Realignment adds tall hurdle, but Hampton girls soccer team remains optimistic

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Saturday, September 3, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Two years ago, the Hampton girls soccer team won its first section title since 2008.

That’s almost certainly not happening again this season.

The WPIAL offseason realignment moved three-time undefeated PIAA champion Mars into the Talbots’ section, leaving the rest of Section 1-3A likely fighting for second place.

Mars went 61-0-2 in the past three seasons and was ranked sixth in the nation in the 2022 United Soccer Coaches preseason poll.

“You always strive to beat them, but they are a three-time state champion for a reason,” Hampton 10th-year coach Bill Paholich said. “It’s going to be interesting. Go against the best.”

The Talbots didn’t have to wait long to find out where they stand. They opened section play against Mars on Aug. 29, losing 5-1. It was the Talbots’ 11th consecutive loss to Mars, dating to 2014. The rematch will be Sept. 26 at Hampton.

The other section newcomers are Oakland Catholic, which is 56-16-2 in the past four seasons, and Obama Academy, which went 0-13 last season.

Departing the section were Franklin Regional, Gateway and Knoch.

“It’s going to take a lot of work,” Paholich said, “but hopefully we will get to where we want to be.”

Regardless of the tougher competition and the graduation of four all-section players, Hampton remains optimistic about reaching the playoffs for the seventh straight year. The Talbots bring back a solid core of players from a 12-4-3 team, led by junior striker/midfielder Madison Hurst, a two-time all-WPIAL pick who last season scored a team-high 11 goals.

“She is going to be the threat that she’s always been,” Paholich said.

Other returning Talbots include a trio of seniors, midfielder Lucy Interthal and defenders Kate Chapman and Amiya Johnson; juniors Isabella English, a two-year starter at goalie, and Julia Herrmann; and sophomore Olivia Hoffman, who scored eight goals during a promising freshman campaign.

“We are really excited,” said Interthal, who is currently sidelined and working to get back on the field. “We have a lot of good talent this year, and we are really excited to see what we can do.”

There was no shortage of enthusiasm during a mid-August practice on the grass field at Hampton Community Park. The Talbots engaged in a spirited intrasquad scrimmage near the end of practice before capping the workout with team-wide sprints.

“Well, we are clearly very high energy, as you just saw at the end (of practice),” Chapman said. “We are really excited. We’ve had a lot of fun so far. It’s a lot of work, but I think the chemistry has been good.”

Other Talbots expected to contribute are sophomores Sara Kenst, Kendall Hoolahan, Sydney Lewis and goalie Olivia Graswick, who is pushing English for playing time; and seniors Marlee Rudy, Hannah Kirkpatrick, Brittney Towers, Audrey Bianco and Skye Bierker.

“I think we are going to do really well,” Kirkpatrick said. “There is a lot of confidence on the team. The energy is really high.”

Paholich had 37 players try out, an increase from recent years. But he approached the 2022 season — which started a week earlier than recent years to accommodate a spread-out WPIAL schedule — still uncertain about his starting 11 or the Talbots’ overall prospects.

“I don’t know yet,” Paholich said. “I remember a long time ago with (former Hampton coach) Frank Christy. We thought, ‘We could be OK.’ Then after our first scrimmage game, we were like, ‘No. We’re going to be really good.’ It’s one of those types of deals. You just don’t know.”

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