Hampton senior forward helps team improve
Last season the Hampton boys soccer team found itself in a rather unusual situation when the playoffs arrived: not in the bracket. The Talbots earned a spot as one of the most dominating squads in Class AA soccer, but a hefty graduation loss coupled with a jump up to a Class AAA section with powerhouses like North Allegheny, Pine-Richland and Seneca Valley left the Talbots with a new mission this season.
This season, rather than defending a WPIAL or PIAA crown, the focus is to get back where the team feels it belongs — in the championship conversation.
Senior forward Karl Palmer was a part of the glory years, so he understands what it takes to succeed. On the other hand, he saw where the team fell short a year ago, so he also understands how a bounce here or an inch there can totally alter a season. Hampton only missed out on the playoff chase by one game.
“One thing I learned about soccer is that you really have to work on it,” Palmer said. “I know that the starters here give 100 percent, so growing up, I tried to do what they did.
“It was really great experiencing the success, and the long winning streak was really great.”
Palmer was excited to make the jump to Class AAA. He said the biggest thing he and his team had to adjust to was the fact there were no longer games where the team could just steamroll the opposition.
“At this level, every game is anyone's game,” Palmer said. “Every game is a good game. It is really exciting, and it makes us work even harder.”
The letdown was tough for Palmer and his teammates. None of them previously had been eliminated before late November, so those who were around last season are determined to not to repeat that ending.
Palmer said the entire team that is dedicated to improving.
“We have all stepped up this year; it's not just me,” Palmer said. “We are putting our all into this, and I have improved my ability to switch and open up the field.”
The experience being in and around the program has helped Palmer's understanding of the game. He said seeing and understanding the team concept has been a huge benefit for him and the team.
Also, the direction of coach Chuck Kelley has helped Palmer grow into the player on which the team can count.
“Chuck is great; he knows how to get us to work hard,” Palmer said. “He understands how the game works, and it is great to have him here.”
Palmer said one positive trait this team has is the “110 percent” mentality and the fact it never quits on a game no matter what the circumstances.
“That is what we have to do to make the playoffs,” Palmer said. “You can't let up early, and even if we let up a quick goal, we can't give in.”
The wins and championships are great, but Palmer said that what sticks with him the most are the players who work together and like being together.
“I have been with these guys since the recreational days, so it has been terrific to be with them on the team,” he said.
The shining moments have been many, but a game-winning goal on a long shot to beat section rival Shaler was a highlight, he said.
Palmer said he would like to play college soccer, and before he graduates, he wants to make sure the younger players make the most of their time at Hampton.
“It goes quick. That is what I tell them,” Palmer said.
Jerry Clark is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or.