The 2008 scholastic soccer season ended with a whimper as opposed to a bang for area boys and girls teams with sights set on district championships and advancement into the state championships.
The Altoona boys appeared to be in the driver's seat for their second District 6 Class AAA championship in as many years as they downed State College in both regular-season meetings. Altoona was running with 10 seniors, many of those with at least three years of varsity experience and many years playing all year round.
Arguably, there was not a District 6 team that matched the skill and experience level of Altoona. However, State College won the district title, and the deciding factor may have been the playoff experience of State College skipper Jon Marsden. He has owned eight out of the last 10 district championships and again engineered a masterful district final game.
The Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers had come off a season where they had advanced to the state quarterfinals, with half of their starting field players being freshmen. Their expectations were higher this year. They had a blend of skilled seniors, led by Ashlynn Soellner, and a large contingent of tremendous sophomores, but chinks started showing in their armor during the season as they dropped games to Somerset and State College twice.
State College entered the season quietly, although loaded with talent. Altoona turned out to be the fastest, strongest team in District 6 with the most depth. That was evident during the entire course of the playoffs as they won the Class AAA crown.
Altoona girls coach Pat McKinney may have gotten the most out of any defense in the district as the Lady Lions finished one game under .500, but the defense usually needed only to be spotted one goal to hang on defensively to a victory. Senior goalie Jordan Zilla performed superbly in clutch games where the Lady Lions could not give up one goal while being under constant heat. The Lady Lions, however, were weakened offensively when Allysa Fazi tore an ACL very early in the season and last year's top two scorers, Bre Morris and Amber McCauley, were absent from the team.
n Indoor soccer has just begun to heat up at the Summit Athletic Club, with the first league session of the winter under way. The league had great turnout in younger divisions, but several age groups, like girls U-16 or U-19, were void. These age groups should pick up in the second session in January.
n Two big indoor tournaments are coming up with the Summit holding its own tournament on Dec.6 and 7 with age groups running from U-8 to over-30. The Indiana Soccer Boosters hold an excellent tourney for high school-only teams on Dec. 13-14 with a big 90-by-200-feet court.
n Area referees should remember that in order to stay current on licensing they will need to re-certify on Dec. 13.
n Congratulations to Mitch Swanger, president of the Altoona Soccer Club, as being named the ASC district volunteer of the year. Swanger lined fields, cut fields, layed off fields, helped run tournaments and concessions long before becoming president. He plans to celebrate the award by sharing a trip to Cancun with runner-up Doug Reffner.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column appears monthly in the Mirror.