With the scholastic and collegiate soccer seasons in full swing, a number of interesting developments have taken place with teams on both levels.
On the collegiate side, two teams are making some changes in order to give their program a boost. At Mount Aloysius College, women's coach Barry Snyder has been working to improve the Mounties' fortunes. Snyder, a four-year standout at Grove City College, has been able to recruit some of the stronger players from the Blair and Cambria County areas to rebuild his team.
Former Mounties standout Nikki Stuller has also joined his coaching staff and should provide excellent support. Last year, the Mounties were 1-17 and outscored 93-4.
They have equalled or bettered those marks already this season and brought in newcomers to the roster to lift their level of play. Former Penn Cambria standout and former assistant coach Ange Rieg has come on board, along with former Cambria Heights standout Victoria Passanita and Bellwood-Antis star Emily Burget. All three of these young ladies should help bolster the Mounties' midfield significantly. They also hail a total of 11 freshmen on the squad which gives them a bright outlook for the future.
In the women's Allegheny Mountains Collegiate Conference standings, Penn State Altoona looks extremely tough. Undefeated in its first seven games, new coach Pam Snyder has established a very balanced team. Looking strong in goal and defensively, the Lady Lions have brought in some talented offense with freshman players such as Marlee Hibbs at midfield and Merideth Waters at forward, both from Loyalsock Township in Williamsport.
Watching them in a recent game with Gwynedd Mercy College they displayed a refuse-to-lose attitude in an exciting overtime victory. The Lions have a very geographically diverse roster with players not only from all areas of Pennsylvania, but New Jersey and Connecticut. Goalkeeper Lindsay Raspanti has been very stingy in goal, at one point allowing only one goal in seven starts.
Area soccer enthusiasts need to get to Spring Run Stadium to catch one of the ladies games as they make a run for the conference crown.
On the high school girls scene, much of the 2010 season results are happening as expected, with the Hollidaysburg girls exploding on offense with Mackenzie Walter, Taylor Vladic and Jamie McConnell leading the way and a tough defense with seniors Taylor Wolfe and Sarah Cobler spearheading it.
They stil have been blocked by State College, which stopped them in an earlier game. The District 6 Class AAA championship will undoubtedly run through State College, and Hollidaysburg will no doubt end up squaring off with the Lady Little Lions again for the crown.
Hollidaysburg also had some good fortune with the girls junior high program. Former Lady Tiger standout Jen McConnell is back in the area and has taken the coaching duties at the junior high. Given her background, playing ability and ability to communicate to the players, we should see some good things from this program.
The Altoona Lady Lions have struggled since the onset of the season. Coach Jim John has worked hard to prepare the team, but the Lady Lions have not been able to produce the needed goals to pull out victories. They started slow out of the blocks at 1-5, but that record should improve within the next couple of weeks, and the girls team has the talent to play with any team in the area. When playoffs roll around, Altoona could be a very dangerous underdog.
Tom Schmitt's soccer column runs monthly in the Mirror.