If the Over-20 Men's Divisjon final during the first session of The Summit's Indoor Soccer League was any indication of the speed, endurance, and excitement that are happening at all the indoor age groups, it is no wonder that the league had 61 teams participating.
For those that like fast-paced action, the Over-20 final was an absolute shooting gallery with Dino's Pizza prevailing 14-13 in one of the most exciting games of the season.
According to Summit Soccer League director Mike Alianiello, the first session is the slowest because many high school teams are still involved in outdoor playoffs. But, given that fact, still nearly 500 participants took part in the league, which included squads from the U-8 division through the Over-20 men's division.
Alianiello looks for that number to expand to approximately 75 teams for the second session based on last year's figures.
The second session is currently registering and will begin play the weekend of Jan. 27-29 and conclude the weekend of March 18.
The second session features a new twist to involve older players: There will be a special Over-40 co-ed division.
There are many league games beginning on Friday at 5:30 p.m. to Sunday evening at 9 p.m. in order to get all the games played.
In addition to regular league play, The Summit sports three major tournaments during the winter season, including the Indoor Classic, which took place in November with more than 87 teams participating from all around the state.
A new wrinkle has been put in the annual Polar Challenge, which takes place Jan. 21-22 -Juniata College has assumed control of the tournament from the Hollidaysburg Soccer Club and it will be known as the 2012 Eagle Winter Challenge.
The Juniata College tournament will have the widest range of age groups including U-8 to Over-40.
The former Altoona Soccer Club Meltdown Tourney held the weekend of Feb. 18-19 will be run by the Penn State Altoona coaches and feature the same age groups.
The fast-paced smaller court blaster board play with its pinball-like action is sometimes frowned upon by soccer purists because it is extremely different from the outdoor game, but those who participate enjoy the fact that play is much quicker, action more intense, and the ability to score much more plausible.
Even with all this excitement, The Summit is not the only place in town hosting indoor soccer. For those who want their players to maintain the game without the use of walls, the Altoona Soccer Club coaches are running a touch-line league for the second year at the Competitive Sports Academy along Rt. 764 in Altoona. It features 28 sixth, seventh, and eighth grade girls divided into four equally skilled teams.
Those that have taken part have enjoyed the touch-line style of play, as nearly all of those that played last year have returned to play in this year's league.
The touch-line soccer promotes footwork, dribbling skill, and controlled passing. Many who play at the sports academy also will play at The Summit.
The fall travel division for the U-10 and U-12 age groups was expanded enormously. The Altoona and Hollidaysburg Soccer Clubs each entered seven teams in the four PA West Mountain District divisions. The Altoona Storm U-10 boys, Altoona Fire U-12 boys, and AC United U-10 girls all won their respective divisions.
According to Altoona club president Eric Haugh, Altoona could register as many as 14 travel teams during the spring season with a number of these playing at the higher Classic level. The only problem this may present is putting a strain on area referees available for games.
Of significant note in local soccer is the accomplishment of the St. Francis men's and women's soccer teams. For the first time in program history, both teams earned the NSCAA college team academic award for the 2010-2011 academic year.
A grade-point average of 3.0 or better had to be posted by each of the teams in order to receive the award.
The St. Francis men posted a 3.32 team GPA, which ranked them 11th in division one among all institutions. The women sported a 3.2 academic mark.
Tom Schmitt's column on area soccer appears monthly in the Mirror.