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Lockout Helps the Splash End Its Troubles at Home


ANAHEIM — Splash players went to Coach George Fernandez on Saturday and made a request--no reporters in the locker room before the game.

Fernandez didn't know why. "Maybe they don't want to talk about anything," he said. "Maybe they just want to think about the game."

The Splash might have actually been on the mark while playing at The Pond. After winning only three of seven games there this season, and faced with playing the first of six in a row and seven of its final 11, the Splash scored six first-half goals on its way to an 11-4 Continental Indoor Soccer League victory over Houston.

The 11 goals was a season high, and Doug Neely scored a franchise record five of them--including the last four after the Hotshots pulled to 7-4. His seven points in a game eclipsed the previous franchise record six, most recently by Dale Ervine.

Neely has 27 goals in 16 games.

Rookie Jose Vasquez added three goals and Armando Valdivia had a goal and four assists in front of an announced crowd of 6,924.

The Splash (10-8) moved into a second-place tie with Mexico in the Southern Division. Houston (6-12) remained in last place. San Diego (11-4) leads the division.

Neely said he hadn't scored that often since he was 8 years old. But more important was the team's overall performance as it hits the critical stage of its 28-game schedule.

"At home, we have a tendency to let distractions affect us," Neely said of the request that the locker room remain off limits. "On the road, we've got no one around, we've got one purpose on our mind; I think that's what [Fernandez] wanted to create.

"We've got to start focusing at home and not worrying about how many tickets we need [for family and friends]. I think it did make a difference."

The six first-half goals were the most this season. It was only the fifth time in 18 games the Splash has scored more than two in the opening 30 minutes.

Those six goals came as the Splash was outshot, 16-10, in the half. Then Vasquez completed his hat trick on the first shot of the third quarter to make it 7-1.

The Splash got an excellent effort out of forwards Vasquez and Bernie Lilavois (goal, assist), who played without the safety net of Rod Castro on the bench or Ervine in the arena.

"This is perfect timing for Jose to come around," Fernandez said. "He's definitely coming around. [Lilavois and Vasquez] as a tandem did quite well for us. They held the ball well and when the chances were there, they put them away."

The team did that as a whole, scoring on 11 of 19 shots. Houston had 31 shots and goalkeeper Ruben Fernandez had 20 saves.

The Splash managed to play as it did last year, when it averaged 8.1 goals per game and 6.1 goals against. It was averaging 6.7 and 6.6 this season.

This was the Splash's ninth game without Ervine, who was traded Friday to Arizona, and the team finally looked as if it had overcome its inconsistent tendencies.

"We don't have a choice--we have to win," Neely said. "We have to win every one at home. We've proved we can win on the road."

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