Hampton sophomore sets stage for volleyball team’s formidable front line

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Saturday, October 7, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Hampton’s Lilly Muczinski knew early on what position she wanted to play in volleyball.

When her youth coaches tried to make her a hitter in sixth grade, she spiked the idea.

“I was really tall for my age at the time,” she said. “That’s why they put me as a hitter. But I said, ‘No. I want to set.’ That’s what I love. It makes me happy.”

The top-ranked Hampton girls volleyball team is happy too.

Muczinski, a 5-foot-8 sophomore, is in charge of the offense for the undefeated Talbots, who are No. 1 in the WPIAL Class 3A and No. 2 in the Pennsylvania Volleyball Coaches Association state poll. Muczinski distributes the ball and sets up the attacks for Hampton’s imposing frontcourt, led by two-time all-state senior outside hitter Emmy Schrom.

“The thing that she does really well is get her feet to the ball, and she always betters the second ball, no matter where the pass goes,” Schrom said. “She makes really good decisions in clutch moments.”

Muczinski started as a freshman and recorded 551 assists as the Talbots went 19-1, including an 18-0 regular season. She has 233 assists this season for Hampton, which was 7-0 in Section 1-3A (12-0 overall) as of Oct. 2, and won the Shaler and Mt. Lebanon invitationals.

Hampton will likely be the No. 1 seed when the playoff brackets are revealed Oct. 20 as it shoots for the first WPIAL title in program history. The Talbots, who are 48-5 since the start of 2021, reached the WPIAL finals in ‘16 and ‘21, losing both times. They appear to be on a collision course this season with WPIAL No. 2 and state No. 3 North Catholic.

Muczinski uses a variety of innovative passes, lofting the ball to give Hampton’s outside and middle hitters the best chance for success with their spike attempts.

“She always seems to make the right set at the right moment,” Hampton second-year coach Dainen Holler said. “Even as a freshman, she walked into a really good team and the moment was never too big for her.”

Muczinski arrived at Hampton with a strong volleyball pedigree. Her mom, Rachel (Thompson) Muczinski, played at Davidson in the early 1990s and still ranks in the top 10 for single-season games played, and her dad, Joe, played at Montour.

Lilly plays club volleyball for the Revolution travel team and competed this summer at nationals in Chicago. She is on the Junior Volleyball Association watch list for the top players in the country in the Class of 2026 and one of 11 Pennsylvania players on the ‘26 list.

“She does everything well,” Holler said. “She blocks well. She has great instinct and reaction time. She’s a very good athlete.”

As a setter, Muczinski thrives on misdirection and deception. At a late September practice, she performed a number of back sets, lifting the pass backward, over her head, to a trailing hitter confronting suddenly out-of-place defenders on the other side of the net. She has an improved setter dump and is working on jump setting, two other ways to keep the opponent off guard.

“I want to mix up the blockers on the other side,” she said. “It really messes them up … so that (our) hitters get a single blocker.”

Muczinski, who had 41 assists in a 3-1 victory over No. 6 Armstrong and 32 assists and 11 digs in a 3-1 win at No. 4 Thomas Jefferson, deflected praise to her teammates. She said the Talbots’ hitters — Schrom, Emma Rick, Allison Schepner, Marin Katona-Bock, Payton Galietti and Sterling Thomson among them — make her look good.

“It’s so great,” Muczinski said. “I feel like I can set anyone and they will get the kill. … We’re doing really well. I’m happy.”

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