This past fall, Piper Hampsch proved that there is truth to the cliché of a game coming down to a matter of inches.
In a Division 2 field hockey state semifinal, Hopedale was facing off against Western Mass. powerhouse Frontier Regional. In preparation, Frontier had scouted the senior goaltender Hampsch heavily, and planned to exploit her aggressive style of play.
It didn’t work.
Through 60 minutes on the neutral site Shrewsbury High turf field, Hampsch did not allow a single goal. Neither did her opponent, however. The mid-November night game carried into double overtime, so while things were heating up on the field, the temperature kept dropping.
“It was freezing,” Hampsch recalled.
The Blue Raiders star, however, was as cold to her opponents as the weather in the final 15 minutes of play, stopping shot after shot – until one trickled through her legs.
“I thought the game was over,” Hampsch said.
Added Hopedale senior Carly Smith: “I remember thinking, ‘Did it get by Piper?’”
Proving that a game comes down to a matter of inches, Hampsch managed to get her heel on the ball and kicked it out over the end line of the cage.
“It was pretty cool,” Hopedale senior Zoe Athanasopoulos said. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.”
Minutes later, Smith made the goalie’s efforts worth it by ripping a shot into the back of Frontier’s net, moving the team onto the state finals with a thrilling, double-overtime 1-0 victory.
“It felt so good to make her save worth it,” Smith said. “She was doing her end in the game, so I had to do mine.”
Besides holding down the fort in net for Hopedale, Hampsch was also in charge of a tradition that has been in effect for over 20 years at the high school. As a captain, she chose what fabric ribbons the players would wear in their hair for each game.
She also had some fun with it.
“One time it was ‘Moana’ themed,” said Smith, referring to the 2016 Disney animated film.
And much like Moana, Hampsch is embarking on a journey that will change her life forever this fall as a member of the NCAA Division 1 Duke University field hockey team.
Hampsch began the recruitment process as a mere freshman, with a surplus of interested schools from which to choose. She chose to play for Duke the summer before her sophomore year in high school. Then again, she’d been a member of Hopedale varsity since the seventh grade, having played every minute of every game for the Blue Raiders — 125 games and more than 7,600 minutes.
The Blue Raider is a Blue Devil now.
As a goalkeeper in college, players often redshirt their first year so they can watch and get an understanding of the game.
Duke head coach Pam Bustin gave Hampsch another option – to greyshirt. This meant she would graduate high school early and go to Duke the spring before her freshman year of college. Hampsch would take classes and train with the team during their spring season and adjust to the collegiate level.
It was meant to set her up to start in the cage right away in the fall. After graduating from Hopedale this past December, Hampsch arrived at Duke’s Durham, North Carolina, campus in January to start her journey.
Then COVID-19 pandemic put it all on hold.
“I’ve continued my training at home this spring and hopefully, when the fall season starts back up, I’ll be prepared to compete in net for Duke,” Hampsch said. “Just like I did for the past six years with Hopedale.”
Hampsch first picked up the game of field hockey after watching her three older sisters play at Hopedale and then in college. For almost 10 years, she sat on the sidelines and watched until the fall of sixth grade when she decided to play.
“One of my older sisters was a goalie, so one day I put on her hand-me-down equipment and started training in my backyard,” Hampsch said.
Only one year later, she joined the Hopedale varsity team and started right away in the cage at 12 years old. That season, the team that went 18-0 in the regular season and made it to a Division 2 Central Mass. final.
At the end of her career with the Blue Raiders, Hampsch finished with 85 wins to her name – including 76 shutouts – and was named the D2 CMass Player of the Year and the Dual Valley Conference Player of the Year.
Now, her Duke field hockey career will hopefully pick up again in the fall, and one of the unlikeliest of friends is among the most excited to see it take off – Celia Firmin, a former Sutton high standout and senior captain who is headed to nearby Elon University.
Despite their teams’ rivalry, the two that met at a DVC Leadership Workshop have remained friends through constant battles on the high school field.
As they approach college in North Carolina, the former DVC MVP Firmin luckily won’t be too far away from her former rival and friend.
“I’ll only be 40 minutes away from her,” Firmin said. “Hopefully I’ll be able to go to a few games and cheer her on.”
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