As the 2010 collegiate and scholastic soccer seasons neared their end, they brought a tremendous amount of excitement.
On the women's side, area collegiate soccer took a huge step forward. Mount Aloysius experienced a much improved season and played competitively throughout the year. Unfortunately, coach Barry Snyder left the program at the end of the season for vocational reasons. This will be a big loss for the Mounties as he worked several years to elevate the program.
The Penn State Altoona ladies, under new coach Pam Snyder, fought their way to the school's second Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship in three years. The PSU Altoona roster is a little bit different than most Division III schools as it is dotted with players from a three-state area.
The team relied heavily on defense and the play of goalkeeper Lindsay Responti this season. In fact, Responti set a PSU Altoona record in posting her 13th shutout of the season. The Lady Lions play at Denison University on Saturday in the NCAA Division III tournament.
The St. Francis University women's soccer team experienced a stellar year as well. The Flash captured the Northeastern Conference championship in exceptional style. However, they face the unenviable task of facing Big Ten co-champion Ohio State in the first round of the NCAA Division I tournament today.
The Penn State Altoona men's soccer team, led by first-year coach Maurice Taylor, completed a great season playing the type of soccer coach Moe Taylor likes by possessing the ball and keeping the pressure on the other team. Unfortunately, the men fell just short of capturing the AMCC championship.
Taylor is well known to local soccer fans. Before taking the position of assistant coach at the Altoona campus, he worked extensively with a number of local travel and classic teams, reaching the PA West State Cup finals with two of his squads. He served as the Altoona Soccer Club director of coaching for a number of years, and many of the players who have played soccer beyond the secondary level had spent an extensive amount of time working with Taylor. He has probably given more to the development of competitive youth soccer in the area than anyone else.
Perhaps the saddest note in girls soccer comes at the high school level as the Hollidaysburg Lady Tigers dropped the District 6 Class AAA championship game, 1-0, to State College and had its hopes for a run deep into the state tournament dashed. The Lady Tigers were ranked in the top 10 in the state and had amassed an amazing regular-season, beating State College in one of the regular-season meetings. But the State College Little Lady Lions have played the role of the spoiler for Hollidaysburg for the past three years.
The incredible group of senior girls at Hollidaysburg, who have played travel soccer together since the age of 7, provided perhaps the strongest offensive core of attackers in the state with Taylor Vladic, Mackenzie Walter and Jamie McConnell providing overpowering goal-scoring potential, while Taylor Wolfe and Sarah Cobler led a stifling defense. They may have dropped the district title, but these girls are definitely winners, and much will be heard from these girls in the years to come.
On the boys side, the Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers pulled off one of the biggest upsets in District 6 championship history in thrilling fashion. Coach Craig Shale's squad had dropped both regular-season games to State College and was a marked underdog coming into the championship game. Things looked even bleaker when all-star goalkeeper Jared Wassel had to be taken off the field very early in the game with a knee and ankle injury. However, sophomore keeper Justin Hann played like a man possessed and shut down 22 shots on goal and overcame the constant pressure State College's offense put on him for a thrilling 3-2 double-overtime victory.
One item on the local level that needs immediate attention is the need for PIAA referees. Our area is running extremely short on referees - in fact, one high school game this year was forced to cancel because it came equipped with players, fans and trainers, but no referees. This type of unfortunate scenario may be seen more often next season unless people step up and take the role of PIAA refereeing.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column runs monthly in the Mirror.