What a difference a productive weekend at home can make.
It was only a couple of days ago that the Baltimore Spirit was under .500, struggling to finish on scoring chances.
That changed in a hurry last night, largely due to forward Bo Vuckovic, who scored five times and added an assist in the Spirit's 24-11 win over the Milwaukee Wave in front of 5,393 at the Baltimore Arena.
After a come-from-behind 12-10 win over visiting Wichita on Friday, the Spirit jumped out to an 8-0 lead against the Wave last night and put the game away with a big fourth quarter to get a weekend sweep and improve to 6-5.
Eight players scored, and the Spirit's 24 points were a season best. Leading 14-9 after three quarters, the Spirit tied a season high with 10 fourth-quarter points.
"Milwaukee is a very tough team defensively, and I said to the guys we'd have to play well defensively and also play aggressive offensively. We countered very well tonight, and it was a big part of the game," said Spirit coach Mike Stankovic. "It was one of those games where everything went well."
Especially for Vuckovic, who shares the team lead in points (27) with Bobby Joe Esposito after finishing with 10 last night and 15 for the weekend.
"We played simple tonight, and everybody played their roles. This is a good break for the team and will give us confidence," Vuckovic said. "I'm happy for myself. I was struggling in the beginning of the season, but I believe in myself and my teammates gave me the ball. Everything was like a puzzle with all the pieces coming together -- [Friday] and last night."
Esposito and Jason Dieter each added two goals and an assist. Barry Stitz, who provided the game-winner with 17 seconds left in Friday's win over Wichita, had a goal and an assist last night.
The Wave (4-4) closed the gap to 12-9 on a goal from Mike King with five minutes left in the third quarter, but Sasa Zoric answered two minutes later, before the Spirit's fourth-quarter explosion.
With starting goalkeeper Cris Vaccaro still out with the flu, Jim McCombs started his second game in as many nights. He made 16 saves to improve to 3-1.
Stankovic didn't expect the offensive output he got against a defensive-minded Wave team led by goalkeeper Victor Nogueira, who was lifted in the midst of the Spirit's fourth-quarter barrage. rTC He was also pleased to get contributions from all 16 of his players.
"We needed everybody, especially playing back-to-back," Stankovic said. "It was a big game with a big crowd, and for us to move on, we need to get the wins at home. The Baltimore fans expect to see team work and the guys giving it their all. It was a beautiful performance."
The Spirit jumped out to an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, with Vuckovic supplying two goals and an assist.
The Wave got on the scoreboard late in the first quarter when Jeff Popp scored a two-pointer and had the Spirit lead down to 10-6 at intermission.
NOTES: Defender Lance Johnson was out of the lineup again after re-injuring his left knee in his return Friday against Wichita. Johnson has missed seven games. Also out last night were Vaccaro (flu), defender Mike Stankovic (knee) and forward Branko Segota (knee). Tickets for the NPSL All-Star Game ($13, $16, $18) here at 4: 05 p.m. Feb. 9 are on sale at the arena. The NPSL Skills Challenge will take place the day before at 3: 05 p.m. Tickets are $8.
Pub Date: 12/08/96