‘Thankful’ Talbots eye girls volleyball section repeat

Saturday, August 14, 2021 | 10:01 AM

Inside a nearly empty Hampton High School earlier this month, unmistakable sounds echoed from the main gym.

The peep of squeaking sneakers, cheering teammates, bodies diving on the hardwood floor, the thump of the ball, laughter and high-five celebrations.

After a 2020 season in which covid restrictions limited indoor capacity and forced the program to divide practices into two gyms, the Hampton girls volleyball team was together again at one of its voluntary summer workouts.

“We are so thankful,” senior outside hitter Taylor Fiscus said following a spirited mid-morning intrasquad scrimmage. “It’s nice having everyone together. It’s different.”

Added senior setter Claudia Braun, “For the games (last season), we could only have four people on the bench. Everyone else was outside in that hallway.”

While Hampton graduated a pair of all-WPIAL players, libero Julia Resch and outside hitter Addie Syglowski, there is no shortage of energy and chemistry among the returning players.

“Our team is like family, and we love each other,” Fiscus said. “But we also can compete. It’s so friendly, and it’s a good competition to motivate people to keep going.”

Hampton went 11-4 last season, finishing in a four-way tie for the Section 5-3A title. The 12th-seeded Talbots nearly upset No. 5 South Fayette in first round of WPIAL Class 3A playoffs, losing 3-2.

“I think we shocked the WPIAL with how well we played against South Fayette,” second-year coach Annie Bozzo said. “I told my girls that as much as it stinks to lose, there were so many positives that came out of that game and that I really hoped they would come back this season hungry and ready to play and ready to prove ourselves.”

The Talbots return Braun and senior middle hitter Kai Herchenroether, who last season were each named second-team all-section, and sophomore outside hitter Emmy Schrom, a third-team all-section pick.

“Kai is definitely going to play a big role with us,” Bozzo said of the 6-foot hitter. “She has a strong arm. She’s a smart player. She brings a lot of energy to our court and just our team in general. We are really excited to see her have a pretty standout year, I’m hoping.”

Other returnees include seniors Rachel Dolan (libero) and Abby Stevens (outside hitter), junior defensive specialists Maya Obendorfer and Lauren Gale, and libero Avery Koontz and outside hitter Emma Rick, both part of a strong sophomore class.

“We’re going to go again for section champs and then we want to keep going far in playoffs and not go out in the first round,” Braun said. “Now we know what we can do, and we want to push that bar and keep going farther.”

The Talbots open the season Sept. 4 at the Mt. Lebanon Tournament and must negotiate a balanced section against Armstrong, Burrell, Freeport, Highlands, Knoch and Mars in their bid to reach the WPIAL playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

“I’m pretty hopeful that we can have a strong season and hopefully defend our section title,” Bozzo said. “I think we will be decently strong offensively. I’m excited to see what we do.”

Bozzo is also glad to be able to watch and coach the younger Talbots after being limited by last year’s covid restrictions.

“I didn’t really have a chance to see JV much in practice (last year),” she said. “I’m really excited to see them and be one whole team.”


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