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Hampton girls lacrosse begins WPIAL title defense | TribLIVE.com
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Hampton girls lacrosse begins WPIAL title defense

Tribune-Review
| Thursday, April 5, 2018 11:00 p.m
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Jocelyn Coholich (24) competes against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Jessie Potter (11) Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Jessie Potter (11) and Hampton's Hailey Pritts (21) compete Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Rachel Mattson (36) competes against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Sarah Rech (18) competes against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Emma Ivory (36) and Hampton's Katie Cyphers (32) compete Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Hampton's Melinda Maers (16) competes against Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Emma Pherson (2) competes against Hampton Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.
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Louis Raggiunti | For the Tribune-Review
Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic's Ava Wilkinson (31) and Hampton's Rachel Mattson (36) compete Tuesday, April 3, 2018, at Hampton.

The defending WPIAL girls lacrosse champions chant “back-to-back” after every practice and before every game.

But is there a greater purpose in mind for Hampton?

“Our goal has always been WPIALs,” senior two-time captain Jocelyn Coholich said. “So, we didn’t see past that, I don’t think. We never considered it and, as a team, we fell apart. This year, we’re trying not to do that.”

The PIAA tournament runs through June, and that’s exactly the time period coach Kelsey Viets has been preaching to the squad since preseason workouts began last September.

Last year’s historic 20-2 season that included the program’s first WPIAL title was gratifying for coaches and players alike, but the 14-5 drubbing by Hershey — the fourth-place team out of District 3 — left a sour taste in the PIAA tournament.

“That game was a wake-up call from an ability standpoint,” Viets said. “Once you get to the eastern part of the state, that style of lacrosse is different. It was a great learning experience.”

One shouldn’t bet against Viets and the Talbots to go further. That’s all they’ve done each year since the fourth-year coach took over — from a playoff berth, to the WPIAL semifinals, to WPIAL champs, respectively.

The team figures to make due without graduate Caroline Larkin, who set the team’s all-time scoring record last year. It’s a record that might not stand for long.

Junior Melinda Maers had as many tallies as Larkin in the regular season last year. The two-time all-section midfielder will team up with Coholich and senior captain Rachel Mattson, an academic All-American, to form a championship-level midfield.

“Certainly when you lose an attacker like Caroline, who scores 55 to 60 goals in a season, it’s a massive gap,” Viets said. “What we’ve been seeing, instead of four players scoring and Caroline has 80 percent of the goals, we have six to eight players.”

The defense should remain stout, despite losing four-year starting goalie Mia Commendatore. Juniors Riley Killian and Liz Dolan are year-round lacrosse players with starting experience. Senior Liz Jungling will take over in goal.

“I feel like we already have a pretty solid defense,” Coholich said. “Two of our defenders play club, and they are fantastic. That definitely helps set the tone. … In girls lacrosse, you have to talk a lot. I think we have a lot of loud voices back there.”

Despite an early 11-7 nonsection loss to perennial Class AAA power Mt. Lebanon, the Talbots (3-1, 1-0 Section 3-AA), which brought in 12 freshmen, are trying to keep the right mindset. They posted early-season wins over Butler, 15-8; Seneca Valley, 13-5; and Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic, 19-9.

“The attitude is there,” Viets said. “It’s balancing the perspective of having the confidence that they can do it, with the humble approach that we have to compete and have a lot of room to grow.”

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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