Talented senior class ushered in golden era for Hampton volleyball

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Sunday, November 26, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The journey began innocently enough, at a spring-time middle school volleyball tournament at Montour.

A team of seventh-grade Hampton girls, competing together for the first time, surprised everyone by winning the title.

“We were brand new to volleyball,” said senior Avery Koontz, who would develop into an all-WPIAL libero. “I don’t think any of us came out thinking we were going to win. There were only three girls on our team who had played volleyball (before).”

“Seventh grade was really where everything started,” senior middle hitter Allison Schepner said. “It was very new to everyone.”

That group of middle schoolers would continue to work and practice and grow into the foundation of the best season in the history of Hampton girls volleyball.

“They’ve just been a really fun group to be a part of,” second-year coach Dainen Holler said. “I’m very grateful to have been able to lead them through this journey. I think this is definitely something that the girls will remember for the rest of their lives. They should be very proud of themselves.”

The top-seeded Talbots, led by all-state senior outside hitter Emmy Schrom, won the program’s first WPIAL title with a 3-0 victory over No. 2 seed North Catholic in the Class 3A championship game and marched into the state finals for the second time in three years, losing to undefeated defending champion Pope John Paul II, 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-15, 25-20), on Nov. 18 at Cumberland Valley High School.

Along the way, the Talbots (25-1) won their second straight undefeated Section 1-3A crown and rolled at the Mt. Lebanon and Shaler tournaments. They dropped only three sets in their first 25 matches this season, including seven consecutive shutout wins in the postseason.

This season’s remarkable run came two years after the Talbots reached the WPIAL and PIAA finals, settling for silver in both.

“The team this year was really special and we had a really special bond,” Schepner said. “We worked hard every day to get where we ended up. We tried our best, and that’s all that mattered.”

Schrom, a Duquesne recruit, and Koontz, a Pitt Johnstown signee, were named first-team all-WPIAL. Senior outside hitter Emma Rick and sophomore setter Lilly Muczinski earned second-team all-WPIAL honors.

The eight-player senior class consisted of Schrom, Rick, Koontz, Schepner, opposite-side hitters Sterling Thomson, Brooklyn Eastly and Taylor Frankel and defensive specialist Teagan Nolan.

“They put so much time and effort into making this program what it is,” Holler said. “It’s always hard to say goodbye to a group like this.”

The seniors had some help. Key underclassmen were Muczinski, junior middle hitter Payton Galietti, freshman opposite-side hitter Marin Katona-Bock and junior setter Kassidy Thompson.

“There are a lot of good players coming up,” Holler said, “and I do have high hopes for our team next year to be competitive.”

The seniors this year worked to manifest a team chemistry that showed itself on and off the court. The Talbots held numerous bonding activities. They went on a Gateway Clipper cruise earlier in the season and played Laser Tag a week before the state title match. They held a pot-luck senior night dinner and built countless other memories from practices and games.

After the PIAA finals, the players were emotional, but it had nothing to do with losing in the state championship for the second time in three years.

“We weren’t crying because we lost,” Koontz said. “We were crying because this was a great four years, and we were sad to see all of us go.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes on the bus we were kind of sad. But we had some pizza and we laughed about it and you get through it. The ride back was really about cherishing some moments, for sure.”

Senior sensations

The Hampton girls volleyball seniors were the winningest class in program history. Here is their mark for the past three years

Overall record: 62-6

Section record: 35-1

Section titles: Three (one co-champion)

WPIAL title-game appearances: Two (2023, ‘21)

WPIAL championships: One (‘23)

PIAA runner-up: Two (‘23, ‘21)

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