Ivy Leaf - Spring 2011
A year for redemption
For the Penn State Altoona women's soccer team, the 2010 season represented an opportunity for redemption. A year earlier, the squad lost the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference championship game to Frostburg State University by one goal. But with a talented core of returning players and the infusion of a strong recruiting class, the Lady Lions climbed their way back to the AMCC championship in 2010, this time winning 3-0 over Penn State Behrend to seize the second conference title in the program's history.
"Everyone on the team who returned from the 2009 season was extremely focused and determined to win the championship this year," said Head Coach Pam Snyder. "I believe we knew it was ours to win or lose."
Seeing her team crowned AMCC champions was particularly special for Snyder. In 2009, she was an assistant coach on the team that lost in the championship game. This time, she helped guide the Lady Lions to a conference title in her first year as their head coach.
"I knew we had the personnel to win a championship, but with such a large freshman class, the challenge would be finding team chemistry, and fortunately we have genuinely good people on this team," said Snyder. "A great deal of the team's success also is owed to my assistant coaches, Rachel Foose and Mike Pastore, who were invaluable in helping me transition into the role of head coach."
As the team chemistry developed, Snyder knew that the players' pure talent would truly blossom. At the conclusion of the season, eight members of the team were named to the AMCC All-Conference team, evidence of the tremendous amount of skill throughout the roster.
"I can't say enough about the talent level on the squad," said Snyder. "I felt 100 percent confident in the girls' abilities across the board when making substitutions, and I knew the level of play would be maintained no matter who I put on the field."
From the Lady Lions' first game on the schedule to their last, they consistently produced a balanced offensive attack and stifling defense. This proved to be a deadly combination for opponents, and it helped Penn State Altoona to a 16-3-3 overall record — including an 8-0-1 mark against conference teams.
"It was very important to have a versatile attacking force, and our opponents learned very quickly that targeting one specific player would not slow our attack," said Snyder. "And our defense was incredible. This defensive line has proved itself to be one of the best in the region, limiting teams to very few quality chances. The saying 'defense wins championships' rings true with this group."
Winning the AMCC title earned the Lady Lions an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III women's soccer tournament, and despite losing 1-0 in the first round to Denison University, the team had a positive experience against a good team.
"The girls took the experience as a step forward in the program, and the returners next season want to better prepare for that level of competition," said Snyder. "Our goal next year is not only to return to the NCAA tournament, but to be the first team in school history to win an NCAA tournament contest."