Something made Massapequa look a bit sluggish early on.
Senior midfielder Sean Nealis knew exactly what it was.
"It's the championship hangover," said Nealis, referring to the boys soccer team's state Class AA title run last season. "It's bad sometimes."
The Chiefs got over it just in time Tuesday.
After a slow start, Massapequa turned up the intensity in the second half and beat host Uniondale, 1-0, in both teams' Conference AA-I opener.
Peter Meyer scored the winner into the top left of the net on a penalty kick from close range with 25 minutes left. The ball was placed just out of the reach of Uniondale goalkeeper Jose Romero.
"I was confident I could bury it," Meyer said. "I knew I had it once I got up there."
It was the only blemish in an otherwise outstanding game for Romero, who finished with four saves. He made a diving one-handed stop while ranging to his left with five minutes left in the first half. Romero then made a pretty save on a shot from point-blank range early in the second half.
"At that time, I thought those were tremendous game-saving stops," Uniondale coach Cohen Nelson said.
After a scoreless first half, Massapequa decided to make a formation switch. The Chiefs ditched their 4-4-2 setup in favor of a 4-3-3 because Uniondale was doing an impressive job of swarming to the middle of the field and preventing wide passes, Massapequa assistant coach Ken Wing said.
The change resulted in several good looks and a more up-tempo style of play.
"It worked real well because we were able to push our offense a whole lot better in the second half," said Andrew Prendergast, who started on the wing and was then moved to forward.
Though the formation switch was a key, Nealis credited the win to the team's ability to break an early mental barrier, more than anything else.
"We tend to come out lackadaisical at times," said the 6-4 Nealis, who won several balls in the air and led a stingy defense that allowed only three shots on goal. "I'm confident in our team that it won't be an issue much longer."
To prevent the issue from lingering further, Meyer said the Chiefs must maintain the proper level of confidence heading into games.
"We want to stay confident, but we realize overconfidence leads to mistakes," Meyer said. "We learned from this."