Player-coach Don D'Ambra and goalie Peter Pappas are a symbol of the Kixx' past success but very much a part of yet another drive for a Major Indoor Soccer League championship.
While both players are approaching their 35th birthdays, and each admits that getting out of bed after a game is a lot more difficult, they continue to provide stability and excellence.
Both have been with the Kixx for each of their 11 seasons in Philadelphia, and each is happy to be in a place the Kixx vacated last season - the postseason.
The Kixx have qualified for the MISL playoffs all but one of their 11 seasons. That was last season, when they went 10-20. D'Ambra and Pappas helped lead the team to its only championship, in 2001-02.
This season, the Kixx were 17-13, third in the six-team MISL. The top four teams qualified for the playoffs, and the semifinal round will consist of two games, home and home.
The Kixx will visit the Chicago Storm tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. before returning to the Wachovia Spectrum on Saturday for the second game at 7:05 p.m.
If the teams split the games, they will play a sudden-death extra period immediately after the second game. The first team to score advances to the one-game championship April 21 in Detroit.
While there appears to be so much parity that any of the four playoff qualifiers could win the title, the Kixx would not be in this position without their two franchise staples.
D'Ambra was a first-team all-MISL choice after leading the Kixx in scoring with 32 goals and 18 assists for 85 points in 28 games. (Three of his goals were three-point goals.)Last season, D'Ambra, a product of St. Joseph's University and North Catholic High, battled injuries while scoring 14 goals and adding 14 assists in 24 games. This season, he has remained relatively healthy, and few players in the MISL are as dangerous with their backs to the goal.
"For him to be healthy and do what he is able to do, was huge confidencewise," Pappas said.
Pappas, a product of Philadelphia University, did not do too badly himself, appearing in all 30 of the Kixx' games. He was named the MISL goaltender of the year for the fourth time after leading the MISL in shots faced (502), saves (351) and wins (15).
"I've been with Pete eight years, and he is the best player I ever played with," said the Kixx' Pat Morris, a a first-team all-MISL defender and a product of Philadelphia University and North Catholic.
The supporting cast has been upgraded this season, especially with the addition of Genoni Martinez, the MISL defensive player of the year, and rookie midfielder Tony Donatelli of Temple, who tied for third on the team with 17 goals.