But a perfect 10-0 start has done wonders for his team’s psyche, vaulting a youthful Chattahoochee team into the state’s top five and putting an area championship in their sights with two weeks to play.
“I knew we had some talented young girls rising up to the varsity team, but that is always a wait-and-see type thing coming into the year,” said McIlvain, now in his sixth year as the Lady Cougars head coach. “With girls it can take awhile for them to get their confidence going, but once they do gain that confidence they really take off and do well.
“So we set the schedule up to be more favorable toward the start and it has paid off for us.”
Chattahoochee (10-0 overall, 4-0 in 3AAAAAA play) opened the season with a win over Grayson and a pair of out-of-state victories against Tennessee schools. The Lady Cougars then had key region wins against North Forsyth and Alpharetta in March but have really taken off since returning from spring break — thumping Lambert 17-5 in their first game back and topping 2012 state runner-up Roswell 12-9 last Thursday.
“The biggest thing we’ve done is throw it and catch it well, and that allows us to transition down the field to attack,” said McIlvain.
“[Junior midfielder] Katie Trainer has been our best player in doing a little bit of everything for us, Elicia Zarzour has been strong on our attack and then we have a very good defense that does a good job of moving that ball forward to those ball handlers.”
Defensive stars include team captain Zoe Condon and sophomore Maddie Hagan, both returning starters from last year’s team that won an area championship — a feat they hope to repeat in the coming weeks.
“We want to win our area and we know we have huge games against West Forsyth and Centennial coming up if we are to do that,” said the Lady Cougars coach.
“We just have to keep taking this thing one game at a time, keep our confidence rolling and see what happens.”
Chattahoochee will play at West Forsyth (11-1 overall) April 23 then travel to Centennial (10-0) April 29 in their final 3AAAAAA match.