Runner-up finishes motivate Hampton girls volleyball to grab gold

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Saturday, September 10, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The most successful season in program history was just the start for the Hampton girls volleyball team.

Silver was nice, but they want gold.

“(Last year) was such a great year and I think that placing silver twice adds fire to a lot of us,” all-state junior outside hitter Emmy Schrom said. “We really want to finish what we started.”

The Talbots, ranked No. 4 in the 2022 WPIAL Class 3A coaches preseason poll, opened eyes with victories over No. 5 Armstrong and No. 1 Thomas Jefferson in a three-day span to start this season.

Hampton last season went 18-4, reaching the WPIAL Class 3A finals for the second time and PIAA Class 3A finals for the first time.

But they fell short in the title matches, losing to Freeport and Spring Grove.

The near-misses have served as powerful motivation for the Talbots, who welcome a new coach and enter a new-look section.

“I think it has definitely lit a spark in them, to know that they can do it,” first-year coach Dainen Holler said. “We see that every day in practice.”

Holler, 30, a former Hampton middle school coach, replaces Annie Bozzo, who left after two seasons to take over at her alma mater, Shaler.

The Talbots return four starters — senior middle hitter Addison Gindlesperger, junior libero Avery Koontz, junior outside hitter Emma Rick and the 6-foot-1 Schrom, one of the WPIAL’s top outside hitters.

“We play above the net,” Holler said. “We’re getting above the net and putting balls down. … We are really looking for Emmy to step up into a leadership role for this team. She obviously leads by example with her play, but (we want her) to be a little bit more vocal and really rally everybody together.”

Other key returners include junior outside hitter Allison Schepner, who will step in for graduated all-state pick Kai Herchenroether, and senior defensive specialist Maya Obendorfer.

The top newcomer is freshman Lilly Muczinski, who will start at setter in place of graduated first-team all-section selection Claudia Braun.

“She’s super athletic and super competitive,” Holler said of Muczinski. “She’s everything you want from a setter.”

Other contributors will be a trio of seniors — defensive specialists Lauren Gale and Trista Duchnowski and right-side hitter Kaitlyn Laffin — and junior defensive specialist Hayley Duchnowski.

The Talbots will be meeting some new faces this season. They were moved into Section 1-3A during the offseason realignment, joining Gateway, McKeesport, Penn Hills, Plum, West Mifflin and Woodland Hills.

Hampton leaves behind Section 5-3A, which featured Freeport and Knoch — two programs with a combined eight WPIAL titles since 2013 — and Armstrong, a ‘21 WPIAL semifinalist.

By contrast, Hampton’s new section has only one team that reached the 2021 WPIAL playoffs, semifinalist Plum. The other five teams went a combined 17-65.

“Our section last year was very powerful,” Schrom said. “It’s definitely going to be a different look for us this year.”

But the season’s success will be determined in November.

“A lot of the returning players are striving to get to that championship again, and to win,” the 6-foot-2 Gindlesperger said. “We are working harder, and I think we got a lot stronger in the offseason and a lot of new talent came in. I definitely think we have a lot of potential.”

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