The boys and girls scholastic soccer season in our region ended unfortunately for our top area teams in the same fashion it has for most of the decade with the State College Little Lion girls and boys teams capturing district titles.
There were however, a few surprises along the road.
The Altoona Area High School boys team, which finished its regular season under .500, entered the District 6 Class AAA tournament and had an epic battle with the district favorite, the 17-1 Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers. The game went into double overtime and nearly a shootout.
The Altoona boys team sports a host of underclassmen, who played a heavy spring travel schedule to prepare for the high school season. They took a number of lumps during the course of the season, but their semifinal game in the districts was one of the best games of the entire year played at any level.
The Golden Tiger boys, who had been awaiting this season finale for a long time with a host of seasoned well-groomed players having their best crack at the championship in years, dropped a disappointing 2-1 overtime decision to State College.
Once again, the State College boys, who looked shaky at times during the season and certainly did not sport their strongest roster that they have had in past years, showed their trademark excellent fundamental soccer, a deep bench and the usual outstanding clutch coaching job done by veteran coach John Marsden. Marsden, come playoff time, regardless of regular-season results, always seems to know the formula for winning the big game in districts. His Little Lions captured their seventh title in the past decade.
On the girls side, the outstanding Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers had a better record than several other teams who played in the state soccer finals. Once again, in repeat of last year, the Lady Tigers could not get by the incredible depth of the State College Lady Little Lions. The loss was tough for the veteran group, especially after scoring and taking the lead.
The Lady Little Lions took all three games from the Lady Tigers this year and simply proved to be, overall, perhaps not a more explosive team, but a deeper and more consistent team.
The Penn State Altoona women's and men's soccer teams had outstanding seasons.
PSU Altoona shines
The PSU Altoona women's team, led by coach Tim Wassel, was the defending Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference champion and had an incredible playoff run, including a 6-0 quarterfinal win over LaRoche College at Mansion Park.
The Lady Lions continued on their roll with relentless attack on offense and a very solid defense that carried them the entire way into the AMCC finals. They played 90 minutes of scoreless soccer with Frostburg State until dropping a disappointing overtime 1-0 decision to the Bobcats.
The men also advanced into the semifinals.
The level of both the men's play under John Parente and the women's under Wassel has progressed incredibly in the past several years. With the recruiting classes and returning players and coaching staffs that these two squads have, one would expect to see them challenging for the championship on a yearly basis.
Indoor soccer has once again heated up in our area. The area's initial area kickoff classic at the Summit Athletic Club for boys and girls is scheduled for the weekend Dec. 5-6 and will be followed again with the Polar Challenge and the Spring Meltdown tournaments at the Summit. Its initial winter cycle of play has already gotten under way.
There is a new twist, however, to the indoor game this year as there is a facility open, which is more like the outdoor game. It features approximately a 50-yard long raised Omni turf field and is played in a touch line style, which will be much more beneficial to high school teams and coaches.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column runs monthly in the Mirror.