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Hampton volleyball has solid encore season

| Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017, 10:06 p.m.

Last year, Hampton volleyball was the talk of the town. The team made the WPIAL championships after more than a decade of missing the playoffs.

It's hard to follow that, but the 2017 squad put on a solid encore. The team lost in the WPIAL quarterfinals to Montour, 3-0.

“This year was different because there actually were high expectations for us,” senior captain Maddie Ware said. “We knew we set the bar high last year and had to do everything we could, get the underclassmen fired up, people that had never played on the varsity level.”

The seniors' biggest job was to replace the leadership contingent from last season, and it was a job well done. The Talbots finished with an 8-4 section record. It was no easy task considering two of the top five teams in Class AAA, eventual WPIAL champion Knoch and Central Valley, also reside in Section 4.

“The seniors this year did a great job working with the underclassmen,” coach Matt Robertson said. “I know they didn't get as far as they wanted, but they did a great job of competing after losing many of our starters last year.”

From the beginning to the end of the season, growth was evident, particularly from juniors Melinda Maers and 6-foot-4 Division I prospect Anastasia Russ, who will be looked to next year for more than just her talents.

“They are leaders now,” fellow senior captain Kira Diehm said. “There is no more time or years. It's nice for them to be able to take that role. Anastasia is a great player, but she would never really yell or get anyone fired up. Toward the end of the season, she would be the one getting all the underclassmen fired up.”

Said Ware: “I'm super excited for what the seniors are going to be able to do next year. And then the sophomores after them. I think the program is in a great place, and it'll go up from here.”

When Robertson arrived years ago, he had this vision. He wanted to set up a program that would be able to reload year after year. With the help of middle school coach Tim Buresh, it looks like the program has done just that. The number of wins has increased each year, and the turnouts for tryouts have increased.

The team struggled this year with height, which seems counterintuitive given that it has Russ.

“We have one of the tallest players in the WPIAL, but outside of that most of our front players are a little under height for their position,” Robertson said. “Year-in and year-out, we get these girls to contribute at a high level for our team, but this year we ended up running into a great team in Montour that had two hitters that could just hit it over the top of our blockers.”

Next year, the team will have a senior class of five — the smallest class Robertson has had in his tenure, including Katie Cyphers, Megan Collins and Nikita Corbelli, who might have inherited the most difficult job of the year by becoming the new starting setter.

“Nikita did a great job of playing every game and never taking a play off,” Robertson said.

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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