Rich Carter couldn't be happier with the progress his Rifle High School girls soccer team has made.
Granted, the Bears coach admits that progress hasn't shown up in terms of wins and losses. They have, however, begun to show up on the scoreboard, as Rifle scored its first goal of the season in an April 11 game at Delta.
But the losses - nine losses in nine games, to be precise - aren't bringing the players on Rifle's roster down. In fact, Carter couldn't be happier with the attitude the Bears have had this season despite being outscored 75-1 through Tuesday's 8-0 home loss to Grand Valley.
"They don't put their heads down," Carter said. "They just keep getting knocked down and, instead of getting down, they get right back up and have this attitude like, 'Bring it on.'
"They don't point fingers and they don't yell at each other," Carter continued. "They just keep playing soccer. If it wasn't for that kind of mentality they have, this would be an awful season."
Not that the season before this one was great. Rifle won only three matches in 2012, meaning the 2013 campaign was already slated to be a rebuilding season. Carter, however, said the standpoint from the beginning of the season was to take baby steps toward improvement.
How much of a difference has it made?
"A ton!" Carter said.
"Our goals are so small compared to the rest of the teams in our league," said Carter, whose team plays in the Class 4A Western Slope League with schools like Steamboat Springs, Palisade, Glenwood Springs, Summit and Moffat County. "We look at creating more offense and moving down the field in an organized fashion, not just kicking it down the field and chasing it.
"Now, they're putting together plays and reading plays to see where the best place is for them to go on the field," the coach continued. "The girls are starting to get it, and it's starting to show."
Even though it hasn't started to show on the scoreboard, there is statistical evidence that it's started to show in the field.
Among the little goals the Bears made at the beginning of the season were in reference to turnovers. Though Carter hasn't made a name for it yet, his team managers keep track of each time the Bears turn the ball over to another team by either a "bad pass, bad trap ball or through not challenging a 50-50 ball" on the field, the coach said.
That number has gone down dramatically, going from an average of 80 turnovers per half to, as of Tuesday's game against Grand Valley, just 30 per half.
Carter harps on his team to possess the ball, knowing that ball possession will give the Bears more opportunities to score. Some of that came to fruition during Rifle's 9-1 loss to Delta on April 11, as Beau Jamjaroenjit's goal for the Bears against the Panthers sparked a wild celebration for the team.
"You would have thought we'd just won the World Cup," Carter said, laughing.
Obviously, Carter wants the Bears to be more successful than they will be this season. He believes they're off to a good start, regardless of what the win-loss record shows.
"I think we've progressed more than any team in Western Colorado," Carter said. "With the level of play we were at, it shows that we actually have control of the ball instead of playing haphazardly. It's a night-and-day difference compared to what it was."