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Cougars battle, but lose 19-15 in Philadelphia

February 23, 2008 - Major Indoor Soccer League 2 (MISL 2) - California Cougars News Release

Philadelphia, PA - The California Cougars led most of the way, but were not able to hold on for the win at the Wachovia Spectrum in Philadelphia. California (8-13) is defeated by the Philadelphia KiXX (11-13), 19-15, in a game that saw the return of Cougars head coach Bernie Lilavois to the playing field as player/coach.

California was led by midfielder Nelson Santana who had eight points in the loss. Santana connected on two three-point goals and a two-point goal. Ryan Heins started the scoring with a goal at the 3:37 mark of the first quarter; it was assisted by player/coach Don D'Ambra. Cougars' Defender Evan McNeley fired right back less than three minutes later with a three point score assisted rookie Majell Aterado. Santana began his big night with a three-point goal at the 10:10 mark in the first quarter.

The Cougars led 6-2 until Jonathan Steele scored a goal just nine seconds into the second quarter. The Cougars would wait more than six minutes later before scoring again to extend their first half lead. While in a power play, Semir Mesanovic received a pass from Lilavois for a two-point power play goal. Lilavois was able to pick up the assist on the score in his first game since playing in Philadelphia last season on February 7, 2007. The Cougars looked to be in control, especially after Santana connected on an unassisted two point score that saw him weave around defenders to beat Peter Pappas to the net.

The second half, however, was a different story. The KiXX peppered Sanaldo with 17 shots on goal. They connected on six goals for 15 second half points. Philadelphia was led by Steele and Tony Donatelli who combined for nine of the 15 points in the half. Jon Barry-Nusum was the first to the goal as he connected on a three point goal at the beginning of the third quarter. Santana followed with his third and final goal. It was a restart score for three-points at the 12:03 mark. The Cougars lead, however, had shrunk to 10-7 before Santana's goal. Philadelphia went on a four score run that catapulted them on top late in the game. Enrique "Qeeks" Tovar added the final score for California in the fourth quarter. The Cougars had cut the lead to one with half of the fourth quarter remaining but were unable to capitalize in the end. Ptah Myers connected on a three-point goal that ran the length of the field to put the game away at 19-15.

The final stand for the Cougars saw a chaotic chain of events in front of the goal. Chris Handsor and Lilavois took shots at the goal but both were broken up by the KiXX defense. Handsor had his ball kicked away from the goal by a KiXX defender; Lilavois' shot attempt was interrupted by the leg of Donatelli. Dontalli kicked into Lilavois to halt his shot attempt. Myers then shot the other direction for the versus sixth attacker score.

Sanaldo had 15 saves, including nine in the final two quarters. The Cougars were not able to hold the lead and managed just five points in the second half. The Cougars defense had four blocks in the loss, they were led by rookie Aaron Bonser who recorded two. Both teams had 27 shots on goal in the game.

Craig Scheer, Naldo and Matt McDougall did not play. Scheer sat out with a back injury; Naldo was out with a broken nose and cheek bone fracture.

D'Ambra earned his 100th career victory with the win. Lilavois had one assist in his return, but was an instrumental piece in the Cougars power play offense. The Cougars converted two of three penalty situations. They hadn't scored a power play goal since playing Milwaukee on February 2.

Up next the Cougars travel to Detroit for a Friday night match against Detroit at 5:00 p.m. PDT. The match against the Ignition is a Fox Soccer Channel game of the week and will be seen in front of a national television audience. The Cougars then stay on the road for a Sunday match against the Milwaukee Wave at 12:00 p.m. PDT.

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