Hampton girls soccer looking to put pieces together

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 | 3:29 PM


The Hampton girls soccer team has the tools. It just needs to learn to put it all together.

That was the feeling following a 4-0 loss in an early season marquee matchup with undefeated rival Mars — a program that has proven to be a thorn in Hampton’s side over the past few years.

“We’re going to go through high and low points of the season,” senior captain Rylee Obringer said. “I think there’s some really easy fixes. We didn’t lose by 4-0. … I think the score paints a different picture, but how we played and hung with them was a lot closer.”

Indeed, the Lady Talbots held strong for the majority of the game. The score was 1-0 with 12 minutes left in the contest before the floodgates opened.

“I think they had more chances than we did,” coach Bill Paholich said. “But we got a couple chances also. They capitalized and we didn’t. Whenever we start to play as a team, we can do really well. When we don’t, we lose focus and it gets a little choppy.”

Coming together has been the challenge in the early going for Hampton, which is having an otherwise solid season by most teams’ standards (5-3, 5-2). But for a team that returned a majority of its contributors from last year’s state quarterfinal squad, Paholich expects more.

“I don’t think we’re playing our best soccer,” he said. “We haven’t had everybody healthy at the same time. I think if we can start playing together as a cohesive group, the sky’s the limit. If we don’t, we’re going to struggle at times against the better teams.”

Contributions up front have come as expected from Gannon commit Logan Nicklas, who leads the team with 10 goals. The next highest total on the team is four. On the other end, the defense has been strong, led by Obringer and sophomore goalkeeper Sophie Kelly, who could be a future star outside the goalkeeper’s box.

“Sophie is a field player,” said Paholich, who hopes another goalkeeper in the pipeline can move Kelly out to showcase her skills in future seasons.

“She doesn’t do a lot of goalkeeping in the offseason. I told her I’m jealous of what she’s able to do. No matter what she plays, no matter what position, she’s good at it. She’s just a natural athlete.”

There is talent and experience among the upperclassmen, but youth is still being served.

Sophomore Nicole Fortes saw ample playing time last year. She now holds down the central midfield position. Sophomores Ava France (center back) and Jillian Antal (outside midfield) are also starting.

One challenge is teaching the younger players how to cope with the highs and lows of a competitive soccer season on a team where expectations are high.

“I wanted the underclassmen to know no matter how far down we are on the season or a game,” said Obringer, “it’s not too far to close the gap. We still have a chance to work on the things we need to work on when we play (Mars) again.

“I think a big thing is just getting to know each other. Once we learn how each other works, it’s going to feel just like last year”

Keeping everyone healthy could work wonders. Senior captain Lainy McLaughlin missed a handful of games with a knee injury.

In addition, a virus hit the team the week of its matchup with Franklin Regional, causing Obringer and Fortes to miss the contest. The Talbots lost, 3-1.

“We have so much individual talent as a team it’s insane,” she said. “As soon as we work together, hit the seams and know how to make runs, I think we’re going to be dangerous this year.”

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