Hampton girls soccer eyes section showdown with Mars
As possibly the most experienced group coach Bill Paholich ever has had, the Hampton girls soccer team is smart enough not to get caught looking ahead to the postseason -- or behind.
“We just have to focus on the things we can control,” senior midfielder Courtney Coholich said. “Focus on what we can: trying to stay undefeated in the second half of the season.”
The team kept its hopes alive while avenging an early-season overtime loss to Kiski Area, a team it is battling for second place in Section 1-AAA as top-ranked Mars remains undefeated.
“Beating Kiski at home was a big accomplishment for us,” Coholich said. “I think we played very well as a team. To not let that overtime loss affect us and come back from that, it shows we’re willing to fight.”
The team’s three losses this year have been by one goal. The success is partly because of the depth behind talent that’s been starting for two or three years.
“It’s a big luxury this year,” Paholich said of his team’s depth. “Our tightest games, we’re playing 17 players. Some years you have this drop-off with your subs. To be honest with you, all of my subs could be starting. That’s crucial.”
The depth is perhaps no more evident than in goal.
Sophomore starter Annaliese Winkloski went down with a concussion in a 4-3 loss to Mars. Since that game, Maddie Hess hasn’t lost a start.
“Obviously, that was hard in the middle of the Mars game, losing your goalie,” Coholich said. “But I think Maddie really stepped up and showed she’s going to work hard for us. I think it just showed we’re going to push through injuries and overtime losses.”
Junior Logan Nicklas led the team with nine goals entering last week, and Coholich had six.
Many of the other players had two or three goals, and that type of depth and unselfishness has been key to the team’s success.
“We haven’t been out of any game,” said Paholich, who highlighted the work of defensive center midfielders Lainy McLaughlin and Amanda Moser. “We feel like we could be in any game if we play our style. We just need to put away teams when we get opportunities.”
That will go double in the rematch against Mars on Oct. 15. Hampton was holding a 3-2 lead on its undefeated section rival in a road match before things unraveled the last 15 minutes, and the team gave up two goals.
“They’re a really good team,” Paholich said. “They’re solid, physical, tough. We’re disappointed with our result, but we’re going to see what we do next time.”
Hampton hasn’t beat Mars since a 2-1 victory in the opening game of 2014, when this group of seniors was in eighth grade. It was a big upset. Hampton went 5-11-2 that year, and Mars went 19-5 and finished as WPIAL runner-up.
Coholich thinks never having beaten the Planets is a mental hurdle the team can jump over.
“We gained a lot scoring three goals on them,” she said. “It boosted our confidence ... I think sometimes teams think that way. They don’t have the confidence. I think it is a lot mentally. It’s one of the hardest things to get over in sports. You have to go into every game thinking anything can happen.”