"Kickers befuddled by turf, bow out of tourney"

"Tuesday's early-evening rainstorm struck the Spartan soccer team and the Seattle Mariners at about the same time. A rainbow overlooked the M's as they found a pot of gold and edged the White Sox to win yet another game.But for the Spartans, there was just rain and misery, as Jackson overwhelmed the squad 4-0, handing Bainbridge it's fifth consecutive first-round playoff defeat.Coach Alex von Reis Crooks might have wished that he was playing under that rainbow on the natural grass at Safeco Field rather than what he termed the old, old, old Astroturf at Silverdale Stadium. It's one of the worst fields around, and turf makes a huge difference in a soccer game, he said. It's a whole other sport.In effect, it handed a home-field advantage to the Timberwolves, who play all their home games on artificial surface.They're a good astroturf team, said von Reis Crooks. They're small, quick, and they kept the ball down.They also kept three defenders on Spartan Mitka von Reis Crooks, who'd scored hat tricks in the Spartans' previous two games. There was no open space for him to take shots, said his father. They were very aware of who to mark.Bainbridge dodged a second-minute bullet as a high floater caromed off the crossbar. They appeared to gain momentum seven minutes later, as Jed Ballou soared over a defender to head Mitka von Reis Crooks inbounds' pass into the goal. But the referee waved off the score, ruling excessive use of elbows. In the 22nd minute, a Jackson player beat the defense around the left side. When goalie Ollie Ludlow committed himself, he passed off to a teammate five yards out from the right post for an easy score.What was perhaps the decisive moment occurred 11 minutes later. A Jackson player shot from about 25 yards out toward the left post. Ludlow moved in that direction, but the ball caromed off a Bainbridge defender and curled into the right corner; the dejection on the Spartan side was obvious.Jackson scored again in the final two minutes when Ludlow came out to stop a shot. He couldn't control the wet ball and it bounced away for a Jackson shot into the wide-open net. Only two spectacular saves from Ludlow kept the score from getting even worse before the break as Jackson continued its pressure.The Timberwolves concluded the scoring 13 minutes into the second half when a player ran down the right side, feinted right to lose his defender, then curled back left and launched a high shot that a leaping Ludlow could only graze with his fingers as it settled into the left corner of the net.In the end, it all came down to tough conditions, von Reis Crooks said. We had a terrible time getting the ball on the ground for shots. It just bounced too much on the turf. That field plays like a pool table.I saw the weather report, so I had my fingers crossed all day. We needed quality conditions to play on that field and we didn't get them.Ruefully, he noted that the rain stopped as the game ended and the sun was out by the time the team arrived home, having concluded the season at 11-6-1.We put on the best show in town with a lot of thrilling last-minute games, whether we won or lost, von Reis Crooks said. And our prospects for next year are good. We don't lose that much of our starting lineup, and we have some good people coming up. "

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