Blast pays in playoffs for poor habits

Wave and KiXX open title play tomorrow night

Soccer

MISL notes

April 25, 2002|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

The Blast cheated itself.

Not in the fourth quarter of its last game in Milwaukee on Friday, when the two-time defending champ Wave scored seven unanswered points to come from behind for an 18-12 win in the Major Indoor Soccer League's one-game semifinal.

It happened way earlier, during the course of the 44-game regular season when the team cut corners, got into bad habits in going 18-26, and then found itself trying to make up for lost time like a student cramming the night before a final exam.

With one good week of intensified practice and film-study preparation, coach Kevin Healey's group was almost able pull it off. Almost.

Three quarters of holding its own against the front-running Wave showed how close the Blast is. The final 15 minutes showed how far it still has to go.

Veteran forward Lee Tschantret, whose three goals were half the Blast's scoring Friday, summed it up best.

"I think we gave a great effort, and we were real unfortunate in Milwaukee, but I think it's a preparation thing," he said. "If you prepare that way all season, I think you're better prepared in the playoffs. Maybe if we played that hard every game during the season, a couple of bounces would have [gone] our way in the playoffs."

Lesson learned? Healey hopes so.

"I think the realization and the preparation that was put into this game and the execution that followed - hopefully, we can learn from that," said Healey. "We need to do that during the regular season, so we don't put ourselves in the predicament of playing one game in Milwaukee in the semifinals."

Healey remains comfortable and confident with his veteran core group of players but, as always, will look to upgrade with youth and experienced players where he sees fit.

Thinking about next season, he has begun individual meetings with players to discuss strengths and weaknesses. Each will have an off-season program to enhance performance.

Healey added that better preparation, both physically and mentally, must be there from the start with a larger degree of accountability set for next season.

"It will be instilled," he said. "It has to happen, and if it doesn't, then we're going to react to it. They're at the stages of their careers now that they have to understand that it's not just turning it on come playoff time. It's hard work throughout the year which creates a good atmosphere."

Wave, KiXX meet again

The Wave will seek its third straight league championship and fourth in five seasons against the Philadelphia KiXX in a best-of-three final starting tomorrow night in Milwaukee.

In last year's best-of-five format, the Wave swept three games from the KiXX, which was in its first title series. Last year's experience and goalkeeper Peter Pappas could help the KiXX make things more interesting this time.

Milwaukee is led by Victor Nogeuira, who got his eighth league Goalkeeper of the Year award yesterday, and forward Joe Reiniger. The Wave won the season series 5-3, going 4-0 at home, where it outscored the KiXX by 60-26.

Around the boards

Milwaukee coach Keith Tozer, who won his 500th career game and guided the top-seeded Wave to a perfect 22-0 mark at home this season, was named MISL Coach of the Year for the fourth time. ... A crowd of 9,953 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee watched the Wave get past the Blast in Friday's one-game semifinal. That was 1,253 more fans than the Blast and KiXX drew for their combined three-game semifinal series last year.

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