Plenty of highlights for Hampton volleyball despite quick WPIAL playoff exit

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Saturday, November 19, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton girls volleyball team made history during a season that turned into the past sooner than anyone expected.

Hampton rolled to its first undefeated regular season and brought home its first outright section title before suffering a deflating 3-1 upset loss to No. 10 seed South Fayette in the WPIAL Class 3A quarterfinals.

“We had a great regular season,” senior middle hitter Addison Gindlesperger said. “We went 18-0, which is crazy. It was super fun. We didn’t end up going as far as we wanted in the playoffs, but we can’t make it to the WPIAL and state championships every year.”

One year after their memorable title-game runs, the No. 2 Talbots fell to nemesis South Fayette by scores of 25-17, 25-16, 21-25, 25-22 on Oct. 29, abruptly ending an otherwise stellar season under first-year coach Dainen Holler. A victory would have qualified the Talbots (19-1) for the PIAA playoffs.

“Looking back at the season, 18-0 is a pretty good start to your career as a head coach,” Holler said. “But the ultimate goal for me is, No. 1, to build a program where the girls enjoy coming to practice and building that culture where it’s fun. The second part is to win WPIALs and states. That goal is still out there and still achievable, and we look to do it in the future.”

After blanking No. 15 seed Knoch, 3-0, in the opening round, the Talbots couldn’t solve South Fayette’s Ava Leroux, a 6-foot-3 all-WPIAL senior middle hitter and Elon basketball recruit.

South Fayette continued its confounding mastery over the Talbots, beating them for the fourth time in the past 24 months. The Lions defeated Hampton in the Shaler Tournament finals in early September. (In-season tournaments don’t count toward a team’s record.) They also beat the Talbots in the 2020 WPIAL playoffs and in last season’s Shaler Tournament semifinals.

“I definitely was not expecting our season to end at that Saturday game,” Gindlesperger said. “When I realized that was the last time I would be playing with them, it all hit me at once.”

There were plenty of highlights. The Talbots went 12-0 in their new home, Section 1-3A, never losing a game. They posted nonsection wins over three eventual section champions (Thomas Jefferson, Penn-Trafford and Montour) as well as three other WPIAL playoff teams.

The Talbots were recognized with a host of postseason awards. Junior outside hitter Emmy Schrom, who led the Talbots in kills (229) and aces (58), earned first-team all-WPIAL honors for the second year in a row.

Junior libero Avery Koontz, who had a team-best 256 digs, was second-team all-WPIAL, and Gindlesberger, first in blocks (35) and second in kills (97), garnered third-team all-WPIAL honors.

The trio, along with junior outside hitter Emma Rick, who was second in aces (32) and digs (142), were also named first-team all-section.

The South Fayette loss ended the career of six Talbots seniors: Gindlesperger, right-side hitter and team captain Kaitlyn Laffin, and defensive specialists Lauren Gale, Maya Obendorfer, another team captain, and the Duchnowski sisters, Trista and Hayley.

Over their four seasons, the senior class posted a combined record of 62-12, reaching the WPIAL playoffs every year.

“I think our seniors did a great job,” Holler said. “They helped continue to set the foundation for our program for future years, and that is to work hard and to enjoy the process.”

The future looks bright. The Talbots return two all-WPIAL players, a first-team all-section outside hitter, and a pair of second-team all-section picks — junior middle hitter Allison Schepner, who was second in blocks (12) and fourth in kills (71), and freshman setter Lilly Muczinski, who excelled with 551 assists in her debut season.

Other returnees include junior hitters Brooklyn Eastly, Taylor Frankel and Sterling Thomson, and a group of promising sophomores.

“I think they now know what to expect,” Gindlesperger said. “We were expecting to go further this year and since we didn’t, it’s going to push them for next year.”

Above the net

Seven Talbots earned post-season honors following a 19-1 season

All-Section

First team: Addison Gindlesperger, Sr., MH; Avery Koontz, Jr., libero; Emma Rick, Jr. OH; Emmy Schrom, Jr., OH

Second team: Lilly Muczinski, fr., S; Allison Schepner, jr., MH

Third team: Maya Obendorfer, sr., DS

All-WPIAL

First team: Schrom, Jr., OH

Second team: Koontz, Jr., libero

Third team: Gindlesperger, Sr., MH

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