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Splash Falters Against Sacramento, 6-5, as Trip Goes On

From Staff and News Services

The journey that was supposed to be critical to the Splash’s drive for an indoor soccer championship finally turned nasty.

After winning the first two games of what will be a seven-game trip, the Splash was beaten by Sacramento, 6-5, in front of 6,754 Sunday at Arco Arena.

The Splash (15-6) remained in first place, 1 1/2 games in front of San Diego (14-8), and are 5-5 in road games. Third-place Sacramento (13-8) is two games behind the Splash in the Continental Indoor Soccer League’s Western Division.

Sacramento scored 49 seconds into the fourth quarter to take a 5-3 lead, but the Splash tied the score 5 1/2 minutes later after goals by Shane Hickson and Raffaele Ruotolo.

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Gerell Elliott scored the decisive goal 7:12 into the fourth quarter.

"(The trip) is going to be tough, but nothing is insurmountable,” Splash forward Rod Castro said. “Winning on the road shows you have character and can overcome adverse situations.”

The Splash certainly faced adverse conditions, and should take some solace in its performance after having played San Diego a day earlier.

Hickson was playing in place of Armando Valdivia, who missed his second consecutive game after spraining his knee last week. Valdivia, the Splash’s fourth-leading point-scorer, is expected to miss two to three weeks. Also absent was Dale Ervine, who leads the team with 25 goals and is second in total points; he sprained his big toe during the Splash’s 12-8 victory over San Diego on Saturday.

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Ruotolo scored his 26th and 27th goals of the year. His first, a power-play goal, tied the score, 1-1, at 7:19 of the first quarter, and his second tied the score, 5-5, with 6:04 left.

Ruotolo also assisted Rod Castro’s 25th goal, which tied the score, 2-2. With it, Ruotolo extended his CISL record to 22 consecutive games with an assist, 10 more than the previous record. It was his 28th assist of the year, three more than he had in his previous five years as a professional.

Sacramento led, 3-2, at halftime before Doug Neely tied the score 4:50 into the third quarter. Neely, who scored three goals against San Diego, scored for the 21st time.

Ralph Black had three assists, and Bobby Reyes also had an assist.

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The loss was the first for goalkeeper Ruben Fernandez, who made his second start of the season. He faced 27 shots and made 15 saves.

Knight goalie Mike Dowler faced 40 shots and made 10 saves.

The loss snapped the Splash’s four-game winning streak and was the team’s second loss in eight games. The victory for Sacramento was the Knights’ franchise-record 13th, and it was their 11th in 15 games.

Sacramento also had a franchise-record 25 blocks, including seven by Freddie Thompson.

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Despite the loss, the Splash has gotten off to a great start on the trip. Coach George Fernandez said before victories in Phoenix against Arizona and Saturday at San Diego that a 4-3 record on the trip would be a good one. He also said his team needed at least one victory over Arizona, San Diego or Sacramento. He got victories over two of the three.

The Splash has one more game against a Western Division opponent during the seven-game span; the trip ends against Las Vegas, but the team plays the next night at home against Sacramento on Aug. 28.

“And that’s just like having a road game,” Fernandez said.

Still, the trip should get easier with games against three Eastern Division teams, Carolina (2-18), Pittsburgh (11-10) and Washington (8-9).

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