His team had just lost a very physical contest in North Caldwell, to West Essex High, on Sept. 9, in the most unlikely circumstances. And while the Nutley girls' soccer team played pretty well, head coach Mike DiPiano wasn't buying into any consolation effort.
Nutley fell to 0-3 on the season by losing to West Essex, 1-0, when the Knights scored on a penalty kick halfway through the second overtime. The schedule gets no easier with games, at home, against Montclair on Sept. 13, at 4 p.m., a road game at Columbia on Sept. 16 and back home to play Caldwell on Sept. 19. Both of those games also start at 4 p.m.
The Raiders played well against West Essex, but it was the Knights who were clearly more aggressive in getting to loose balls and pushing the action forward for most of the contest. Nutley goalie Sarah Cortese was outstanding, turning back 12 shots. The penalty kick that eventually decided the contest just eluded Cortese, who guess correctly and dove to her left, just missing the ball.
Cortese a junior, made a number of solid saves in front of a swarming West Essex offense, during regulation and overtime. She played the entire 95:35 of the game.
"Sarah played an excellent game," said DiPiano. "We just didn't create enough opportunities on offense. For most of the game, we played in the West Essex zone, and that's not going to get it done."
Nutley had opened the season with a 1-0 loss, also in overtime, to Mount St. Dominic, on Sept. 5, before losing to an outstanding Livingston squad on Sept. 7, in Livingston, 4-1.
"Livingston was really good," said DiPiano. "They have a number of top players who could be playing at (NCAA) Division 1 colleges next fall. We got off slow in that game, but then really played well the last 40 minutes. Again, we're not creating enough opportunities on offense. When you put that much pressure on the defense, it's going to wear a team down, eventually. Like I said, our defense is good. We shutout two of the first three teams we played, in regulation time, before losing in overtime. You can't do much better than that."
The West Essex game was particularly frustrating, especially when the penalty kick was called by the trail official in the waning minutes of overtime.
"It's hard to question the officials," said DiPiano. "It seemed like the guy who made the call was further away than the official who was near the play. The entire game was pretty physical. I don't know, it was a close call, I guess."
In his post-game talk with the team, DiPiano discussed what the team will need to get better.
"I can't teach toughness," the coach said. "We have some work to do, in practice, the next few days, before playing what will be a very talented team in Montclair. There are a lot of things we can fix, but we also have to dig down deep and go after it with a little more intensity."