Mix of old, young help Hampton boys soccer to best season since ’11
Thursday, November 7, 2019 | 7:57 PM
If this season is any indication of what lies ahead for the Hampton soccer program, parents should start packing their bags for the state playoffs. But not this year.
The Talbots dropped a tough 1-0 decision to Blackhawk in the WPIAL Class AAA consolation game, losing out on a ticket to the PIAA playoffs. But in Matt McAwley’s sixth year at the helm, the team finally broke through to the WPIAL semifinals after knocking on the door for three years.
“This group I always knew would be a special group to take us far into the playoffs,” he said. “We had a nice group of old and young this year. They kind of reflected off of each other over the course of the year to balance the team out.”
The underclassmen showed up in a big way, though it took a nailbiter against upstart Ringgold in the first round to make the run possible. Sophomore Zach Panza scored the equalizer with five minutes remaining in regular time. Sophomore Thomas Bradfield saved two penalty kicks to ice the victory.
“They brought a lot to the table,” McAwley said of Ringgold. “I think what comes with some of the younger players is the idea that the first-round game might be easier than expected. But the experienced players and coaches knew.”
Bradfield continued his mastery in a 1-0 overtime victory against Moon with 13 saves. The defensive system was working for Hampton until it wasn’t. The team dropped its semifinal game to West Allegheny, 1-0.
“Moon was a defensive struggle,” McAwley said. “The defense and whole team pushed hard … all were one-goal games. It was basically a mentality that we needed to be as solid as we can be in the back, and we’ll see what happens up top.”
Senior captain Matt Govi said teams like Moon that were sound from an execution standpoint had to be played from that mindset.
“They were just really solid, so we had to play defensively and try to counter for our chances. West A was really slippery and rainy, but, for sure, we just tried to pack it in and find the counter opportunities.”
Panza, along with sophomore Gabe Viszlay, made the all-section team. Another sophomore, Brennnan Wesley, was honorable mention. Govi lived up to his billing, being named to the All-WPIAL Team.
“We knew we had what it takes to shock the WPIAL and show some teams that Hampton for the next couple of years is no joke,” Govi said.
“All I kept thinking about is how talented the sophomore class is and me in a leadership role, they’ll be going through this again. So we might as well go as far as we can now so they can get as much experience as they can, because I know they’re going to be doing that again.”
In addition to the eight sophomores Hampton started later in the year, the junior class has a good crop of talent. After a toe injury in late September, Max Saltrelli had a late-season surge that helped shape the Talbots’ playoff charge.
“He gave us a lot of good minutes and helped us in the midfield throughout the run,” McAwley said. “Without him, it would have been a different story. He’s one that’s definitely going to contribute and step into the role that Govi leaves.”
Overall, it was the best season in McAwley’s tenure and the best the program has seen since it won a WPIAL title in 2011.
“It wasn’t what we wanted coming up a little short,” McAwley said. “But the seniors this year have set precedent for what success in this program should look like. And it’s definitely going to lead us into bigger things in the future. “