Maybe it's the nature of soccer that one team can win and not feel so good about itself, but another can lose and walk away proud.
Or maybe expectations are far different for teams that considers themselves state-title contender and those with brand new coaches.
Whatever the reason, after the St. Joseph girls soccer team defeated Fairfield Ludlowe 1-0 Wednesday afternoon in the season opener for both sides, it was the victorious Cadets talking about how much improvement they needed, whereas the Falcons found plenty of positives in the narrow defeat.
"We're thinking league and state titles," St. Joseph coach Jack Nogueira said. "We won the game and I thought we were a much better team than they were, but we have to play better."
Contrast that with Fairfield Ludlowe coach Kate Dawson's assessment of her team following her debut on the touchline,
"I'm proud of our girls," Dawson said. "They gave the effort. We know we have the personnel. We have the leadership and experience. Overall, I'm pleased with our effort today."
Each coach, from their perspective, is probably accurate.
St. Joseph might have felt a lot better about itself had it converted the numerous good chances it created for the first 60-odd minutes of the game.
Working on the left wing All-New England junior Sam Grasso terrorized the Falcons' defense, yet had nothing to show for her efforts save some balls rolling precipitously close to the goal line.
For all its first-half dominance, all the Cadets had to show for themselves was an unusual goal in the 28th minute, set up by a backpass from a Falcons defender to keeper Bridget Clarke. The referee whistled for the infraction, setting up an indirect kick from only a few yards in front of the Falcons' goal. Both teams piled onto the goal line trying to block the close-range shot, but all the bodies couldn't stop Katie Danaher's powerful blast from close range, following a light touch by Grasso.
In the final seconds before the half St. Joseph lost impressive freshman Jenna Bike to a head injury after she hit the turf hard following a hard foul. Without her creativity in the midfield the game would change for both teams in the second half as Fairfield Ludlowe found itself more comfortable going forward.
"We picked up the speed of play and controlled possession in the midfield," Dawson said. "We didn't get many chances in the first half because our midfield wasn't connecting with the forwards."
The Falcons began applying pressure through midfielder Katie Coyle and using the speed of forward Emily Matis to throw the Cadets out of their comfort zone. St. Joseph couldn't string any passes together, leaving defenders Cori Scales and Sabrina Toole to tidy up in the back.
Ludlowe's best chance came in the 50th minute when Matis broke past the defense, but St. Joseph keeper Molly Meehan came off her line to steer her away from goal and disrupt the attack. Coyle also had a shot a few minutes later that sailed wide of the far post.
"We need to play better in the midfield and control the game," Toole said. "We got the first game jitters out of the way."
FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 0 0--0
ST. JOSEPH 1 0--1
Records: Fairfield Ludlowe 0-1; St. Joseph 1-0. Goals: SJ--Katie Danaher. Assists: SJ--Sam Grasso. Goalies: FL--Bridget Clarke (6 saves); SJ--Molly Meehan (1).