Youthful Hampton lacrosse team shrugs off slow start

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Saturday, May 14, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton boys lacrosse team expected to take some lumps this season as it tried to replace 13 seniors.

“Look at every article, every person who follows Hampton lacrosse,” first-year coach Andy DeMichiei said. “Everyone is talking about how this team doesn’t have it, and it’s going to be a down year.”

But the Talbots are trying to prove everyone wrong. Hampton rebounded from a 1-4 start, which included losses by scores of 19-1, 15-2 and 15-5, to clinch a spot in the WPIAL Class 2A playoffs.

Hampton, which brought back only three starters, defeated Freeport, 15-4, on May 9 to secure a top-six finish in Section 2-AA and reach the WPIAL postseason for the 12th time in the past 13 seasons.

“We are not necessarily the skilled Hampton team that we’ve seen in the past,” DeMichiei said. “I think everyone on our team knows that, and I think everyone in the WPIAL knows that.

“But whenever these guys play with a little bit of grit and a little bit of passion, they can play against anyone in the WPIAL and make it a competitive game.”

After their slow start, the Talbots (5-3 in section, 6-7 overall as of May 9) recorded section victories over Moon, Knoch and Shaler on the way to the playoffs, which are scheduled to begin in the third week in May.

One of the key contributors to the Talbots’ recent success is a player who wasn’t even on the roster to start the season. Freshman defender Ray Kirsopp, who had played lacrosse through eighth grade but planned to sit out this season after competing in football and basketball, was convinced by some of the Talbots players to join their effort. He watched their opener, an 11-8 section win over North Hills, from the sideline and told DeMichiei he wanted to play.

“My friends got me back into it, and I joined the team right then and there,” Kirsopp said. “They asked me to join and I was like, ‘OK.’ I just wanted to be with those guys again. I liked playing the sport with them, especially.”

Kirsopp, who played lacrosse for the past five seasons, quickly became a physical, athletic defender for the youthful Talbots.

“Ray is a great athlete, and he has just been developing at an exponential rate,” DeMichiei said. “He’s a super passionate kid. He’s a tough kid. He’s been playing a lot of minutes for us on defense.

“Whenever I look at a kid like him, that’s what I see the future of the program looking like. A lot of dual-sport athletes. You don’t have to be the best lacrosse player, but if you are playing with that passion and energy and not really afraid to be a little bit physical, that’s kind of what I’m looking for.

“There is a ton of potential with him.”

Hampton wasn’t sure what to expect after losing to rival Mars, 19-1, on April 14 for its fourth straight loss. Only an outstanding effort from junior goalie Kaden Hoolahan prevented the final score from being even more lopsided.

“Believe it or not,” DeMichiei said, “it should have been like 35-1.”

The loss was the final insult to a four-game skid that included a 15-2 loss to Peters Township and a 15-5 loss to Fox Chapel.

But Hampton, a proud program with four WPIAL title-game appearances since 2015, turned the Mars rout into a motivating factor. They followed the disappointing loss with more energetic practices and went 3-1 in their next four section games.

“We took it pretty hard,” Kirsopp said. “Mars is our biggest competitor. We hated losing to them. We just wanted to make the playoffs this year. Losing by that bad angered us.

“We just got our momentum going back. Practice used to be really slow. They have gotten more upbeat, and that really just reflected into our games.”

The Talbots have also received consistent play from senior midfielder Dylan Beranek, junior midfielder Luke Hartle and sophomore defender Gabe Gannelli. The balance of the roster is learning on the fly.

“We’re a young team,” DeMichiei said. “With that inexperience, there is going to be blunders and your record is not going to be where you want it to be. But I think this season is a great learning experience for these guys. … I think this group of guys is going to be a pretty dangerous team next year.”

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