Spirit tops Blizzard, 15-12, braces for grueling schedule Ross' three-pointer helps clinch game before 1,500

January 13, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

The Spirit is plunging into a stretch that will test its endurance, durability and fortitude.

The team's 15-12 win over the Buffalo Blizzard last night at the Baltimore Arena was the first of seven games in 16 days, an abrupt change from the normal one or two games a week.

An estimated 1,500 hardy souls wandered in out of the snow to watch the Spirit (12-6) break its third-place tie with Buffalo (11-7) in the National Professional Soccer League's American Division. Paid attendance was 4,489.

Mauro Biello scored four goals for Buffalo, but the biggest goal of the game was Spirit newcomer Gary Ross' three-pointer that gave Baltimore a 15-10 bulge with 3:19 left. In two games, Ross has a goal and two assists.

"This stretch will either bring us together or pull us apart," said Spirit leading scorer Franklin McIntosh. "We seem to play better when we have a lot of games and very little practice. I think it'll bring us together a bit."

With luck, coach Dave MacWilliams may have his injured players back for all or part of this grueling period. Dave Vaudreuil (on the 15-day disabled list with a strained stomach muscle), Barry Stitz (sprained ankle) and Jamie Christie (pulled hamstring) have been out. Bobby Joe Esposito has been hampered by a strained hip flexor.

The Spirit has three games next week -- Wednesday at Tampa Bay, Friday at Buffalo and the Kansas City Attack here Saturday. There are three the following week, two here against the Wichita Wings and the Chicago Power and one at Wichita.

The Spirit had lost three of its previous four games before last night's victory, prompting MacWilliams to say, "We desperately needed that. We hadn't played too well for four or five games and we had only one practice this week because of the snow."

MacWilliams liked his team's balanced scoring, noting that only Kevin Sloan had two goals and five other players had one apiece. Jason Dieter had one, giving him three of his four for the season since Dec. 27.

NOTES: Fans with tickets who did not attend last night's game can exchange them for any remaining home game. . . . Joe Mallia was scheduled to start in goal for the Spirit, but "wasn't feeling 100 percent," according to MacWilliams, and yielded to Cris Vaccaro, whose 23 saves were his season high.

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