Large, experienced senior class hopes to continue Hampton girls soccer success
Thursday, August 22, 2019 | 9:00 PM
Coming off its best season since 2007, the Hampton girls soccer team has enough experience for an encore. But the stage needs set, and a few major props need replacing.
The team returns 12 seniors, with most seeing significant playing time on a team that reached the PIAA Class AAA quarterfinals. The Talbots went 14-4 and 11-3 in Section 1.
“Having such a tight-knit group makes it easy to lead them into the season,” said senior Lainie McLaughlin, a Youngstown State commit. “We’re really trying to push it and go as far as we can. My class is really excited for senior year. It’s all about chemistry. We’ve been playing so long. We know how each person plays.”
The Talbots will have to find an answer to replacing midfielder Courtney Coholich (Cleveland State), as well as speedy wing Valerie Fischer (Bucknell track and field) and Sammy Joyce (IUP).
“It’s going to give the sophomores, juniors and freshmen even a chance to shine and step up,” McLaughlin said.
Whether or not Hampton can emulate last year’s speed and establish similar chemistry will go a long way in determining its style of play.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” coach Bill Paholich said. “We’re looking to see if we can play the way we did last year or if we have to change up. We’re just trying to find our best 11 to put on the field and trying to find out how to play them.”
There’s no doubt Logan Nicklas will play at forward. An All-WPIAL player last season, Nicklas has 41 goals and 19 career assists.
Because Nicklas, a Gannon commit, will be counted on for offensive production, building a rapport with new players around her will be key.
“She makes the players around her better,” Paholich said. “It’s up to us to find the people that create the chemistry. I know her and Courtney shared a pretty good chemistry last year. She’s going to have to be more of a leader up there as a senior and take these girls under her wing.”
Senior Emily Felitsky will look to replace the production of Coholich as attacking midfielder, along with Ali Resch (Seton Hill commit), who saw playing time last season at center midfield. The strength of Hampton could be its defense. Defensive center midfielder McLaughlin was All-Section as a junior.
“She’s awesome,” Paholich said of McLaughlin. “She can just win everything in the air. She’s strong, quick and wants to be successful.”
Senior Rylee Obringer is a returning starter and will anchor the defense with sophomore Nicole Fortes, who impressed enough as a freshman to see playing time on a team loaded with upperclassmen.
Amanda Rapp was an outside back last year, but Paholich thinks she can be pushed forward. Senior Maddie Dittrich also has started at outside back the past two years.
Seniors such as Larissa Pritts, Julia Bamrick, Lindsey Fortes and Julianna Oliveria will have a chance to step up.
“I have a number of seniors this year that were coming off the bench last year who are going to be asked to contribute a lot more,” Paholich said.
A consistent contributor will need to be sophomore goalkeeper Sophie Kelly, who took over the starting job midway through last season.
A field player and “gifted athlete” according to Paholich, Kelly lettered in soccer, basketball and lacrosse as a freshman. McLaughlin is excited to see what Kelly is capable of with more experience.
“It feels so good to be able to know,” McLaughlin said of Kelly. “Sophie did such a great job last year, and now she has a year under her belt, she’s going to know different tendencies from the team we played. It was a little rough last season not knowing who was going to play goalie, but after we had her step up … I think she’s going to be fantastic for us in goal.”
The seniors are looking to make a lasting impression.
“We’ve been playing together since fifth grade recreational soccer,” McLaughlin said. “We’re a very tight-knit group. It’s been really cool to see how each person connects and makes a bigger picture and can contribute.”