Defense isn't enough for Spirit in 12-9 loss Philadelphia is held 8 under season average

November 09, 1997|By Kirk Minihane | Kirk Minihane,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

PHILADELPHIA -- With a week to prepare for its game with the Philadelphia Kixx, the Spirit knew its No. 1 priority had to be to shut down a high-powered offense.

The Spirit accomplished its goal last night, holding the Kixx eight points below its season average. But Baltimore forgot about its own attack.

Philadelphia broke open a late third-quarter tie by scoring five unanswered points en route to its fourth straight victory, handing Baltimore its third loss in as many tries, 12-9, before a crowd of 7,842 at the CoreStates Spectrum.

"We played a lot better defense than we have been," said Spirit coach Mike Stankovic. "You know you did a good job when you hold a team like that to 12 points, although you know that isn't going to happen every night. But this team is getting better and we will continue to work hard."

After Sasa Zoric beat Philadelphia goalie Pete Pappas with a two-pointer at 12: 35 of the third to tie the game at 5, the Kixx got two one-point goals from its leading scorer, Matt Knowles, another from Kevin Sloan and a two-pointer from Kwaku to put the Spirit in a hole from which it couldn't escape.

Sloan's goal, which came after Baltimore's Lance Johnson was whistled for tripping, came at 6: 08 of the final quarter and finished the pivotal run.

Zoric brought the Spirit within three with his third score of the night, at 6: 47 of the fourth, but Mali Walton put in an open-net goal after Spirit goalie Khalil Azmi (33 saves) was pulled with 1: 12 left in the game.

"Our lack of experience is hurting us," said Zoric, who was playing with a fever and an Achilles' injury. "But each game we are making less and less mistakes. But, on the other hand, we are feeling the pressure to win."

The Spirit took advantage of what seemed to be a weary Kixx squad, scoring first thanks to Dejan Belic. The forward sent a blast past a diving Peter Pappas 4: 18 into the first quarter for a 1-0 lead.

The Kixx woke up toward the end of the first quarter, tying the game at 2 when Don D'Ambra beat Azmi.

Baltimore then caught a break when Knowles was whistled for giving Azmi an elbow. Although the Spirit's Bojan Vuckovic was stopped on the preceding penalty kick, Zoric followed shortly with a header into the top right corner of the Kixx's net for a 3-2 Baltimore lead, with nine seconds remaining in the quarter.

However, the Kixx got the only score of the second quarter, a pretty two-point goal by Sloan off a cross-field pass from Rob Johnson at 8: 21 of the second.

"The Kixx have a good, young team," said Stankovic. "We had a lot of chances, but we didn't finish and they did."

Pub Date: 11/09/97

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