Bedford girls, Altoona boys highlight season

Soccer commentary

As the curtain closes on an incredibly exciting scholastic soccer year, fans were treated to some tremendous high school games, and several teams exceeded all expectations.

n The most memorable may be the season put together by the Bedford girls. Not only did they grab their second consecutive District 5-6 Class 2A title and Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference crown, they reeled off 23 consecutive victories during the season, dominated league play and worked their way into one of the state’s top four teams. They advanced to the PIAA state semifinals before dropping a tough 1-0 game to Mercyhurst Prep.

They also had an incredible District 6 2A girls championship game against Central. The game was highlighted by an almost impossible midfield shot drilled into the goal by Bedford’s Emily Martz, going more than 45 yards and going over the hands of the outstretched Central goalie. Fans may never witness another blast like this one. Martz, with a cannon for a leg, handled the kicking duties for the Bedford Bison football squad as well. Bedford also knocked off Schukyll Valley and Waynesburg on its way to the semifinals.

n The Altoona boys squad’s District 6 Class 4A championship win over State College was perhaps the biggest upset of the scholastic season. The road to a district title in 4A has always gone through State College, as it had reigned for six consecutive years as district champion. Altoona garnered its first district title since 2007.

The way Altoona won was even more ironic when a State College defender attempted to pass the ball back to his own keeper, who misplayed the ball and it rolled past the line, providing Altoona the only goal of the night. Altoona went into a defensive mode following the goal and played tough at midfield and on defense to keep the Little Lions off the scoreboard.

Just 11 days prior, Altoona had been shut out in a regular season game by a senior-heavy, experienced State College team. State College plays one of the toughest schedules in the state, making the District 6 championship for 14-3-2 Altoona all the sweeter. This is a win coach Dave McCarter and the young Altoona Mountain Lions will savor for quite a long time.

n The Penn Cambria Lady Panthers had suffered some problems in their soccer past, at one point going three years without a win, but the tide is turning with coach Mackenzie Walter and a talented crop of players. Last year, for the first time in the school’s history, they made the playoffs; this season, they not only repeated that feat but won their first playoff game ever.

Much of the firepower has come from sisters Casey and Sydney Reese, who had a stellar year for the Panthers. Ironically, it appears history is repeating itself with the Reese girls. Older sisters Kate and Alli Reese played together as an outstanding duo at Penn Cambria several years ago, with both being all-conference players in the LHAC. Watch for this Penn Cambria squad to improve next year, as it is a young team and should be a force to deal with in the conference.

n Good to see former Altoona High all-state goalkeeper Joe Alianiello coming home to work with younger players and give back to the soccer community. Alianiello is the current head women’s soccer coach at University of Minnesota-Crookston. He will be holding a holiday soccer clinic for area players, broken down by age groupings, at the Summit Tennis and Athletic Club Dec. 26-29. Local coaches Bruce Makin and Brian Wicker will be assisting him.

n Special recognition needs to be given to local referees Dan and Linda Irvin as they retire from their PIAA refereeing duties after 25 years of service. They also refereed for years at the PAWest travel league level. Thanks for a job well done over many years.

Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.

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