Hampton lacrosse star lighting up scoreboard

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Saturday, April 22, 2023 | 11:01 AM


When Hampton’s Emi DiLiberto started playing lacrosse in fifth grade, she was petrified of the hard, rubber ball.

“I was terrified,” she said. “I wanted nothing to do with it.”

Now, she’s scary.

DiLiberto, a senior midfielder, overcame her initial fear and has blossomed into one of the top scorers in program history. On her way to a second consecutive all-WPIAL selection, DiLiberto has scored 48 goals through 10 games, including a 10-goal game against Indiana, and is on pace to break the school’s single-season goal record of 85 set by former teammate Megan Cook in 2021.

The 5-foot-6 DiLiberto has come a long way from the timid grade schooler who spent games running away from the action after picking up the sport in place of her previous athletic passion, soccer.

“My first year I only played defense,” she said. “My mother came to countless games to just watch me run away. My second year, when I started getting into it and having fun, that’s when I started learning and getting better.

“My youth coach forced me to play attack instead of defense. I was like, ‘All right, this isn’t too bad.’ “

With DiLiberto leading the way, Hampton (7-3) is moving toward a third consecutive undefeated Section 1-2A championship. The Talbots were 6-0 in section play as of April 16 and had extended their section winning streak to 31 games. Hampton is 61-1 in its past 62 section games dating to April 2016.

“Fierceness is (her) No. 1 (strength),” Hampton coach Kelsey Burke said. “From the second she gets on the field, she wants that ball. She wants her team to win. She’s trying to figure out what to do with the team. That’s just a fierce competitive nature. That is not coachable.”

Earlier this month, DiLiberto committed to play lacrosse at Division III Vassar College. A straight-A student with a 4.3 GPA, DiLiberto picked the prestigious Poughkeepsie, N.Y., school over Smith and Wooster.

“They have a really good (lacrosse) program that’s on the rise,” she said of Vassar. “The campus is beautiful. They have a really good program for history and political science.”

Last season, DiLiberto scored 74 goals, the second-highest single-season total in program history. She also set a program single-season record with 221 draw wins.

DiLiberto finished last year with 99 career goals — her freshman season was canceled by the covid lockdown — and after a long offseason awaiting the milestone, she tallied her 100th goal in the season opener against WPIAL Class 3A power Mt. Lebanon.

“Ending at 99 in May was a little bit painful,” said DiLiberto, who earlier this month was named the MaxPreps Pennsylvania High School Athlete of the Week in statewide voting. “I’ve been waiting. I’ve had quite a long time to mull over it. But it was sweet getting it.”

DiLiberto has continued to score goals despite being the defensive focus of every opponent. She scored six goals as the Talbots rallied for a 9-8 win at Franklin Regional on April 11 to keep their section winning streak alive.

“I’ve definitely gotten a lot more focus from the teams we play, especially isolating me and face-guarding me,” she said. “But so far I haven’t struggled too much.”

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