Hampton knocks off North Catholic to win elusive WPIAL volleyball championship

Saturday, November 4, 2023 | 6:45 PM

Going into its championship match against North Catholic on Saturday, the Hampton girls volleyball program had been WPIAL runner-up twice and had never won a district title.

Now, the Talbots can finally proclaim themselves WPIAL champions.

No. 1 Hampton (22-0) swept No. 2 North Catholic (18-2) in three sets, 25-10, 25-16, 25-21, at AHN Arena at Peters Township in the Class 3A title match.

After dropping the first service point of the first set, the Talbots took the next five points as they controlled the tempo and took advantage of the Trojans miscues to take the first set, 25-10.

“I told the girls if they come out and take care of their job, trust their teammates and play as a team, then good things will happen,” Hampton coach Dainen Holler said.

In the second and third sets, the Trojans seemed to start clicking; however, the Talbots made sure they weren’t going to let this opportunity to capture the program’s first WPIAL title slip through their fingers.

“I think the one thing the team has done well is just staying in the moment and taking it one point at a time,” Holler said.

In the second set, the Trojans lit a spark early after a big opening point highlighted by a dig from senior liberio Alex Sepcic. With the score 5-5, it looked like it was going to be a highly contested set. However, the Talbots went on a 15-4 run to create a 20-9 lead and take control.

Even though North Catholic had its backs against the wall, the Trojans wouldn’t go down without a fight. They could only take a two-point lead, and it seemed as if senior outside hitter Emerson Schrom would come up with a big kill for the Talbots.

Schrom, who finished with 11 kills, put an explanation point on her performance with a kill that got Hampton to match point at 24-21. Schrom also had 14 digs in the match.

“There is not enough good things I can say about Emerson. She’s a true leader on the court and somebody that makes everyone else feel comfortable out there. She’s a true leader, and it shows in the big moments,” Holler said.

The Talbots finished with 36 kills as a team. Sophomore setter Lilly Muczinski had 32 sets and 17 digs for the Talbots. Senior liberio Avery Koontz led Hampton with 24 digs.

The Talbots reached the 3A championship match for the third time in program history after falling to West Allegheny in 2016 and Freeport in 2021.

“It’s a good feeling. I’m just really proud of these girls. I feel like it sets the tone for the generations to come and follow. I’m excited to see where the program goes in the future,” Holler said.

Hampton will host WPIAL No. 4 team Oakland Catholic in the first round of the PIAA playoffs Tuesday with sites and times to be determined.

North Catholic had a chance to complete a feat only a select few other programs have accomplished – winning four straight WPIAL titles. Bishop Canevin (2017-2021) still remains the most recent program to do so.

This was North Catholic’s sixth consecutive trip to the finals. The Trojans are 4-2 in those trips. They finished as runners-up in 2019.

“Some days it’s just not your day. We’ve been fortunate enough that a lot of days have been our day. We just didn’t play our best and we didn’t show up to fight today. We regroup in these situations,” North Catholic coach Amanda Fetter said.

“Thankfully, we are blessed enough to keep playing. We have another shot. We show up the next day and move on, rebound and try to get better.”

North Catholic will quickly turn the page as it will face Meadville, the District 10 champion, in the first round of the state playoffs Tuesday.

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