Norwich - Hours before the Norwich Free Academy boys' soccer team faced Bacon Academy Monday, head coach Robert Briones learned that star midfielder Patrick Kudej was unavailable due to a concussion.
Briones didn't know whether Kudej's absence affected the Wildcats in their 2-1 Eastern Connecticut Conference Large Division loss, but figured that his young team could learn something from the loss.
"The best learning experience, I think, is when you really face adversity," Briones said. "By losing today, and the mistakes that we made, we can learn a lot.
"We need to make the corrections that we need to make, and they have to perform."
Bacon (11-0, 6-0) is the only team to beat the Wildcats (6-2-1, 4-2) this season.
"It's tough," NFA senior Patrick Lewis said. "We fought hard. We obviously didn't fight hard enough early enough. There were a few plays that we should've brought back. (We) could've finished a little bit more.
Kudej sustained a concussion during last week's win over Woodstock Academy. Briones didn't believe his absence should've prevented his team from playing better, particularly early in the game.
"(For) some of the kids, it's a lack of experience in terms of playing in tougher games," Briones said. "The kids can play. I don't know if the news of finding out that Patrick wasn't playing affected them psychologically. I try not to worry too much. I wasn't concerned.
"We beat Woodstock when Patrick was out and the last 10 minutes we scored three goals when he was sitting here (on the bench). So I said (to the team), 'We've already proved that we're a team and that we can come out together (and win).'"
Chad Ferro scored for Bacon Academy just 12 minutes into the game on an assist from Brendan Quinn.
Ryan Goldberg scored in the 25th minute when NFA keeper Carl Chancy tried to clear the ball.
"I give them a lot of credit," Briones said. "They're a very well-disciplined team. It's not a flashy team, but I think that pays off in the long run. They took advantage of some of the mistakes that we made."
The early lead allowed Bacon to play a little more defensive.
"We still needed to make sure we kept it tight in the middle," Bacon coach Andrew Storton said. "We knew NFA has some really good passing players, even without the guy they were missing today.
"They can hurt you if you don't put enough pressure on them."
The Wildcats outshot Bacon 10-5, but it didn't make a difference. NFA didn't score until the 69th minute when Ryan Jacksin scored on an assist from Erik Palomino.
"You can go down 2-0 at halftime," Briones said, "but you need a quick goal within the first 15 minutes of the second half just to get back into it. Then you can put the other team on their heels.
"Unfortunately, there were 10, 11 minutes left when we got the one goal."