Segota's 4 goals, 2 assists help Spirit stun Crunch Defending champion falls in 2nd-round opener, 19-14

April 12, 1997|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

CLEVELAND -- If his Spirit teammates ever wondered why he has 10 indoor soccer championship rings, Branko Segota is showing them.

Since raising his game another notch once the playoffs started, the 35-year-old veteran has eight goals and four assists -- high in the National Professional Soccer League -- in three games.

His four goals and two assists last night before a Cleveland State Convocation Center crowd of 7,453 spurred the Spirit to a 19-14 victory over the Cleveland Crunch in the opening game of their second-round playoff series.

Game 2 of the best-of-three second-round series will be played tomorrow night at Baltimore Arena.

Segota had the cycle -- three-point goal, two-pointer, two one-pointers -- and two assists.

Bo Vuckovic contributed three goals, giving him seven goals and three assists in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Spirit defense, fifth-rated in the league, held the NPSL's top offensive team in check. Goalie Joe Mallia, starting his third straight playoff game, made 17 saves.

"Teamwork was the key, no question," said Spirit player-coach Mike Stankovic.

The victory was a distinct upset. Cleveland is the defending champion, owner of the best record (29-11) in the NPSL this season and 18-2 at home.

Stankovic said all along his team would have to be at its best to beat Cleveland. It was.

"We have to bring our best game to compete at this level," Stankovic said. "We can't afford to have bad games. And Cleveland is so strong it makes it more difficult to have good games."

The Spirit led after the third quarter, 18-11, but the Crunch scored two fourth-quarter goals to make things uncomfortable.

Paced by Segota, the Spirit erupted for 11 first-period points, the club's most in one quarter in 16 playoff games in five years.

Segota, as he did in the final game of last weekend's sweep of the Philadelphia Kixx in the first round, triggered the assault with the first goal. He had two goals and an assist in the period.

Segota added a goal in the second period as the Spirit took a 14-10 halftime lead.

Cleveland, predictably, was led by Zoran Karic (three goals, three assists) and Hector Marinaro (one goal, two assists). Marinaro finished one-two in the NPSL scoring race this season.

Spirit ..11 3 4 1 -- 19

Cleveland 8 2 1 3 -- 14

First period -- 1. Baltimore, Segota 3 pt. (Simmons), 5: 17. 2. Baltimore, Neely 2 pt. (Segota), 6: 54. 3. Baltimore, Zoric 2 pt. (Henning), 7: 25. 4. Cleveland, Schmetzer 2 pt. (Marinaro), 8: 37. 5. Cleveland, Karic 3 pt. (unassisted), 10: 09. 6. Cleveland, Karic 3 pt. (Marinaro), 10: 43. 7. Baltimore, Segota 2 pt. (unassisted), 14: 06. 8. Baltimore, Vuckovic 2 pt. (unassisted), 14: 32. Penalties -- Neely, Bal (tripping), 1: 02.

Second period -- 9. Baltimore, Stitz 2 pt. (Segota), 1: 31. 10. Cleveland, Marinaro 2 pt. (Karic), 2: 59. 11. Baltimore, Segota 1 pt. penalty kick, 11: 10. Penalties -- Tanner, Cle (misconduct), 13: 02. Orf, Cle (handball), 11: 10.

Third period -- 12. Baltimore, Vuckovic 2 pt. (Stankovic), 5: 12. 13. Cleveland, Kia 1 pt. pp (Karic), 12: 47. 14. Baltimore, Vuckovic 2 pt. (Glenn), 12: 54. Penalties -- Neely, Bal (holding), 12: 25.

Fourth period -- 15. Cleveland, Schmetzer 2 pt. (Karic), 3: 39. 16. Cleveland, Karic 1 pt. (unassisted), 11: 06. 17. Baltimore, Segota 1 pt. shootout, 13: 55. Penalties -- Simmons, Bal (handball, unsportsmanlike), 11: 06. Schweitzer, Cle (unsportsmanlike), 3: 54. Marinaro, Cle (major misconduct), 13: 55.

Shots on goal -- Baltimore 9-9-4-4-26. Cleveland 18-2-6-16-42. Power-play opportunities -- Baltimore 1 of 2. Cleveland 1 of 2. Goalies -- Baltimore, Mallia (24 shots, 17 saves). Cleveland, Orf (21 shots, 12 saves); R. Marinaro (2 shots, 1 save); H. Marinaro (0 shots, 0 saves). A -- 7,453.

Pub Date: 4/12/97

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