Juniata gets winner in Alianiello

Fall scholastic and collegiate soccer is under way, and some exciting teams to watch have already emerged and some major changes have taken place as well.

Perhaps, the biggest change is on the collegiate level. Juniata College has brought former Altoona Area High School and Saint Francis star goal keeper Joe Alianiello back home as its head coach for its women’s squad to replace Scott McKenzie, who was at the helm for 19 years.

Alianiello, has spent his past seven years building a strong women’s program at University of Minnesota-Crookston as the head women’s coach. Alianiello set numerous coaching records at the school, including most conference wins in program history, fewest goals allowed in consecutive seasons, most wins in a season, six straight United Soccer Coaches Academic Awards and numerous others.

Prior to this, Alianiello also spent a season at Winona State University where his team was NSIC regular-season champion. In his five years at Concordia, he was named NSIC Coach of the Year and had wins over conference opponents the school had never beaten, and the team broke a total of six school records in its standout 2006 season.

Alianiello is extremely pleased to go back to his roots, where he was an all-state goalie at Altoona and four-year starting keeper at Saint Francis, where he served as team captain, was voted team defensive player of the year and still holds the record for shutouts in a season, save percentage, goals-against average and wins.

Alianiello is no stranger to Juniata College — his younger brother, Mike, was an outstanding four-year defensive starter for the Eagles. After some very close matches, he feels they need to get stronger in playing the tough Landmark Conference teams.

“I really wanted to coach soccer in Pa., and Juniata has been very supportive of me,” Allianiello said. He is looking to bring in more area players to his squad. He has been able to watch several Altoona Area High School girls games and has been very impressed with them.

He now has a roster of 20 and is bringing 12 new players onto the team.

“I want to get heavily involved in soccer in this area,” Alianiello said. “I want to do satellite camps for players and youth, day camps and indoor clinics. I want to be a resource for soccer here.”

Currently, Alianiello and his family reside in State College, but he is looking to move back into the Altoona or Huntingdon area.

Mount changes

Major changes are also under way with the Mount Aloysius College men’s and women’s soccer programs.

Coach Matt Davis, who has been at the helm of both teams for five years, has left the program to accept a full-time coaching position at Williams College in Massachusetts.

Mount Athletic Director Kevin Kime said the soccer programs are in a very strong place and he is confident that success will continue.

Kime had high praise for Davis and the work he had done. During his tenure at the Mount, Davis had accumulated a 61-33-6 record on the men’s side and a 52-37-5 record on the women’s side. The men’s team reached the AMCC playoffs in each of his five seasons, while the Lady Mounties reached the AMCC playoffs for three consecutive seasons. His 2015 men’s team won the college’s first AMCC championship and advanced to the NCAA playoffs. The 2018 women’s team reached the conference championship for the first time in program history.

Davis said he has found the Mount to be a special place and has established many strong relationships there, and that leaving will be difficult.

High school success

On the scholastic side, several area teams have started the season on a very high note, and several teams look to have extremely bright futures for district championships and even a run into the state playoffs.

Coach Dave McCarter’s Altoona boys team may be looking at its best season and strongest squad in a number of years. The boys return 10 starters and have incredible scoring fire power with Austin Kravetz and Alex Berardinelli coming out in the early season as scoring machines.

McCarter also has a great deal of depth on his bench, which gives him the added luxury of substituting numerous players without losing strength on the field. Many of his players have just came from very successful Classic soccer seasons or Olympic Development programs. The team also boasts two strong keepers in Brady Freiwald and Brennen Dugan.

The Altoona Boys won the Mountain Ridge Tournament for the first time ever by beating Mountain Ridge in the final, 3-0, in a very physical game. The stumbling block to a District 6 title for Altoona has always been the State College Little Lions, who play a very rigorous regular-season schedule. However, Altoona has the scoring capability, defense and team depth to wrestle the title away from them this season.

The Altoona Lady Lions have also had an incredible start to their season. Coach Derek Winterburn’s girls have dominated time of possession and scoring opportunities against some very strong opponents early in the season.

In the Lady Lion shootout, Altoona had several extremely excellent opportunities to bury the ball in the back of the net against reigning PIAA 2A champ Bedford, but Bedford goalkeeper Lindsay Mowry was exceptional in net for the Lady Bisons and let nothing by her, forcing the game to end in a scoreless tie. Winterburn also has a roster full of girls coming off exceptional Classic soccer seasons. Their chances to garner the District 6 title look strong, and they may have a run deep into the state playoffs.

New leadership

The Altoona Soccer Club has just had a change in leadership. President Jeff Lane, who has dedicated countless hours to provide the club new soccer opportunities, has stepped down to let Tim Dieter carry on the work as president.

None yet

Despite having local players with outstanding playing and coaching pedigrees, such as Penn State women’s soccer Assistant coach Tim Wassel, who helped lead the team to an NCAA championship, soccer still does not have a representative in the Blair County Sports Hall of Fame.

Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.