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Things looking up for Penn State Altoona program

September 11, 2007
The Altoona Mirror
As the curtain opens on the 2007 fall soccer season, a number of changes may be in store for area teams, but one squad in particular believes their patience and perseverance may finally pay big dividends.

John Parente, head coach of the Altoona Campus men’s soccer program, has been a patient man in building his program, and this season may bear the fruit of a long sought-after Allegheny Mountain Conference championship.When the program began in 2001, he had only one recruit and managed only four wins.

Parente is now in his seventh season at the Altoona Campus. After coming off a 14-4-2 mark last year, and an eighth-place Mid-Atlantic Region finish with victories over national-ranked teams such as Carnegie Mellon, the Little Lions are gunning now for the conference championship with five returning juniors coming back. They also sport five players who were high school all-state players, and an extremely talented crop of freshmen, many of whom are ready to come in and start for the Lions..

Throughout the course of the program, only three players have lasted the entire four years with the squad. However, they have managed to outscore opponents by over 40 goals last season, and with a balanced team attack holding almost all opponents to zero or one shot on goal, while scoring 63 goals and averaging 3.5 goals per game. The losses have been hard to swallow as four of them were all 1-0 scores.

The campus men will be led by the likes of former State College standout Brian Pierzga and Altoona’s former scoring machine, Tim Morris. Long-time travel coach, and sporting international experience, Maurice Taylor will once again be at Parente’s side assisting him in directing the team.

Goalkeeper coach Tim Wassell, however, has been tabbed as to run the women’s program at PSU Altoona.

After a rough start at East Stroudsburg University, Wassell transferred to PSU Altoona and experienced incredible success as a student athlete in goal for the Lions.

Wassell replaces long-time area soccer fixture Jim Fee as coach. Fee initiated the boys’ club program at the campus and ran the helm of the girls’ program for the past six years.

Parente sees the conference title as an extremely attainable goal, but has set his sights even higher on a successful NCAA tournament run.

Scholastic preview

On the scholastic level, it should be the year of the Lion as well — the Altoona Mountain Lions that is.

Losing only three starters and sporting a team with two regular-season victories over State College last season, the Mountain Lions have a balanced attack and depth with strong goalie support from converted field player Steven Weiss. The Lions are definite favorites to regain the District 6 crown after a 10-year drought.

However, State College coach John Marsden is playoff savvy and indeed, in playoff action for nearly a decade, has been able to expose his opponents’ weaknesses. The Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers won’t have the depth of Altoona, but Hollidaysburg historically has given Altoona fits regardless of any statistics, simply based on the incredible intense rivalry.

You may also want to keep an eye on the Bishop Guilfoyle boys in their initial season as a squad. With Bill James as bench boss, and Danny Graham assisting by doing the legwork to prepare the team, the Marauders may dp well against teams of their own size.

Meanwhile, the Altoona girls,under Pat McKinney, have worked diligently in the offseason and come into 2007 stronger and better prepared than they have been in past years.

Their numbers are fairly small, but they have a nice blend of experience and incoming freshmen that definitely should enable them to make some kind of run in the district playoffs.

They had failed to qualify for the past several years. Standout junior goalkeeper, Jordan Zilla, may make all the difference with a lot of offensive punch provided by Amber McCauley and Bre Morris.

The Hollidaysburg Golden Tiger girls will definitely be a handful for any team. However, even with the large talent pool lost to graduation, the girls have probably the best crop of incoming powerhouse freshmen with the likes of Jamie McConnell, Taylor Vladic, Mackenzie Walter, Sarah Cobbler and a number of other strong freshmen and sophomore players.

The scholastic season should truly prove to be one of the most highly competitive seasons the area has seen in many years.

Schmitt’s column appears occasionally throughout the soccer season.

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