Strong start has Hampton boys lacrosse primed for playoff run

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Saturday, April 29, 2023 | 11:01 AM


Hampton has proven to be one of the elite boys lacrosse teams in Section 2-2A of the WPIAL.

The Talbots opened the week of April 24 riding a six-game winning streak and with 6-1 section record, and were looking to establish a high seed for the upcoming playoffs.

“We’re just going to continue to get better and better as the playoffs roll around,” said Gabe Gannelli, a junior defender. “We all have the same mindset and that is to win a championship and bring Hampton back to where it was. We have the guys and the leaders on this team to put Hampton back on the map.”

Luke Hartle is an offensive midfielder for the Talbots and one of 12 seniors on the team roster. With such a veteran presence, Hartle has great confidence for his team this season.

“I have extremely high expectations and so does the rest of the team,” Hartle said. “We strive for perfection every time we step on the field. Anything but a WPIAL championship would be a massive letdown.

“We’ve only lost one conference game. We can always be better though, and we’re always looking for ways to improve so that we can have a chance for a WPIAL championship.”

Hampton coach Andy DiMichiei, a former high school All-American, is in his second season at the helm. The Talbots advanced to the WPIAL playoffs last year and ended up 8-8 overall.

“My hope is that at the end of the season, whether it ends on a win or a loss, I will have 12 seniors that are balling their eyes out,” DiMichiei said. “Not because we lost the game, but because the environment and team atmosphere that we created is something that they may never be a part of again. If that happens, the season is a success for me.”

Hartle (34 goals, 17 assists), senior midfielder Maddox Lohr (25 goals, 21 assists) and senior attacker Jacob Krempasky (29 goals, 10 assists) were the Talbots’ top three scorers last season, combining for 88 goals and 48 assists.

They are joined in this year’s starting rotation by freshmen attackers Levi Whitfield and Eli Schwarzbach; junior midfielder Joey Nelson and freshman midfielder Brody Eichas; senior defensive midfielders Sean Donlan (LSM) and Koda Carslaw (faceoffs); sophomore Nolan Harris, junior Zach Jacob and Gannelli on defense; and senior goalkeeper Kaden Hoolahan, with a 57% save percentage.

Schwarzbach, a fleet 5-foot-5 freshman, is the team’s offensive leader in 2023 with 37 points through April 24. He has been complemented offensively by the likes of Lohr (25 points), Whitfield (23), a 5-4 freshman, Krempasky (20) and Nelson (15).

Defensively, Harris had accounted for a team-high 18 forced turnovers while Donlan and Gannelli had added 15 apiece.

Donlan also registered 47 ground balls, followed by Gannelli with 27 and Harris with 24.

“We are having great success in the section, but I believe our overall record doesn’t reflect the true potential that I see in our team,” Donlan said. “The culture that we are building on this team is a huge contributor to the success that we have seen and I believe we will continue to see.

“I have very high expectations. Every player’s mindset is locked in on the championship. We know every game we play, especially for the rest of the season, are must-wins, so our plan is to play like it.”

Gannelli is another player who likes what he sees in the winning culture that is evolving in the program.

“From last year to this year, it’s been a big improvement from the team we had (in 2022),” Gannelli said. “We stayed consistent in the offseason, started to develop a culture around Hampton, and now it’s all coming together.”

The Talbots had only one starter to graduate from last year’s squad, which lost to South Fayette in the WPIAL quarterfinals for the second consecutive season.

This year, Hampton started out 3-1 then won three of its next five. The Talbots recently traveled to Eastern Pennsylvania to play two games where they split decisions, losing to Owen J. Roberts after defeating West Chester Henderson.

“We have performed about where I would expect,” DiMichiei said. “We are playing a lot of young guys who have been developing over the season. As we get into the latter half of the season, I am starting to see them develop and come into their own.

“I think the weekend in Philadelphia was a big confidence booster for us getting a win over a triple-A team. We have been having very good, focused and high energy practices, which in my experience usually translate to success on game days.”

Hampton advanced to the WPIAL Class 2A finals eight times from 2009-19, winning four championships. The Talbots believe they have the talent and grit to reclaim their position at the top of the leader board in 2023.

“We have some of the best coaches around that you could ask for,” Hartle said. “Our staff is packed with D1 athletes who’ve left marks at their respective schools as some of the best to do it. We’re lucky to be able to be coached by them.”

DiMichiei’s assistants consist of Justin Mayfield, Chris DiMichiei, Connor Flynn, Paul Schwartz and Alex Heger.

“The coaches strive to make us better players and better men every day,” Gannelli said. “And our parents have volunteered countless hours and shown tremendous support through our ups and downs.”

Not counting 2023, Hampton has reached the postseason 12 times in the past 13 years.

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