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Splash Clinches Team’s First Playoff Berth With an 8-4 Victory Against Carolina

TIMES STAFF WRITER

One year after the franchise finished last in the Continental Indoor Soccer League, the Splash on Friday clinched its first playoff berth with an 8-4 victory over Carolina in front of 2,813 at Independence Arena in Charlotte.

The Splash (16-6) scored five consecutive second-half goals against the Vipers (2-19) and increased its Western Division lead to 1 1/2 games over second-place San Diego (15-8). The division’s top four teams advance to the playoffs; the team with the best record holds the home-field advantage through the league quarterfinals and semifinals.

More importantly, the Splash played well for the fourth consecutive time on this seven-game trip; it has three victories.

“This shows the players that they can play well at home and now they’re getting confidence that we can play well on the road,” Coach George Fernandez said. “It’s building to where we’re confident, like we should win every game--it’s like a quiet arrogance. We believe we should win and we’re going out there with that attitude and being very successful.”

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Raffaele Ruotolo scored two goals, and his two assists extended his CISL record to 23 consecutive games with an assist. His 29th goal of the season gave the Splash a 4-3 lead four minutes into the third quarter, and the Splash never trailed again.

Ruotolo has 19 multiple-point games this season.

Dale Ervine also scored twice, giving him 27, and had an assist.

Paul Ratcliffe, Paul McDonnell, Mike LaPosha and Doug Neely also scored. Neely’s goal was his CISL record 12th power-play goal and his 22nd of the year.

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The Splash made five of its 10 second-half shots; it was three of 20 in the first half.

“We hit everything except the net,” Fernandez said. “The second half we picked it up in our intensity, aggressiveness and tactics. Our pressure was outstanding--we played like a team. The first half, we played like individuals.”

Rod Castro had two assists and Ralph Black had one; Black needs only two more to reach 350 in his career.

The Splash’s magic number to clinch the division title is four games.

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The trip continues Sunday against Pittsburgh (12-11).


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