Hampton girls soccer looks to bright future after playoff ouster

Sunday, November 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Every player who scored a goal this season for the Hampton girls soccer team has one thing in common — she’ll be back.

The Talbots will return all 10 starting field players and a bunch of key reserves from this season’s 14-5 WPIAL playoff qualifier.

“I would like to think we should be pretty good next year,” coach Bill Paholich said. “Everybody is getting a year older, a year wiser, a year stronger.”

The eighth-seeded Talbots saw their 2023 season come to an end with a 2-0 loss to No. 9 Elizabeth Forward on Oct. 23 in the first round of the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs. While their boys counterparts reached the WPIAL title game for the second time in three years, the youthful girls grappled with some key injuries and were forced to grow up in a hurry.

“We put our heart into it, but we just didn’t perform as we wanted to,” all-section sophomore midfielder Molly Interthal said. “I’m very excited to keep playing with them next year because we are not losing anybody off the field. I think our experiences in the bigger games will definitely help us for next year.”

The only senior starter in the WPIAL playoff game was goalkeeper Isabella English, a four-year starter. The other seniors on the roster included midfielder Julia Herrmann, who missed almost the entire season with a knee injury, and reserve forwards Tiffany Habib and Reagan Belau.

“It was a good season,” said Paholich, who next year will return for his 12th season. “It was enjoyable. They are a good group of kids. It was a young team, so that made it a little more challenging. … But we had some good wins. We battled a lot of injuries in the middle of the season.”

The biggest loss came last November when three-time all-WPIAL midfielder and Robert Morris recruit Madison Hurst suffered a torn ACL playing Cup soccer and missed her senior season.

“We had to move things around and we just adapted and worked well as a team,” Interthal said. “I was honestly very proud of myself for this season. I think I played well last year, but I definitely stepped up more this year.”

The Talbots, who reached the WPIAL playoffs for the eighth year in a row, will return a trio of high-scoring juniors — two-time all-section forward Sara Kenst, who netted a team-best 18 goals, midfielder Olivia Hoffman (9 goals) and forward/midfielder Kendall Hoolahan (12 goals).

Hoffman joined Kenst and Interthal on the all-Section 1-3A team in voting by coaches.

Other returning juniors are midfielder Gigi Rudy, defenders Sydney Lewis and Maria Zebrine and goalie Olivia Graswick.

The sophomore class includes forward Emma Langer (7 goals) and center backs Adele Cole and Harper Struble, and defender Kate Lewis leads a solid freshman group.

All told, the Talbots will return 17 players who started at least one varsity game this season.

They will try to build on a ‘23 campaign that featured an early season six-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents 25-1 and another four-game winning streak to close out the regular season. There were plenty of highlights, including a 2-1 midseason win over Oakland Catholic at Highmark Stadium, home of the Riverhounds. The Talbots went 10-2 in section play and finished behind only nemesis Mars, which beat Hampton 3-1 and 5-0 this season.

The players built excellent chemistry, forged during off-the-field activities that included a team sleepover at senior Habib’s house in September. At the slumber party, each class performed a different dance and they voted for the best performance. The sophomores, for one, danced to “Fireball” by Pitbull.

The Talbots will also improve during the offseason playing club soccer. Interthal, Langer and Struble are teammates for ‘08 Steel City FC.

“We just have to keep growing as a team,” Interthal said. “I definitely think we need to come in hungry and wanting to win and take what we did this year and keep building on it.”


More High School Soccer Girls

Freeport’s Camryn Woods values experience with U.S. ODP national team
Upper St. Clair’s Sierra Dupre called up to U.S. national team for international soccer tournament
New coach brings energy, ‘tough love’ to Norwin girls soccer program
Norwin girls soccer coach steps down
Former Pine-Richland girls soccer coach breaks new ground with Pa. hall of fame induction