Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons boys’ soccer continues to learn in 1-0 win over rivals Mekeel

Mekeel Christian Academy's Eli Lilienthal and Ploe Kaw Thaw of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons go after the ball Wednesday.

Mekeel Christian Academy's Eli Lilienthal and Ploe Kaw Thaw of Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons go after the ball Wednesday.

SCHENECTADY — The Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons boys’ soccer team found out something about itself Wednesday that it wasn’t sure of before.
“Every game so far has been a learning lesson,” first-year Golden Knights coach Frank DiMeo said after his squad, with just two seniors, edged neighbor and rival Mekeel Christian Academy 1-0. “That’s what this year is about. Building and competing.”
Bishop Gibbons (2-2, 3-3) had not won a one-goal game before proving it can Wednesday, and the narrow victory couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Golden Knights had dropped three straight contests as a prelude to the Western Athletic Conference matchup with Mekeel, including a 2-1 setback against Loudonville Christian and a 1-0 defeat against Berne-Knox-Westerlo/Duanesburg.
“We lost our last three games,” junior Nicholas Kuban said after supplying Bishop Gibbons with the only goal it needed late in the first half. “We are happy to turn it around with a win like this. It will definitely boost us.”
It was a win the Golden Knights are hoping to build on. One that saw the hosts make several key defensive plays in the second half which enabled Kuban’s goal to stand up.
“I told the boys, I am breaking the season up into thirds,” DiMeo said. “Six games in, I wanted us to get to .500. We’re 3-3 and let’s try to keep moving forward.”
Bishop Gibbons has already made forward strides.
“We are better than we were,” Kuban said. “We’re more conditioned and we’re playing better as a team. We are working together out there.”
DiMeo liked what he saw from his cast as it held off the Lions and its senior offensive standout Eli Lilienthal.
“We are changing the culture here,” DiMeo said. “We want them to work hard the entire game, and that’s what it took today. The kids are buying in.”
Mekeel (1-4, 2-5) was also looking to end a three-game slide, and although the Lions had more chances to score, they ended up instead with a fourth consecutive one-goal defeat.
“I just told our guys, our defense is doing what it needs to do,” Mekeel coach Todd Hvizdak said. “We’re not making it happen on offense. This is the fourth-straight game where we have outshot the other team.”
Bishop Gibbons junior goalie Andrew Baaki made eight stops including a kick save on a close-rage drive in the second half. Another second-half Mekeel bid flew over the crossbar, and another sailed just wide of the right post.
“I thought we did a good job of keeping it organized and not allowing a lot of dangerous threats,” said DiMeo, who credited his center backs, junior Jesai Browning and freshman Say Ber Htoo, for their strong defensive performances.
Kuban scored his team-leading third goal of the season with 7:31 left in the first half after handling a left-to-right pass from senior Hsar K’pru.
“He dribbled around their goalie and crossed it to me,” said Kuban. “You’re always excited when you score a goal, but I knew we had a lot of work to do.”
Bishop Gibbons earned its second shutout after blanking Saratoga Central Catholic 2-0 in its season-opening, non-league game. Kuban accounted for both goals in that one.
“We want teams to know that if they have a game against us, they’ll be facing a tough team,” DiMeo said.
Hvizdak is looking for his team, with seven seniors, to regain its early-season scoring touch. His Lions generated 13 goals in three games to begin the season, but have scored three in four games since.
“We are having a little difficulty putting two passes together,” Hvizdak said. “We’ll keep working on it.”
Halftime score: Bishop Gibbons led 1-0. Mekeel scoring: None. Bishop Gibbons scoring: Kuban 1-0, K’pru 0-1. Goalkeepers: Mekeel, Davidson, 2 saves. Bishop Gibbons, A. Baaki, 8 saves.

Categories: -Sports-, High School Sports, Sports

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