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Ricigliano's late goal sets up rematch
South Kitsap will have another opportunity to end the curse of the lion.
The Wolves accomplished that when senior Brent Ricigliano took a pass from Nico de la Cruz and beat goalkeeper Grant Rico in the 76th minute to earn a 3-2 win Wednesday night against Central Kitsap in the first round of the Narrows League playoffs at Joe Knowles Field.
"I just think he came off a little too early," Ricigliano said. "I caught him off guard. He was coming out and he wasn't set all the way. It's hard for any keeper to save anything on this field."
The ball bounced off a referee when a Cougars player tried to clear it, and went to de la Cruz. He forwarded it to Ricigliano, who softly kicked it past Rico once he slipped on the wet, muddy surface.
"These were not ideal conditions," South coach Michael Krug said. "This is not what I call home-field advantage. It wasn't pretty; I felt it was too tough to play well in the mud."
South now advances to face Bellarmine Prep at 3:30 p.m. at Mount Tahoma High School with the winner playing for the league tournament championship.
The Lions, who beat Wilson 2-1 Wednesday, defeated the Wolves 4-3 on April 25. Ryan Rash, Alex Voght and Scott Hanson all scored in a four-minute span to lead Bellarmine Prep to the victory. The loss dropped South to 0-6 against the Lions since 2000.
"We're going to have to play twice as hard, and not foul as hard," Ricigliano said. "We have to get a different mindset for the game."
The Wolves (9-2-1) outshot CK 14-7. But they couldn't score until the 36th when de la Cruz beat Rico on a penalty kick.
That lead only lasted two minutes, though. The Cougars (8-6-1) were awarded a penalty kick when Drew Blaisdell tripped. Adam Cronin put the ball into the left side of the net past goalkeeper Daniel Lathrop.
South regained the lead in the 44th when Ricigliano hit the ball off a defender and into the right side of the goal.
"I was just trying to cross that in," he said. "The ball skips because it's wet and it just happened to go off his heel and into the net."
CK tied the match again in the 62nd when Jacob Beck scored on an assist from Joe Pavlovsky.
"We'll need to settle down and refocus," Krug said. "No worries. We're not concerned."
The Wolves won the previous meeting between the schools, 3-1, on March 26 at CK. South won its first seven matches of the season, but since a 0-0 tie April 21 against Lincoln, it only has won two of its last five.
Narrows League playoffs
At South Kitsap 3, Central Kitsap 2
First half-1, South Kitsap, Nico de la Cruz, 36th minute; 2, Central Kitsap, Adam Cronin (penalty kick), 38th.
Second half-3, South Kitsap, Brent Ricigliano, 45th; 4, Central Kitsap, Jacob Beck (Joe Pavlovsky), 62nd; 5, South Kitsap, Ricigliano (de la Cruz), 76th.