Hampton boys soccer to face new class of opponents
TribLIVE Sports Videos
With nothing left to prove in Class AA, maybe all that can slow down the Hampton boys soccer team is the PIAA engaging in some Class warfare.
The Talbots are the two-time reigning WPIAL Class AA champions — but they are not defending champions. That's because Hampton was moved up to Class AAA for this two-year cycle.
It's a move reminiscent of the promotion/relegation model used in European soccer where the better teams are moved to the more prominent league and those at the bottom moved “down.”
Hampton's move, of course, has nothing to do with on-field success and instead is based purely on enrollment figures. But after going 48-3 the past two seasons with two WPIAL titles and one PIAA championship, the Talbots clearly can compete — no matter the level.
“We've been pretty much been kicking (butt) in Double-A, so I think there's excitement in going to Triple-A,” senior forward Zach Kocak said.
“It will be something new for us, something good. Our coach (Chuck Kelley) is a great coach. He knows what he's doing, so I think he will put us in the right places. We will still be competitive.”
Hampton has been much more than merely competitive the past three seasons. The Talbots have played in each of the past three WPIAL championship games, winning the past two. They advanced to the PIAA semifinals all three seasons, making the final in 2009 and '10. Hampton won the PIAA championship two years ago.
A WPIAL team hasn't won the PIAA title in Class AAA since 2007.
“It's just a new challenge for us. We're looking forward to it,” senior forward Justin Carter said. “We had a lot of success in Double-A, and we expect to have the same kind of success in Triple-A. We know it'll be tougher, but hopefully we'll be able to step up.”
In addition, Section 2-AAA might be a better fit for Hampton than Section 2-AA was.
Of the six school districts that border Hampton, four are in the new section (only one, Deer Lakes, was in Section 2-AA). While in the past, the Talbots have had trips of an hour or more to get to section matches. Now only Butler will be a drive of any appreciable distance.
Plus, the Talbots regularly scheduled their new section rivals in nonsection games in past seasons. Many of the better players from the section's teams play for the same club travel teams or grew up playing in the same youth organizations.
“We know them, and they also know us,” Carter said. “It will be pretty fun to be able to compete against your friends, but we've still got to come out and win. We still want to beat them and they still want to beat us.”
Last season, Seneca Valley advanced to the WPIAL Class AAA semifinals and Pine-Richland to the quarterfinals.
Compounding Hampton's plight is the fact it lost a significant portion of last season's roster to graduation. Kelley said four starters return — and one of them, Carter, is coming off rehabilitation from a torn ACL in his right knee.
Kocak, midfielder Chris Delposen and defender Jeremy Taylor are the other returning starters. Together, they form a senior core of leadership. Carter, Kocak and Delposen share the team's captaincy.
“With such a young team, it's important to have strong leaders,” Kelley said, “and this group has a lot of different qualities. Some of them are vocal leaders, some of emotional leaders, some of them lead by the way they play.
“We have a good balance, and they're going to help our team — our young players — grow throughout this season and mature.”
The strength of Hampton's team has been — and Kelley vows it will continue to be — defense. During a 22-game winning streak last season that included the WPIAL title, the Talbots allowed only 13 goals.
The season before, during the final 23 games of a WPIAL and PIAA-title winning season, 10 goals were scored on Hampton.
That kind of defense wins — no matter the enrollment classification.
“We definitely have a confidence about us considering we were Double-A champions last year,” Kocak said. “But we know the responsibility that we have in Triple-A. We're not going to back down.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Predators winger Neal caught ‘blindsided’ by trade from Penguins
- Red Wings rally, shock Penguins in overtime
- Rossi: Middling Steelers must make a statement
- Steelers free safety Mitchell is still settling into role on defense
- Steelers notebook: Young players provide big challenge for special teams coach
- Steelers’ Adams delivers in pinch against Texans
- Ex-judge in Philadelphia charged with bribery, conspiracy in sting case
- Former Ligonier Township supervisor accused of costing residents thousands, viewing porn on the job
- Living Water Church takes over Knights of Columbus building in Kittanning
- Allegheny County health officials call on retirement homes to stay vigilant on Legionella prevention
- Ferrante defense questions results of cyanide test