Matt Hatton doesn’t hide or run away from McDaniel’s sub-.500 record in 2013. But the coach also can’t help wondering what might have been had the team been on the positive side of some narrow defeats.

The Green Terror was involved in nine games decided by two goals or fewer, and lost seven of them. Those results played a direct role in the team’s 5-11 overall mark and 2-6 record in the Centennial Conference.

“I think the real big difference for us between last year and the years before that is that we lost the majority of those one- or two-goal games, rather than winning them,” Hatton said. “We were the benefactors of those games in years past, and last year, we weren’t. So when you play a schedule that is top 10 or 15 in the country, which we typically do, and we don’t win tight games against good teams, then you’re going to have a record that is indicative of our record last year.”

No one likes to lose, and dropping tight games can sting even more. But Hatton said he hopes his returning players will turn their experience into lessons for the upcoming season.

“I do think that’s something that has to be earned on the field,” he said. “You can talk about it, you can diagram Xs and Os, but ultimately, when you’re in a game against the No. 2 team in the country or the No. 4 team or what have you, and the money is on the line, it’s a stressful situation, a pressure-filled situation. So I do think that last year was a little bit of what I would consider a baptism by fire, and those guys had to figure it out on the field before they could do it.

"I think there’s a little bit of a refreshed sense of, ‘Hey, we’ve been in those situations, and now we’re a little bit more weathered for those situations.’ How that plays out in the spring, we won’t know, but I think if we’re doing what we’d like to be doing, we’re going to be in a lot of close games. What our job is going to be is figuring out a way to win those games rather than lose seven of the nine.”