Hampton girls lacrosse looking for new scorers to step forward

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Saturday, April 9, 2022 | 8:01 AM


The Hampton girls lacrosse team will try to fill the shoes of one All-American with the hands and feet of many.

“Megan Cook is irreplaceable,” coach Kelsey (Viets) Burke said of her graduated record-breaking star midfielder. “I don’t know if we will have one person score 60 goals. But I could see three people scoring 30 or 40.”

Cook, a freshman at Division I Kent, netted a school-record 85 goals last season and was part of an “extremely special” 15-member senior class that included four all-section picks and two other college-bound players.

But the returning Talbots are optimistic they can overcome the losses in their bid to defend their undefeated Section 1-2A title and contend for their third WPIAL championship in five seasons.

“We’re going to miss them,” said senior attacker Hannah Acquafondata, expected to help fill the scoring void after recording 16 goals and 16 assists last season. “They were really good, obviously. But I’m glad to step up and step into their shoes. I think it will provide a lot of opportunities for newer, younger players to get the experience they need to progress.”

The Talbots also welcome back junior midfielder Emi DiLiberto, who scored 25 goals during a second-team all-Section 1-2A season.

Acquafondata and DiLiberto will be the engine of the offense for the Talbots, who, besides Cook, also graduated Meghan Welch (Denison) and a trio of first-team all-section performers, Jillian Stennett (IUP), Lindsey Schwarzbach (53 goals, team-high 23 assists) and goalie Annaliese Winklosky.

But the Talbots, under their ninth-year coach, have established a consistent winning program, reaching the WPIAL playoffs 10 times in the past 11 seasons, and the culture helps to minimize any dramatic talent dropoff.

Other returning players include seniors Sophia Kelly (midfielder), Ashlyn Enright (attack), Morgan Williams (defender) and Rachel Dolan (midfielder) along with junior Lauren Gale, a defender, and sophomore midfielder Meghan Murray.

Senior Gia Castellano, who has signed with Seton Hill, will start in goal after serving behind all-WPIAL Winklosky. Senior attack Tori Fiscus is “looking great” after missing the past two seasons due to injury and the covid pandemic, and her sophomore sister Lindsay Fiscus is showing promise.

“There is a lot of change this year, but change is good,” Burke said. “A lot of people are stepping up and rising to the occasion.

“This senior class definitely has the skill set. I think it will be interesting to see. … We’re going to move the ball around a little bit more. It’s nice that we don’t have one person we are always looking to, because there is a lot of space for people to jump in and own their part of the offense.”

Cook took a lot of offense with her. The USA Lacrosse All-American departed as the program’s third all-time goal scorer (143) and ranks fourth with 170 career points despite having her junior season wiped out by the pandemic.

But DiLiberto, who also plays for the True Lacrosse travel team, is encouraged by the early season practices. The Talbots, who went 12-7 last season and reached the WPIAL Class 2A semifinals, defeated Aquinas Academy, 17-9, in their March 28 opener.

“We are working hard in practices and a lot of the new players, and returning players as well, are really picking up stick skills fast,” DiLiberto said.

Burke knows it will take time for the new-look lineup to hit its stride. But there was no lack of energy at practice under threatening skies at Fridley Field in late March.

“There has been a little bit of learning curve,” Burke said. “Not only from an ability standpoint, but also a confidence standpoint. Some of these girls haven’t been challenged with a varsity starting position yet. It’s been great to see them step up and challenge themselves and each other.”

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