NORTH ADAMS -- The Drury boys' soccer team was already trailing 1-0 and the game wasn't 10 minutes old. Hoosac Valley just kept attacking and Joe Liporace just kept turning the Hurricanes away.
He made a point-blank save on Sean Ryan-Kut 12 minutes in and stuffed Shaun Knapp two minutes later.
He went on to make several great saves and give his team a chance, but the Blue Devils lost 4-1.
"Holy moley. Whole different kid from last year," Hoosac coach Camilo Bermudez said. "Totally technical, under control, good hands. That's going to really help them when they get into more of the [South Division] games, for sure."
Liporace, a senior, is starting in goal for his third and final season for Drury. Each year, he's given the Blue Devils and increased chance to win. That's continued this year, but he made his biggest jump in the offseason.
He challenged himself with better competition during the summer and it's paying off early.
"I really tried to focus and teach myself footwork and placement and all that stuff to make myself just a little better and more technically sound," he said. "In past years, I've been just ‘I hope I'm doing this right.' But now this year, I feel like I know what I'm doing. I'm calmer in net."
He recorded a three-save shutout in the season opener against Mohawk and stopped 12 Hoosac shots -- many requiring outstanding efforts.
The offseason work sharpened his skills, and that, in turn, grew his confidence.
"Every time I go out there on the field, I usually do not feel like a shot's going to get by me," Liporace said. "[Friday] is unfortunate, but at the start of every game, I feel confident that it's going to be a shutout. I think that's the mentality I have to have to be successful for both me and the team."
He may be right. The Blue Devils have a young defense, playing the last 25 minutes against Hoosac with an eighth- and ninth-grader on the back line. The better he plays, the easier he'll make life on the defense.
He can also help with his voice.
Unmarked players are always a threat. The more he directs traffic, the quicker the chance of having to make a point-blank save decrease, which keeps Drury in the game longer.
"He's really communicating with us and the midfield, really telling us if we have a defender on us, if we really have any issues with our shape or our formation," senior defenseman Tyler Cote said. "That's another thing he's stepped it up on and it's helping us greatly because our ball movement is better, and part of that reason is because of the communication coming back from Joe."
Aside from his play, it might be the aspect of his game that's easiest to see an improvement in. He admits he hasn't always been a vocal keeper.
"I've always been kind of a loud person, and now that I've gotten sort of a more senior position on the team, I feel a little more confident to get my opinion out there," the captain said. "I really feel I can help my team by saying what I have to say."
Through two games, Drury already has half as many wins as it accumulated through the 2012 season. If the Blue Devils are to make a run at qualifying for the Western Massachusetts tournament, Liporace will need to continue his stellar play.
"He's putting it all together. He's making some great saves," coach Greg Caproni said. "He's turning into just a great leader. There's a lot more stability back there, and it's coming with maturity and three years of being in the goal."