Altoona boys move to PIAAs
HOLLIDAYSBURG — The Altoona Area High School boys soccer team is moving on to the PIAA Class 4A state tournament.
The Mountain Lions parlayed goals from Alex Berardinelli and Austin Kravetz and a suffocating defense, led by keeper Brady Freiwald, into a 2-0 victory over McDowell in a District 6-10 subregional game Saturday afternoon at Tiger Stadium.
“Love it. Love it,” Altoona coach Dave McCarter beamed after the win. “What a bunch of heart.
“We had them two years ago, and we knew they were physical,” McCarter said of McDowell. “It was one of the hardest, most physical matches I’ve ever been involved in as a coach or player.
“It was unbelievable what they were doing physically to us — late tackles, hard tackles. Their size, their aggressiveness, just a tough team, with a lot of skill.”
The Lions were able to combat that physicality with a tough performance of their own while fighting through adversity.
Altoona broke the scoreless deadlock with only 5:56 left in the first half when Kravetz outmaneuvered several McDowell defenders, shot a crossing pass to Berardinelli, who pushed it into the back of the net.
“We started playing our game, which is a lot of finesse,” McCarter said. “Austin (Kravetz) just beat guys on the ground, found Alex (Berardinelli), and he buried it.”
“Austin did a great job getting through so many guys,” Berardinelli said. “I saw the ball coming across and put it in.”
Altoona made it 2-0 on a Kravetz goal with 33:55 left in the game.
“A hustle play,” McCarter said. “He put himself in front of their defender with speed. Their goalie made the save, but the deflection went right back to Austin and he pounded it into the back of the net.”
Freiwald, who missed much of the season with a broken collarbone, was terrific in goal, making at least a half dozen saves — a couple of the outstanding variety.
“We came into the game much more motivated after losing to them two years ago,” Freiwald said. “Actually, the win over State College might have been the true motivator.
“My defense — I wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Freiwald noted. “All four, five of them … they’re all solid. They do what they’re supposed to do.”
Defender Bailey Musselman had a big game for the Lions, sliding on the turf several times to turn aside potential McDowell threats.
“We defended as a team and brought home the win,” Musselman said. “Without the team, we couldn’t have accomplished it. We’re ready for states.”
Musselman also praised Altoona’s student cheering section.
“It’s amazing seeing the school support,” he said. “It really helps us.”
Berardinelli, one of the Lions’ top offensive threats, also made a couple of big defensive plays on McDowell corner kicks.
“Alex is a great player,” Freiwald said. “Offense. Defense. He does whatever you need.”
“Basically, they threw four forwards at us late in the match,” McCarter said. “In that chaos around the net, with about seven or eight minutes left, it might have been Brady’s best save ever. Not only did he save it, he caught it.
“Sheer reaction and heart. Great by him, and our defense played lights out.”
“The difference in the game today,” said McDowell coach Jamie Smith, “was we didn’t finish the early chances that we created. We had enough chances to put the game away and didn’t.
“They put their chances away.”
Game notes: Altoona will face the WPIAL runnerup Tuesday at a site and time to be determined. … It will be the Lions’ second state tournament appearance and the first since 2007 when they lost to eventual state champion Peters Township. Altoona current assistant coach Jeremy Young was a member of that Lion team.
SCORE BY HALVES
McDowell 0 0 — 0
Altoona 1 1 — 2
First half: A–Berardinelli (Kravetz), 5:56 left.
Second half: A–Kravetz (unassisted), 33:55 left.
Records: McDowell (15-5); Altoona (17-2-1).