Smaller roster doesn’t faze perennial girls lacrosse power Hampton

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Saturday, April 1, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton girls lacrosse program has only 25 players this season spread across the varsity and JV rosters.

It is one of the thinnest rosters in coach Kelsey Burke’s nine seasons — they typically have 35-plus — and prevents the Talbots from holding full-field scrimmages at practice.

But every one of the girls has something in common: They have never lost a section game.

The Talbots entered the 2023 season with a remarkable 25-game section winning streak, dating to 2019, and are in the midst of a dominating run over the past six seasons.

“We have a ton of pride in that,” Burke said. “That record speaks for itself.”

The Talbots defeated Latrobe, 11-6, on March 25 to extend their section surge to 26 games and improve to 56-1 in their past 57 since mid-April 2016. Their only section loss in that span was a 13-9 setback to Oakland Catholic on April 15, 2019. Only three-time defending WPIAL Class 3A champion Shady Side Academy (30) has a longer active section winning streak.

“It’s been so long,” all-WPIAL senior midfielder Emi DiLiberto said. “You can’t help but want to keep the streak alive. But we go into every game, section or nonsection, and we want to win.”

The Talbots are fighting a numbers crunch with only two seniors — DiLiberto and attack Kelli Gibson. The program graduated four all-section picks from last season’s 15-5 WPIAL Class 2A semifinalist, including 58-goal scorer Sophia Kelly, and lost 36-goal scorer Meghan Murray when the standout point guard decided to focus on basketball this spring.

“I always tell them, ‘Look at the (championship) plaques on the field.’ That means something for this program,” Burke said. “Even though we only have 25 girls, that means everyone matters even more than in previous years. It doesn’t matter where you are. If you are on the bench, off the bench, everyone has to practice hard, play hard.”

The Talbots looked sharp in their 15-11 victory over visiting Seneca Valley on March 27, with DiLiberto scoring six goals, capped by a dazzling full-field rush and finish in the final seconds.

“We look super early on,” said Gibson, who scored 14 goals last season. “It’s a huge improvement from the preseason. We are doing great right now.”

DiLiberto is the centerpiece of a Talbots program that has reached the WPIAL semifinals in six consecutive seasons, winning it all in 2017 and ‘18. She scored 74 goals last season, the second-highest single-season total in program history.

“I think it’s going well so far,” DiLiberto said.

Joining DiLiberto in the midfield are junior Sienna Rex, who scored three goals in the victory over Seneca Valley, and sophomore Ava Galuska.

Up front, the attacks are Gibson, junior Lindsay Fiscus, who scored 15 goals last season, and sophomore Maggie Barnett with sophomores Emerson Pryal and Ava Nee vying for the remaining starting spot.

The defense is solid with juniors Elena Herchenroether, Greta Hamlin and Addie Hastings and sophomore Olivia Graswick, named a team captain, playing in front of first-year goalie, freshman Taylor Whitman.

“She’s been playing awesome,” Burke said of Whitman. “I give that kid a lot of credit. That’s a lot to take on freshman year, but she is doing great.”

The Talbots are facing a number of tough nonsection opponents to prepare for the postseason, including two-time WPIAL Class 3A runner-up Mt. Lebanon and defending WPIAL Class 2A champion Chartiers Valley along with WPIAL 3A schools Peters Township, Pine-Richland and North Allegheny. Hampton also hosts rival Mars on April 6. Mars has eliminated the Talbots in the WPIAL semifinals each of the past two seasons.

Burke said all of the players are embracing the challenge despite the small roster numbers.

“Everyone has to do more,” Burke said. “It doesn’t matter if this is your first time starting varsity. … Everyone is stepping up. No one is complaining. It’s a lot of running, but they will be well-conditioned come playoffs.”

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