Ivy Leaf - Fall 2001
Soccer Team Looks Toward Bright Future, New Home Field
The first season of men's and women's soccer at Penn State Altoona already has given rise to high expectations for the very near future, an outlook that will include home competition on a brand new field.
Starting next fall, home soccer games will be played on a natural grass surface near Cedar Hall at the North end of campus. Lights have been installed for use during night games and the complex also will feature a blue and white track, the only one of its kind in the Penn State system. Altoona's Mansion Park, with its artificial turf, was home to Penn State Altoona's soccer teams this fall.
Despite encountering the numerous obstacles that invariably appear in the paths of all first-year programs, Penn State Altoona's teams remained competitive throughout the fall. Under head coach John Parente, the men's team capped a memorial campaign by advancing to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference Postseason Tournament. The loss to Frostburg State in the semifinals could not diminish what the squad accomplished during a season in which it won the program's inaugural contest (1-0 over Pitt-Johnstown) and later stunned a solid LaRoche squad, 5-1.
"There are days when we look like we can compete with anyone," said Parente, who coached previously at Division III power SUNY-Fredonia. "At times, I'm amazed at how well we play and how well we look."
Forward Jared Bucher twice was named AMCC Player of the Week in September, leading a team that compensates for a lack of experience with excellent chemistry and disciplined play.
"We have a fantastic bunch of young men who we've seen grow," Parente said. "We've had bumps and bruises along the way, but we're stronger because of them."
Both Parente and Jim Fee, head coach of the women's team, immediately began formulating rosters after they were hired last spring. While skill levels of their first-year players vary from intermediate to advanced, the character of all the student-athletes has been of the highest order, particularly when the final result hasn't been in their favor.
"Their spirits have been high. They just keep plugging away," said Fee, who possesses a wealth of experience in forming soccer programs in the greater Altoona area. "The success of the program is just in having a team. I'm not worried about winning or losing. It's a developing program and the players are learning and improving."
Forward Emily Clark has stepped to the forefront as a team leader and extension of her coach on the field.
"Emily takes some of the less-skilled players and works with them. She is a coach's player," Fee explained. "She has a lot of drive. That's one of the reasons why I made her a captain. She has been one of the anchors of the team."
With a full year to recruit, Fee and Parente expect their 2002 rosters to be stocked with an impressive nucleus.
"We're going to bring in a talented crop to build on what we have now," Parente remarked. "Before too long, we can be a top 10 team in our region. Next year should be exciting."