Longtime friends, teammates Nichols, Viszlay lead Hampton soccer into postseason
Saturday, October 24, 2020 | 11:01 AM
Hampton’s Liam Nichols and Gabe Viszlay are dynamic teammates on the field and the best of friends away from it.
They connected playing recreational youth league soccer about six years ago. Since then, the two have been teammates on Hotspurs club soccer, Hampton middle school and the high school program.
“We clicked right away,” Nichols said. “Basically ever since we met, we’ve just been best friends.”
The chemistry is revealed on the field as the two juniors have led the Talbots (10-4-1 overall, 9-2-1 in Section 1-3A) to their fifth consecutive berth in the WPIAL playoffs, which are scheduled to begin Oct. 26.
Nichols, a striker, owns a team-leading eight goals, including three in a 3-0 win over Knoch on Sept. 16.
Viszlay, a midfielder, is right behind with a team-best nine assists along with six goals, highlighted by three goals in 4-0 win over Freeport on Oct. 3.
Hampton coach Matt McAwley said the “brotherly connection” between Nichols and Viszlay allows them to do special things on the field.
“Some of the runs that they make and the different passes are just incredibly creative,” McAwley said. “They sometimes surprise even us.”
Both players sat out the Talbots’ Oct. 16 practice at Fridley Field and missed a 1-0 nonsection loss to Pine-Richland the following day with, of course, the same ailment — twisted ankles. But Viszlay returned with three assists in the Talbots’ 13-0 victory over Highlands on Oct. 19, and Nichols is determined to be ready for the WPIAL postseason.
“I think we have good energy coming into the playoffs right now,” Nichols said. “We have a lot of returning players who are really good, and it’s really important for all of us to do well this year.
“Our defense is stellar, and (goalie) Thomas (Bradfield) is exceptional. They have been locking down the whole season.”
The Talbots, who last season reached the WPIAL semifinals, have outscored their opponents 42-0 in their 10 wins. They earned a No. 8 seed in the WPIAL Class 3A playoffs and were scheduled to face No. 9 Kiski Area in the opening round Saturday.
Both of Hampton’s Class AAA losses were to top-ranked Mars, most recently, 2-1, on Oct. 14. The Talbots are 0-12 against the Planets since 2014.
“I think we need to work harder at practice,” Viszlay said, “but I feel like we’re getting there to be ready for the playoffs. We definitely have the caliber to make it far.”
Nichols has a knack for coming through in the biggest moments. He scored the game-winner in the second half of a 1-0 victory over section foe Knoch on Oct. 6 and beat then-No. 4 Butler, 1-0, with a goal two days later.
“It’s a special characteristic that he has,” McAwley said. “He wants to be at that highest level and find those breakthrough moments.
“Those kind of traits are something that can’t be taught. They have to be internal. And Liam definitely has that.”
Nichols and Viszlay are part of a deep junior class that includes forward Luke Staggers, midfielder Zach Panza, defenseman Henry Hughes and Bradfield.
“We have a lot of chemistry together, and we know each other’s next move almost all the time,” Nichols said of Viszlay. “I can finish his sentences if I wanted to.”
Talbots score big in victory
The Hampton boys soccer team left nothing to chance as it clinched second place in Section 1-3A.
The Talbots (10-4-1, 9-2-1) beat host Highlands, 13-0, on Oct. 19, scoring their most goals in a game in at least 18 seasons. It is believed to be a school record, surpassing 12 goals in a shutout victory over Kittanning on Sept. 21, 2010.
Hampton, which edged Highlands, 2-0, in their first meeting Sept 28, led the short-handed Golden Rams, 8-0, at halftime and played reserves for the balance of the match.
Senior Corey Scherer scored three goals, and senior Jack Murray, junior Luke Staggers and freshman Coleman Docherty each added a pair.
Highlands coach Jason Norris said his 5-12 team has been decimated by injuries and covid-related departures. He said Hampton didn’t try to run up the score.
“They played it the right way,” he said. “They essentially played my JV team. They have a really nice team, and I know a lot of their players. They were classy about it. They took their starters out when it was about 6-0.”
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