After slow start, Bishop Canevin boys soccer moves into playoff chase

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Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 11:27 PM


Some of the toughest opponents the Bishop Canevin boys soccer team has faced this season are circumstances beyond its control. The Crusaders have had four games halted or postponed — including one for a stadium light malfunction.

The fits and starts in their schedule have blunted the Crusaders’ mojo on more than one occasion. Still, through eight matches in Section 4-A, Bishop Canevin was in 4-2-2 and in prime position to snare one of the section’s four playoff spots.

First-year coach Al Gestiehr said he has been pleased with the perseverance his players have shown.

“Virtually every single practice has been good and intense,” he said. “The only game we haven’t been in all season is Avonworth (a 4-0 loss in the second match).”

The loss to the Antelopes was part of an 0-2 start in which the Crusaders didn’t score a goal. But they followed with a streak of six unbeaten matches (4-0-2).

Captain Andrew Bochicchio said he believes the early struggles were a product of having so many young players in key positions. It was Bochicchio’s goal in the third match, a 1-0 victory over St. Joseph, that got the offense going.

“We have a young offense, and it was hard for them to get started,” he said. “I think once we got the ball rolling, guys stepped up and wanted to score.”

The Crusaders had some strong offensive showings beginning with their fourth match, a 4-1 victory over Bentworth. They had an eight-goal game against California, then back-to-back three-goal matches against California and South Side Beaver.

But their next two matches — against Carrick and Brentwood — were postponed by weather, slowing their momentum. When the Crusaders faced Seton LaSalle after not playing a match for more than a week, the offense went silent again in a 1-0 loss.

The silver lining? The loss was indicative the tight, low-scoring matches Bishop Canevin has played. Between the 4-0 loss to Avonworth and the loss to Seton LaSalle on Oct. 9, the Crusaders gave up more than one goal in a game only once: a 3-2 win over South Side Beaver on Sept. 29.

Bishop Canevin has held opposing teams in check, hung around and given itself a chance to win almost every match.

“Some of those results that have ended in ties and losses, we were very unfortunate not to walk away with wins in several of those games,” Gestiehr said.

Getting back to the playoffs was the Gestiehr’s primary goal this season. After watching the team miss the postseason as an assistant last season, he was determined to get the Crusaders back.

Bochicchio, the team captain, said Gestiehr and his staff have infused new life into the team.

“I think our coach loves the game more than we do, and that’s hard to believe,” Bochicchio said. “He wants us to succeed, I think, more than we do.”

Gestiehr, meanwhile, attributes part of the turnaround to players who have performed beyond his expectations.

Sophomore Nevan Crossey hit his stride as a wing, along with fellow sophomore Jack Staley. Junior Luke Kaupinis worked his way into a more prominent role in the midfield, and fellow junior Jack Jenkins also has helped to facilitate the Crusaders’ attack.

As the playoffs approach, Gestiehr acknowledged his team needs to generate more offense. Defense wins championships, but, sooner or later, balls need to go into the net.

Bochicchio said it is only a matter of rediscovering their rhythm.

“I think we just need to work more as a team,” he said. “We just need to build up our chemistry again.”

Charles Curti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Charles at ccurti@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CCurti_Trib.

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