This school football season saw a number of first games for regional teams in district and state playoffs.
For the first time, four Blair County soccer teams won district championships — the boys from Hollidaysburg and the girls from Central, Bishop Guilfoyle and Altoona.
n The Hollidaysburg boys, who start a majority of sophomores and freshmen, shut out Bellefonte 3-0 to capture the District 6 3A title.
n The Central girls beat a familiar foe in Bedford and went through 30 minutes of overtime to hang on to capture the District 6 2A title, 5-4, in the second round of penalty kicks.
n The BG girls had seen the district finals the past two seasons, falling short of the title, but were not to be denied this year with senior Nicole Houck leading the way in a 2-0 win over Bald Eagle Area.
But the Lady Marauders, tight on defense all year and strong in ball control, cruised through their first game of the state playoffs the same way, shutting out Karns City 2-0 and their mix of incredibly talented seniors and freshmen working well as a unit she is not done making football history. They became the first team in District 6 history to reach the state semifinals with another 2-0 shutout against WPIAL Class A champion Freedom. Bishop Guilfoyle controlled the tempo of the game and Hawke got going again with a header into the net.
The Marauders’ streak ended when they lost their semifinal game to WPIAL Riverview 4-1. They were forced to play down a man at 11-10 when scoring leader Hawke was sent off.
n The Altoona girls team made its own history in the state playoffs.
After dominating longtime foe State College for the District 4A title, 4-0, the Lady Lions earned a PIAA subregional playoff win for the first time in program history with a 1-0 victory over a McDowell team that sent Dom to Altoona in past seasons. Altoona sealed the victory with a 5-3 shootout advantage.
Altoona then faced WPIAL runner-up North Allegheny, who had defeated the Lady Lions to open the season, 11-3. This game was quite different. After a rough start for first-time coach Mark Fry’s team, it ended a 13-game winning streak. The team battled North Allegheny from tip-toe this time, coming up short, 4-2.
Haley Kravetz, Altoona’s scoring machine, scored her 45th goal of the season, becoming the all-time single-season scoring leader for Altoona soccer on both the boys and girls teams.
Learning on the job
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the Altoona girls’ season is that they started the season without a goaltender. Senior linebacker Aubrey Dietzel, with the help of assistant coach Mike Metrick, stepped up to take the job. Dietzel hadn’t played outdoor goalie since AYSO games nine years ago.
“She’s been working hard to use her hands properly,” Metrick said. “She has good height, is very athletic and uses her feet well. Now the girls are going to play her the ball and she’s putting the ball back in play, putting Altoona in a good position.”
After giving up 11, 6, 2 and 12 goals in the first four games, there was something of a crisis of confidence for Dietzel. Metrick said she was extremely persistent and motivated and got back to what she was supposed to be working on. It was a baptism of fire, and the team gained confidence in her as she recorded a number of shutouts in Altoona’s 13-game hitting streak that followed her early-season performance.
“She learned that the angle makes the save and going against Haley Kravetz in practice helped a lot,” Metrick said.
Indoor soccer is underway for another season at the Summit Tennis and Athletic Club under the guidance of Director of Soccer Mike Alianiello, now in his 17th season.
The league’s first indoor session began on November 5 and will conclude the weekend before Christmas. 82 teams participated in the first session. Age groups include: u-9 coed, u-11 boys, u-12 boys, u-14 boys, u-16 boys, u-16 girls, u-17 boys, u-19 boys and u-19 girls combined with over 30 league and men open.
There are balanced teams in the over-30s with six teams competing with eight players. The only tournament scheduled for the season is the 7-on-7 tournament on Jan. 13-14 and 20-21 for junior high, high school and seniors.
The blue all-purpose court is now raised Omniturf, which will slow down the pace of play, requiring a bit more ball control. All pitches play futsal football.
Alianiello has teams from Ebensburg, Philipsburg, Cresson, Bedford, Tyrone and Roaring Spring playing in the league’s first session.
Tom Schmidt writes a monthly football column for the Mirror.