Many soccer enthusiasts pick up the paper each day to eagerly check the scholastic soccer scores from prior night's games and get information about the games themselves.
The one thing the readers don't get to see are the adjustments the coaches and many teams have to go through with the high injury rate associated with the sport. It has long been known that knee and ankle injuries were a big part of the game but in one particular case this year injuries have hampered a team to the point of affecting the outcome of their season.
The Altoona Lady Lion soccer squad, coached by Jim John, has been devastated by serious injuries to an already depleted lineup, dropping the number of available players in some recent games to as few as 12 active players, providing them with only one substitute.
Five Lady Lion starters and key players - including Bre Lender, DiDi Rizzo, Lindsey Green, Jennah Schmitt and Hannah Makin - have sustained injuries knocking them off the field. In addition, starter Marisa Morgan switched over to the AAHS tennis program. This not only left depleted numbers but also greatly affected the offensive punch and ability of the team to control the ball at midfield and notch goals up top.
Prior to the season, the Lions looked as though they definitely would be in the mix for the District 6 championship. However, the injury bug has contributed to the Lady Lions' 2-8 start with the only hope being that some of the girls can work their way back as quickly as possible.
The injury bug isn't reserved for Altoona. Injuries have struck down four of 10 field starters and forced substitutions with freshman and newcomers to the program. As opposed to football, where an injured player will have at least a week to heal before having to step back on the playing field, many high school soccer teams face at least three games every week, providing little or no time for any healing.
High school squads, particularly those with no junior varsity team, may be hard pressed to find substitutes to step up and fill in during an eighty minute game.
A look at the District 6 playoff picture overall on both the boys and girls side remains very unclear at this point in the season.
It does, however, look like the road to a district title may lead through State College.
There have been some excellent games in intradistrict play, including the first game of two regular-season matchups between the Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers and the Altoona Mountain Lions. This backyard rivalry has for years been fierce since the formation of the programs.
Hollidaysburg has had the upper hand recently as reigning District 6 champion. This year's initial battle, however, went to the Mountain Lions in a fiercely contested 2-1 game which was a thriller for any soccer fan in attendance. Look for the second game to be every bit as intense and these two squads may very well be at each other's throats again when District 6 playoff time rolls around.
Kudos to the Mount Aloysius women's soccer squad for paying tribute to former coach Barry Snyder, who suffered an untimely death this past year.
The girls dedicated the flag pole at the Ray S. and Louise S. Walker Sports Complex to Snyder denoting, it with a plaque in his name. In his tenure as coach from 2008-2010, Snyder did a great deal to turn around a floundering program, which prior to his arrival had trouble at times fielding a full roster for games and dropping games by half a dozen goals or more.
Snyder used regional recruiting and recruiting within the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference to help build the nucleus of a strong squad which was able to contend with nearly all teams on its schedule. Most all, of the Mount's games were determined by one or two goals.
It appears Snyder's former teammate and friend Jeremy Harkins, new coach of the Lady Mounties, is continuing this course as the Lady Mounties have been competitive in games thus far in the 2011 season. The girls keep Snyder close in mind by wearing yellow shirts with Snyder's jersey number during warmup.
This and that
New Altoona Soccer Club coach Eric Haugh is off and running with soccer development and getting youth involved with competitive soccer at a younger age. The Altoona Soccer Club has about a half-dozen teams playing in boys and girls U-10 and U-12 in the travel divisions for fall.
Prior to this season, they had trouble fielding one or two teams for travel play for younger teams. PA West Soccer Association coach Paul Halford will be coming in to provide coaches with additional opportunities to strengthen coaching skills by holding D and E licensing courses in the near future.
The Summit Indoor Soccer director, Mike Allienello, has announced the opening of indoor play to begin in October at The Summit. The indoor session will be open to all age groups for boys and girls and men and women but will no doubt be heavier in the younger age brackets as many of the high school teams may still be caught up in District playoff competition. Last year the indoor sessions had such heavy participation from the U-8 to the over 30 groups that the number of teams had to be limited. Some teams had no practice times available. This year looks to be the same situation since there are very few alternatives for indoor soccer in our area.