SCHENECTADY — With a lengthy winning streak going, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons is similar to a lot teams that have advanced into the second week of the Section II boys’ soccer tournament
The Golden Knights are also very unique.
Wil Lawson, who has scored 28 of his 90 career goals this season, leads ND-BG on the soccer field, plus serves as the kicker for the school’s combined Holy Trinity football team with Catholic Central in his spare time.
That ND-BG boys’ soccer team Lawson leads is a deep one, with 21 players . . . with students ranging from seventh grade to 12th . . . and with a trio of girls among those athletes.
For the last two years, ND-BG head coach Joe Masi has had girls on his boys’ soccer roster. Sophomores Jessica Quinn and Mercedes Santana first joined the Golden Knights last year, while freshman Delaney Kuban joined the team this year.
”And we’re better because of them,” said Masi, who starts Quinn at left midfield and gets reserve minutes from Santana and Kuban.
ND-BG started back up its boys’ soccer program in 2015 with Masi leading it. A year ago, Masi heard there were a couple girls interested in playing soccer, but the school didn’t have enough players to field a full girls’ team.
”You know what?” Masi thought. “We’ve got room for them.”
A need for them, too. There are not enough players at ND-BG for Masi’s program to include a modified or JV team. His boys’ varsity team is the school’s lone soccer team.
“The girls wanted to play. We tried it last year with Mercedes and Jessica, and it worked out well,” Masi said. “The boys don’t care about male-female. They want someone to pass to who can play the ball.”
“The boys treat us like we’re one of the boys,” Santana said. “They are good guys. It’s so much fun playing with them.”
The girls are well-respected by their teammates for the way they get after it when Masi calls their number.
“It’s 100 percent effort with them,” said senior Matt Kordziel, the team’s defensive captain.
“Play hard. Play aggressive,” Santana said of her mindset before taking the field. “If they push me, I push them back.”
Quinn has played a particularly key role for the Golden Knights with her ability to transition the ball while being pressured.
“She’s a two-year starter,” Kordziel said of the two-sport fall athlete who also competes in cross country. “She can run. She can pass equally well with her left or right [foot].”
“She is one of our best players on the field,” Masi said of Quinn. “Other teams respect that.”
ND-BG will take on the top-seeded team in Class C Monday in 17-0 Lake George. The 12-4 overall Golden Knights, seeded No. 8 in the tournament, are playing their best ball of the season and have won six in a row.
“Our defense has been playing strong and we’re moving the ball,” Lawson said. “Everyone is doing what they need to do right now. The goal is to continue to do that.”
Kordziel said it took a some time for the Golden Knights to really find their groove, and the result has been their third consecutive winning season.
“At the beginning of the season, there were a few doubts,” Kordziel said. “We lost a couple of key guys, but we’ve work hard in practice and people have picked up the slack.”
“A lot of it is communication,” Santana said. “It’s gotten a lot better as we’ve gone along.”
ND-BG shut down Bolton/Warrensburg 4-0 in a first-round sectional game. Sophomore Nick Gosh, who was recently shifted from midfield to defense, was among the key performers.
“You can’t win games without defense and a good keeper, and we have one,” Masi said of senior goalkeeper Cole Nelson. “He’s been very good. He leads the section in saves.”
Lawson scored three goals against Bolton/Warrensburg and junior forward Connor Barber added one.
“Everyone showed up. We never gave in,” Kordziel said. “We scored two goals pretty quick and didn’t get complacent. We put it all out there, and that’s what we have to do again.”
In 2015, Masi’s roster had 15 players. This year’s group with 21 players has Masi optimistic about the future of his program, regardless of Monday’s outcome.
“It’s been a step in the right direction,” Masi said.