Hampton girls lacrosse depth will be tested In quest for three-peat

Thursday, March 28, 2019 | 9:47 PM

Hampton girls lacrosse coach Kelsey Viets tells her team every year is a new challenge.

This year is no different.

The Talbots are among the favorites to win the WPIAL championship, which would be their third in a row. But two weeks ago, the team’s chances took a hit when senior captain and third all-time leading scorer Melinda Maers was lost to a torn ACL suffered in practice.

“That is a massive hole for our team,” Viets said. “From my perspective, she was someone I would nominate for All-American honors. From her teammates’ perspective, she was the heart of the team.”

The ability to overcome her absence will play a major part in Hampton’s season.

“At first, we all kind of panicked,” senior captain Liz Dolan said. “But she’s not gone. She’s still there. She’s a leader on the sidelines.

“I think her not being on the field requires the use of the depth on our team. We have many talented players. I think instead of relying on one individual, we all need to be on our A-game.”

Chief among those will be senior Katie Cyphers, one of six returning starters and the team’s leading scorer last season. She will lead a young attack unit that will need support from a deeper and more experienced midfield and defensive group.

“I’m looking for our middles and defenders to help reform our attack,” Viets said. “Katie is the only veteran on that end of the field.”

If the team is to make another run this year, it will be a testament to the hard work, stability and championship mentality Viets and her players have poured into the program the past five seasons. It showed last year when freshman Megan Cook, a junior varsity call-up, scored four goals in the title-clinching win over Quaker Valley.

This year, the sophomore selected the No. 14 jersey, which was worn by grad Rachel Hirst, who ended her career as the team’s second-leading scorer and plays at Mercyhurst.

“She took (the jersey) as a pseudo-good luck charm,” Viets said. “Megan has been living up to that number so far. She’s on the draw circle and knows there’s expectations, but she executes under pressure.”

The team will look to senior captains Dolan and Sarah Rech for support on and off the field.

“I think we’re expecting it’s not going to be handed to us,” Dolan said. “There’s definitely a lot of pressure, a lot of eyes are looking on us now.

“But I think the way we carry out our practices, some of them are pretty intense knowing we have that intense competition and people that are trying to take that from us.”

Viets likes Dolan’s ability to execute anywhere on the field.

“Liz is an incredibly diversified athlete,” she said. “I’ve put her from everywhere on defense to attack in preseason scrimmages, now she’s on the draw circle. She helps fill that gap. She’s a very strong athlete and someone we’re going to look for into reforming our attack.”

The defense will be expected to activate an attack when needed, and speedy seniors such as Molly Wojcik will be helpful in that regard. Wojcik and Dolan are committed to play at Allegheny next spring.

“Having gaps on attack and being a little younger at that end,” Viets said, “we need everyone to have the confidence. We need everyone to have the skillset to do set plays, motion offense. That’s something we’re getting into before some big section games coming up.”

Defensive communication will be key to support a new goalie, and for the first time in three years, it’s not a senior.

Sophomore Annaliese Winklosky, who served as a backup last year, has experience with good competition — she plays in the offseason at True Lacrosse Club — but still needs time for growth.

“I think there’s a learning curve in terms of maturation to being a varsity starting goalie,” Viets said. “We’re kind of working through that process. But her teammates have all the confidence in her, as do the coaches, and she’s up to the challenge.”

The team has been preparing for the season since October, and attended a preseason tournament in Philadelphia to see how the typically tougher eastern part of the state competes.

“We’ve put in a lot of groundwork,” Viets said. “Now it comes in terms of execution. Our senior class has seen both ends, they’ve put in an incredible amount of work to see us turn up short as freshmen, to their sophomore and junior years where we had tremendous success. I think for them, it’s ‘yes, we know what it takes.’


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