, and Sean Donlan, a sophomore.

Senior Austin Garrett, junior Dylan Beranek and senior long stick middie Elliot Gmiter anchor the midfield, and seniors Ryan Beranek, Eli Hartle and Saltrelli spearhead the attack.

Another top midfielder, senior Grant Dunmire, is expected to return by early May after suffering a broken hand during a scrimmage.

Saltrelli is the Talbots’ leader. He scored 40 goals as a freshman and earned all-­WPIAL honors as a sophomore for the 19-4 WPIAL Class AA runner-­up.

“He does everything well,” Vollberg said. “He shoots well. He dodges well. He passes well. He sees the field well. He’s one of the brightest kids on the team. He’s a good leader. All of the kids look up to him.”

Lately, the entire WPIAL Class AA is looking up to Mars. In the past four years, the Section 2-AA rival Fightin’ Planets beat Hampton in the WPIAL finals three times and in the WPIAL semifinals once. It is a shift in power for the Talbots, who brought home WPIAL titles in ‘09, ‘11, ‘12 and ‘15.

“Every season we want to be in that WPIAL championship game,” Huskey said. “We want to be raising that trophy at the end of the year.”

Other section contenders include Moon, which has reached WPIAL playoffs each of the past six seasons, and Indiana, Freeport and Knoch, which are postseason mainstays.

A top-six finish in the 10-team section would give Hampton its 11th WPIAL playoff berth in the past 12 seasons.

“I think everyone is doing a great job,” Saltrelli said. “The amount of improvement that we’ve seen in these first two weeks is more improvement than I’ve seen in the first two weeks of any other season.”


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