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February 25, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, February 25, 2005

A soggy ending A soggy ending (February 25, 2005)

St. Francis battles through rain but falls in CCS

By Scott Campbell

As Gunn forward Alex Guzinski pounded a direct kick high over a wall of four St. Francis defenders, Lancers goalkeeper Nick Bratcher leaped to prevent a goal. But the ball soared just over Bratcher's fingertips and gave the Titans a 1-0 lead last Saturday.

"The guy put it right on frame," said Bratcher of Gunn's 57th minute score. "I got up, but couldn't get a hand on it."

Although St. Francis nearly struck first, barely missing numerous scoring chances, Guzinski's goal turned the momentum in favor of Gunn. In ultimately losing 2-0 on this rainy afternoon, the No. 8 Lancers were eliminated from the Central Coast Section Division II playoffs but felt heartened that they played at the level of top-seeded Gunn.

"We knew Gunn was going to be tough," said St. Francis coach Mike Salvemini. "With the No. 1 seed, I think we played really well, and we dominated a lot of the play. We were in the game the whole match."

St. Francis took No. 9 seed Menlo, 4-3 on penalty kicks, in the first round on Feb. 16 to meet Gunn in the quarterfinals.

The Lancers began the match by peppering the Titans goal. In the fourth minute, junior midfielder Sam Pompei crossed the ball over the middle, but no Lancer was able to take a shot.

Ten minutes later, sophomore defender Bryan Giudicelli controlled a St. Francis corner kick and found only the Titans goalkeeper between him and the net, but his volley sailed just to the right.

St. Francis allowed only three shots in the first half, and its defense created a counterattack that put Gunn on its heels.

"We came out hard, and they were panicked," said Lancer forward Tim Gonzales. "We had opportunities, and we just didn't get them in or they didn't go our way."

The muddy field at Santa Clara High School appeared to neutralize the match early in the second half, with neither team able to threaten.

Giudicelli nearly scored on a direct kick in the 50th minute, but his shot banged off the crossbar. With that miss, St. Francis appeared to run out of steam.

Minutes later, a yellow-card penalty on Lancers junior Matt Essary led to Guzinski's direct kick that gave Gunn the 1-0 lead.

The Titans (20-2-3) regained their confidence with the score and kept the St. Francis goal under siege for the remainder of the contest.

"In the last 25 to 30 minutes or so, we were winning every ball," said Gunn coach David Burgee. "We found a weakness in St. Francis' defense, which was on dead-ball situations."

Titans midfielder Ian Barnett corralled a Gunn corner kick in the 65th minute and struck the ball into the Lancer net for the final 2-0 score.

"They took advantage of the couple of opportunities they had," said Salvemini of Gunn's performance. "We missed our marks on two set pieces, a direct and a corner, and they put 'em in."

St. Francis finished its season with a record of 10-8-6.

E-mail Scott Campbell at [email protected]

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