Hampton girls soccer teammates go from fierce rivals to best friends

Saturday, October 7, 2023 | 11:01 AM

Talk about two peas in a pod.

When Hampton junior midfielders Olivia Hoffman and Sara Kenst were asked if they got along when they met in grade school, the two best friends reacted the exact same way.

They looked at each other, laughed and said, “No!”

Fierce athletic rivals as youngsters, the two Talbots have developed a friendship and chemistry that manifests itself on the soccer field.

“I feel like we can read each other’s minds,” Hoffman said.

Kenst is the leading goal scorer and Hoffman is right behind her for the playoff-bound Talbots, who defeated Indiana, 2-1, on Sept. 27 to secure their eighth consecutive WPIAL postseason berth.

“We met in soccer when we were young,” Kenst said. “We were probably 8 or 9. We didn’t get along.”

Said Hoffman, “We saw each other as competition.”

Whether they were teammates or opponents, in soccer or basketball, the two adversaries would try their best to outdo the other.

“We got under each other’s skin,” Hoffman said.

But their rivalry matured into respect when they both became key contributors for the Hampton varsity girls soccer team as freshmen in 2021.

“In high school, we realized that working together was better than working against each other,” Kenst said. “I give Liv credit for about 90% of my goals.”

Hampton was 7-2 in Section 1-3A and 9-2 overall after its Oct. 2 match with Kiski Area. The only blemishes were a pair of losses to section foe and top-ranked Mars. In between those losses, the Talbots put together a six-game winning streak in which they outscored their opponents by a cumulative 25-1. The Talbots will learn their opening WPIAL playoff opponent when the brackets are released Oct. 18.

Through 10 games, Kenst, who plays outside midfield and was named all-section last season, led the Talbots with nine goals. Hoffman, a center midfielder, had added six goals, including the game-winner in a 1-0 victory at Knoch on Sept. 7.

“They are unselfish,” Hampton coach Bill Paholich said. “They want to win.”

Another highlight in Hoffman’s season came while playing in net for the first time. When the Talbots goalie received a yellow card against Indiana on Aug. 30 and had to leave the field for one play, Paholich summoned Hoffman to play in net for the free kick. Despite having “never played” in goal before, Hoffman made the save to help preserve the clean sheet in an eventual 4-0 victory.

“She had a great save,” Kenst said.

The contributions of the pair have been critical as the Talbots are dealing with injuries, including an ACL tear that kept Robert Morris-bound three-time all-WPIAL midfielder Madison Hurst out for the season.

Paholich said Hoffman and Kenst bring different abilities to the soccer field.

“(Olivia) has great foot skills and she sees the field very well. She knows exactly how to play the ball and where to play it,” Paholich said. “Sara’s skill has improved tremendously since her freshman year, but her speed has always been her biggest asset. She is lightning quick.”

The two best friends still show a combative side toward each other, but now it’s a much more friendly rivalry.

“If they are on opposite teams during practice,” Paholich said, “it gets to be competitive.”


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