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Indoor soccer league play heating up in area

January 1, 2011
The Altoona Mirror
As even the latest of outdoor tournaments draw to a close and state soccer champions have been crowned for fall in all divisions, the winter indoor season has leaped into the spotlight very quickly. Some scholastic teams were still in playoff mode when the first session of indoor league play began. Over a period of nearly two decades, the Summit walled indoor style of soccer has continued to gain in numbers such that some teams cannot even find an open slot to play in. The walled, small-court blasterboard set up at the Summit has been criticized by many soccer purists as really being a totally different game from conventional outdoor play. The court is small, play is extremely fast and physical, the space for play is limited, and it often becomes a shooting gallery for many of the older teams. This is all true, however, these seem to be the very factors that make players and teams love this style of play. They like that it is fast and furious and a totally different game from what they play outside the remainder of the year. They run three major indoor tournaments in this venue, The Summit Classic in December, The Polar Challenge in January, and The Spring Meltdown in February. Chances are that each of these tournaments will garner more than 100 teams to play in brackets ranging in age from U-8s to over 30 men’s division. Summit soccer director Mike Alianiello has taken a step to reduce fights and confrontations in the men’s division by cutting the number of court players from four to three, plus a goalie. This is so demanding physically that the players are too busy trying to breathe to get tied up in controversy. This was an excellent change. For those who are still looking for open court play, with no walls, the Hollidaysburg YMCA along with several other sports facilities are offering just that in indoor play this winter, in an effort to keep the game more on par with standard soccer play. n Hats off are due to several area coaches who pulled off extraordinary seasons. Coach Craig Shale and the Hollidaysburg Golden Tiger boys squad came up with the strongest finish to the end of the year with their double overtime District 6 championship game victory over the State College Little Lions, who have virtually dominated D6 play for the past 15 years. The Golden Tigers dropped both regular-season games to State College, but even with their backup sophomore goalie, Justin Hann, playing like a seasoned veteran, they refused to be denied in the championship, allowing the Tigers to take home the gold. n Also, the Penn State Altoona men’s and women’s soccer squad came up with awesome seasons, both led by first-year coaches. Pam Snyder, whose girls captured the Allegheny Mountain Conference Championship, showed a stifling defense, great goal-keeping and an opportunistic offense. Men’s long-time assistant at PSU Altoona, well-seasoned travel and classic team coach Maurice Taylor fell one step short of gaining the AMCC championship in his first season as head coach. Taylor is well known in the soccer community for his work with players at all levels and some of his more creative soccer drills. n Kudos must be given to the St. Francis University women’s soccer team as it had a banner year in capturing the Northeastern Conference Championship. The girls exhibited balanced play all season long. Also on the collegiate level, the Penn State women, with an incredibly challenging schedule, won a share of the Big Ten Championship along with Ohio State. Former PSU Altoona head coach Tim Wassell, now the goalkeeper coach at PSU, had a big hand in this accomplishment. n Area coaches saying their goodbyes included Mount Aloysius women’s coach Barry Snyder, who took over a team that was extremely weak. The Mounties had trouble not only offensively and defensively when Snyder arrived, but they were not even competitive in their league and sometimes had difficulty fielding enough players. This past season, the Mounties were in almost every game and were truly competitive with the opposition. Snyder achieved this through some strong local recruiting from regional high schools, and it is a shame that his vocation took him away from completing the rebuilding process. Overall, the level of success of area teams both scholastically and collegiately for 2010 was outstanding, giving our area stronger recognition for our level of play. With many of these teams seeing underclassmen return, 2011 should bring even greater success. Tom Schmitt’s soccer column runs monthly in the Mirror.

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