As the midway point has arrived in the fall scholastic soccer season, one thing is certain of the area high school soccer scene: It is the highest caliber of play that has been seen in many years.
On the boys' side of the slate, the Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers have run through their schedule undefeated to this point and look to be the team to beat when it comes to the District 6 Class AAA title. However, coach Craig Shale has been very humble about his team's dominance, even though it dismantled State College and Altoona.
The truth of the matter is that although the State College Little Lions are not the dominating powerhouse of the past decade on the boys' side, they are always extremely well coached and execute sound fundamentals so they never beat themselves.
The Altoona boys are very young after losing the core of their team to graduation and had a great deal of trouble notching their first win of the season. The twist is that Altoona is still a very talented team that has hung with the competition well in almost every game, certainly well enough that if this were not a season of extremely talented teams,it would be playing .500.
Also, keep an eye on Bill James' Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic boys team, which may be the most improved team in the Laurel Highlands Conference and is playing every team it encounters very tough.
The area girls soccer season is much the same story. The Hollidaysburg Lady Golden Tigers may have the most prolific scoring trio in Taylor Vladic , Mackenzie Walter and Jamie McConnell. They have been scoring machines, making nearly every team they play wonder how to set a defense for them.
The irony is that they may be one of the best teams in the state but are not the strongest team in their own district. State College shut them out and stayed constantly on the attack to roll up four goals. State College has the deepest bench any coach could ever be blessed with. At this point, they truly look ready to run on as District 6 champs.
The Altoona Lady Lion booters are struggling mightily to climb to .500 , but they also are a team with very solid defenders. The three Settimio girls (sisters and cousin) are playing very agressively, while Bre Morris adds incredible speed and scoring threat up front. They have truly been in the thick of every game, but one or two runs by the other teams have stolen more than one victory from them.
The exciting part is that although State College looks like a lock for a district championship, one slip or bad game in the playoffs lets the Lady Tigers or the Lady Lions have a real shot at the title.
Nobody was hit harder by graduation of their top players than the Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic girls, which competes in the powerhouse Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference. However, the play of striker Morgan Berger, who has been an aggressive, attacking scoring machine all year, and the constant tenacious defense of Sarah Anthony have been noticed by everyone in the conference. Both are without queston all-conference players and a very bright spot for BG in a tough season.
It is good to see former Altoona High assistant boys soccer coach Bruce Makin back out in the soccer fields in a totally different role as a PIAA referee. This move is excellent for players and coaches alike because few if any refs have had the playing experiece combined with the coaching experience that Makin has.
It is also good to see former Altoona all-state goalkeeper and current college coach Joe Alienello helping area teams with clinics while he was back home for a period of time. It would be great to see this from some of the current college players with summer clinics this upcoming year.
Tom Schmitt writes a montly soccer column for the Mirror.