Hampton girls volleyball’s ‘amazing’ year highlighted by WPIAL finals trip, PIAA win

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Saturday, November 13, 2021 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton girls volleyball team found a silver lining in its WPIAL Class 3A runner-up season.

“It was amazing,” senior outside hitter Taylor Fiscus said. “I never expected this, but we worked really hard as a team. My freshman year, I didn’t even make the team. These girls are amazing, and it was so cool to be able to go that far.”

One year after losing in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs as a No. 12 seed, the No. 3 Talbots advanced to the WPIAL championship match for only the second time in program history.

Hampton lost to top-seeded section rival Freeport, 3-1 (24-26, 25-22, 25-15, 27-25), in the WPIAL finals Nov. 6 at Robert Morris, but the PIAA playoff-bound players were gratified by their achievements during an already-memorable fall season for Hampton athletics.

“I think everyone on our team is a competitor, so I know we were all very disappointed that we lost,” sophomore outside hitter Emmy Schrom said. “But overall we were still proud of ourselves because we got there.”

The Talbots rebounded from the WPIAL disappointment with a 3-0 victory at District 9 champion DuBois (15-2) on Nov. 9 in the opening round of the PIAA Class 3A tournament. It was the first state playoff victory in program history. Hampton (18-3) was scheduled to play WPIAL third-place finisher Armstrong on Saturday, Nov. 13, in the quarterfinals.

The Talbots went 11-1 in Section 5-3A, splitting a pair of matches with Freeport, and earned a share of the section crown for the second straight season. Before 2020, the only other section title in program history came in 2016.

Hampton names dotted the all-section teams. Senior midde hitter Kai Herchenroether, senior setter Claudia Braun and Schrom earned first-team honors. Sophomore libero Avery Koontz, junior middle hitter Addison Gindlesperger and Fiscus were named to the second team, and sophomore outside hitter Emma Rick was third team.

Second-year coach Annie Bozzo, along with assistant Morgan Weaver, have strengthened a winning culture in a program that has reached the WPIAL playoffs for six consecutive years, stressing the enjoyment of effort.

The closely knit Talbots held Saturday morning brunches, pasta dinners and a car wash this season. The annual sleepover was canceled because of covid concerns, but the team chemistry in matches and at practices remained undeniable.

“I try to make it fun for the girls,” said the 25-year-old Bozzo, a former Shaler star and Syracuse setter. “I make them realize that working hard is fun and seeing the rewards of your hard work is fun.

“It’s not always fun doing the pushups and the (running) and things like that, but when you put in the work and you see the success that comes from it — as we have this season — it makes it a lot of fun.”

The Talbots defeated No. 14 Albert Gallatin, No. 11 Montour and No. 7 Plum to join the runner-up 2016 Talbots as the only teams in school history to play for the girls volleyball gold medal.

Hampton had a chance to force a deciding fifth set against Freeport, leading 24-23 in the fourth, but Schrom’s potential set-winning kill down the left sideline was ruled out, missing by a fraction of an inch. Freeport scored three of the next four points to claim the title.

“That was a tough one,” Schrom said of her spike. “We all thought it was in.”

Afterward, the Hampton players lined up across the court at Robert Morris and, one by one, lowered their heads as Bozzo placed silver medals around their necks. Hampton fans had come out in support, including the Talbots boys soccer players, who took a bus directly from their WPIAL championship victory over West Allegheny at Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh to cheer on their classmates.

“I think that was the coolest thing,” Schrom said. “We’ve never had a student section that big.”

The Hampton volleyball players asked their coach to let them stay at Robert Morris to watch the WPIAL Class 4A final between Shaler and North Allegheny. Bozzo’s younger sister, Tia, is a senior setter at Shaler, which lost 3-2. Watching the hard-fought match allowed the players to put into perspective their own achievements.

“It was cool to watch another team compete and work really hard,” coach Bozzo said. “The ride home wasn’t too bad.”

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