Memorable year over for Altoona
HOLLIDAYSBURG — One of the best seasons in Altoona Area High School boys soccer history came to an end Tuesday night.
WPIAL runner-up Mount Lebanon pushed across two goals in the final 15 minutes and defeated the Mountain Lions, 3-1, in a PIAA Class 4A round of 16 match at Tiger Stadium.
While the Blue Devils moved on to the Class 4A quarterfinals, the Mountain Lions closed the books on a 17-3-1 season that included a District 6 championship victory over State College as well as a subregional play-in win over McDowell.
Although disappointed with the loss, Altoona coach Dave McCarter raved about his team’s performance and season.
“A great effort,” McCarter said. “I knew we could compete with anybody in the state and we came out and really showed that in the first half.
“There were a lot of pretty goals tonight,” McCarter continued. “It’s really fun watching teams that talented go at it.”
“This was a big bounce-back win for us,” said Mount Lebanon coach Bill Perz, whose team fell to Canon-McMillan, 3-2, in overtime in the WPIAL final. “I’m real proud of our effort.
“We knew Altoona was a really good attacking team and that No. 21 (Austin Kravetz) was a very good player,” Perz noted.
Altoona missed a golden opportunity to score first. At the 26:50 mark of the opening half, Mount Lebo keeper Steven Vines picked up an intentional pass from a teammate, thus giving Altoona an indirect kick near the goal.
Kravetz buried a shot into the upper right corner over the Blue Devil defenders, but the kick was waved off because the Lions had failed to give a second touch on the indirect.
The teams were scoreless after the first 40-minute half in which Altoona keeper Brady Freiwald made several outstanding saves.
Brady Napoleon’s unassisted goal eight minutes into the second half gave Lebo a 1-0 lead, but Kravetz, assisted by Wes Young, tied it with 21:17 remaining.
“Wesley Young played a gorgeous ball to Austin Kravetz — right on his head — to tie it,” McCarter noted. “Our next good chance was off the bar and, if that goes in, we start playing defense.”
But, the Lions didn’t score again and Lebo’s last two goals — the tie-breaker with 14:51 to play and the clincher with 7:27 remaining — were scored by 6-foot-4 forward Danny Simboro.
Simboro, who is blessed with speed, appeared to be around Altoona’s cage most of the second half. His last goal came on a header from teammate Giuseppe Croce’s corner kick.
“His family is from Senegal (West Africa),” Lebo coach Bill Perz said. “He’s been here for two years now and is very skilled for his height. You don’t often see a kid that tall with those kinds of skills.”
“He’s a beast,” McCarter said of Simboro. “He can flat-out run, play, trap … he can do just about everything. We haven’t seen many like him.”
Altoona continued to push forward late in the game, but couldn’t connect.
“I’m not playing for a tie,” McCarter said. “We’re going to play our game and open up a little bit.”
Altoona standout defenseman Bailey Musselman’s time was limited because of an injury and McCarter said that hurt the Lions.
“It was one of those things where they got some looks and buried them,” McCarter said. “They’re really talented.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” McCarter continued. “What do you say about this senior class … the season? The kids are phenomenal. They bought in from Day 1.
“It was a joy to go to practice everyday,” he said. “Talent. Drive. They were great to be around. The whole season was a big positive.”
SCORE BY HALVES
Mount Lebanon 0 2 — 2
Altoona 0 1 — 1
First half: no score.
Second half: ML — Napoleon (unassisted), 32:00; A — Kravetz (Young), 21:17; ML –Simboro (D’Alesandro), 14:51; ML — Simboro (Croce), 7:27.
Records: Mount Lebanon (16-5-1); Altoona (17-3-1).