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A busy time for indoor soccer

Some soccer players prefer the faster pace of the indoor game, and for those players, indoor soccer in the area is in full swing.

Mike Alianiello, in his 13th year as soccer director at The Summit Tennis and Athletic Club, has already completed his first session of indoor play, which ran from Nov. 1 to Dec. 22.

Many of the high school teams were still involved with PIAA playoffs, but the turnout of high school teams was still strong for the first session of indoor play. Alianiello had a total of 70 teams playing in various age groups from u-8 to u-19.

The u-8, u-10 and u-11 teams played on the original blue soccer court, where they still allow use of the blasterboard walls for the rebounds coming of the wall and wall passes used. All teams u-12 and up use the touch line tennis courts, where ball control becomes much more important along with pinpoint passing. All age groups use the low bounce futsal ball.

Second session league play starts Jan. 17. This will include the popular men’s 30-and-over team play with 40 men registered and six or seven women in the league also. For entrants in the 30 and over, Alianiello will assign players to teams rather than use team entries.

The usually very popular Summit Indoor Classic Tournament, which had been very well attended by teams in the past, was poorly attended this year, with only 15 teams coming into the tournament. Alianiello is looking to switch the old 5 vs. 5 format to a 7 vs 7 format using the entire tennis court area lined off for play.

Alianiello went on to say that the number of indoor tournaments has probably increased threefold over the past 15 years, and teams have more choices of where to travel to get to the strongest tournaments. When it comes to leagues, however, teams seem to prefer to play closer to home as Alianiello has 95 teams playing in his Winter Summit Soccer League, the most he has ever had in the history of the league.

The annual Jr./Sr. High School tourney has just concluded with almost 40 teams taking part in the boys and girls divisions. They were broken up into larger and smaller schools for fair play, utilizing touch lines on the entire tennis court area.

The Summit’s next tourney, the Summit Challenge, was scheduled Saturday and Sunday with a stronger turnout expected as some of the age groups used a larger playing area and the 7 v 7 player format instead of the 5 v 5. The February Meltdown tourney, held for more than 15 years annually, will be eliminated this year with league play extended through that weekend instead.

n New Juniata women’s head soccer coach, Joe Alianiello, who has always planned to get more involved in regional soccer, is looking at working with girls teams in the Mountain District Union and is also looking at doing goalkeeping lessons in spring and summer for area high school soccer teams. Look for more area girls to head to Juniata College in the future.

n On the national soccer scene, the Unites States Women’s National Soccer team is seeking to become the first team, male or female, to win a World Cup and an Olympic title in consecutive calendar years. Twenty-two of the 23 players who played on last summer’s Women’s World Cup champion U.S. team have been called up for the first training camp of 2020 in preparation for next month’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

The women’s team also sports a new coach in Vlatko Andonovski, who was chosen to replace former coach Jill Ellis, a two-time World Cup champion who stepped down in the fall as the winningest coach on national team history. Andenovski will coach his first game with the team on Jan. 28 , when the U.S. opens Olympic qualifying against Haiti in Houston. They will also face Panama and Costa Rica in group play. The roster must be trimmed to 20 before players begin the qualifying tournament.

Two-time FIFA player of the year Carli Lloyd, who considered retirement after winning last year’s World Cup and turned 38 this year, is back and ready to contribute to the team. This is especially important because captain and World Cup star forward Alex Morgan is out due to pregnancy, but she hopes to be back in time to play in the Tokyo Olympics this summer. The new face at training camp is that of 19-year-old Sophia Smith of Stanford University. The U.S. Olympic team will be loaded with talent and depth at all positions and will definitely be prepared to make a run at Olympic gold this summer.

Women’s soccer continues to grow in popularity on all fronts as Megan Rapinoe was named Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year. There is even some talk coming from the FIFA president that the Women’s World Cup may be held every two years.

Tom Schmitt writes a monthly soccer column for the Mirror.

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