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Hampton girls lacrosse makes 1st trip to WPIAL final after toppling Franklin Regional

| Monday, May 22, 2017, 8:27 p.m.
Franklin Regional's Danielle Hodowanec competes against Hampton in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Danielle Hodowanec competes against Hampton in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton celebrates its fourth goal against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton celebrates its fourth goal against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton's Rachel Hirst competes against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Rachel Hirst competes against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton goalie Mia Commendatore makes a save against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton goalie Mia Commendatore makes a save against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton's Bree Murray and Melinda Maers defend against Franklin Regional's Danielle Hodowanec in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Bree Murray and Melinda Maers defend against Franklin Regional's Danielle Hodowanec in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton's Megan Maers competes against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Megan Maers competes against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton's Caroline Larkin competes against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Caroline Larkin competes against Franklin Regional in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Hampton's Hailey Pritts and Franklin Regional's Grace Scherpereel compete in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Hailey Pritts and Franklin Regional's Grace Scherpereel compete in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Franklin Regional's Anna Stephens scores against Hampton in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.
Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Franklin Regional's Anna Stephens scores against Hampton in a WPIAL Class AA quarterfinal playoff game May 22, 2017, at North Allegheny.

Not capitalizing on three penalty shots didn't help the Franklin Regional girls lacrosse team. Having the usually potent Panthers' offense stall out as a whole during the WPIAL Class AA semifinals Monday night at Newman Stadium was tough for senior attack Anna Stephens to watch.

Franklin Regional, which averaged nearly 15 goals per game entering the contest, was limited to two in each half of a 11-4 loss to Hampton. The Talbots were brilliant offensively to earn their first trip to the WPIAL final.

The Panthers just weren't in rhythm.

“Basically,” said Stephens, who scored twice to extend her career total to 246 goals. “We picked a bad game to be out of sync.”

The Talbots will take on Wednesday's winner of Quaker Valley-Oakland Catholic for the championship Thursday at Robert Morris. Franklin Regional will meet the loser in a consolation game to determine the district's final PIAA berth.

“We're going to work on settling down,” Stephens said. “A lot of us were mixed up in our heads because it's the semis and our team hasn't been here in seven years. We weren't nervous, we were just rushing things. We thought we could do this, keep it moving. We're going to work on recognizing when to relax.”

Chasing the Talbots, who are 19-1 and winners of 18 straight games, was difficult for the Panthers (16-3). They were never able to claw back after falling behind 3-0 to start the game.

The Talbots scored five times in the first half, including three from Caroline Larkin, to build a 5-2 lead.

“On defense, we've been honing in on communication, and I think that's key,” Hampton coach Kelsey Viets said. “Knowing who on their team is able to drive in and having played them before, we knew what their offense was like and how to match our defense against that offense.”

That margin could have been more lopsided, with Hampton hitting the post three times and missing close with two other shots.

Even when the Panthers made a nice play, the Talbots' aggression helped out. Katie Cyphers scored for Hampton after collecting a rebound that deflected off Franklin Regional goalie Maria Cefalo.

When the Panthers showed life after halftime, cutting the lead to 5-3 on a penalty shot by Danielle Hodowanec with 23:50 remaining, it was quickly snuffed out.

Larkin, who finished with a game-high four goals, scored 65 seconds later, taking the lead back to three goals.

The Panthers would never get closer than that margin the rest of the game.

Melinda Maers also scored three goals for the Talbots and Rachel Hirst had two. Angie Giannangeli added a goal for Franklin Regional.

“I thought we were a little tentative forcing the ball,” Franklin Regional coach Eric Barnabei said. “Typically, we show up right from the beginning, and we didn't do that. That was the difference. They showed up and we didn't.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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