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When the opportunity came for Chris Mellott to be a head coach, he took advantage of it.

In his first year coaching the McConnellsburg girls soccer program, Mellott helped his team to a winning record (11-8-1), and a berth in the District 5 1A semifinals.

He has been named the Public Opinion Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.

When Toby McGarvey, who started the program and coached for 11 years, resigned after last year, Mellott saw his chance.

"I thought I was ready to be a head coach," he said, "and it was a good time to experiment. I had been the boys assistant coach for five years and the boys program is thriving under Cory (Houck)."

McGarvey's teams had routinely reached the playoffs in recent years, and Mellott didn't want to lose that feeling.

"We knew we were young, but the girls have gone to districts almost every year," Mellott said. "So realistically, I think we did meet expectations, especially because we did it with a lot of freshmen."

While the Spartans had some senior leadership in McKenzi Garlock and Savannah Kerlin, there were times when Mellott wrote out a starting lineup with five freshmen in it.

"The older girls took the younger ones under their wing, and it helped," Mellott said. "We wondered how fast they could come up to speed, and it happened pretty quickly. You have to give the whole team credit for that."

Ironically, McConnellsburg's worst loss of the season (6-0 to Fairfield) may have helped turn things around. While the Spartans were beaten badly by the eventual PIAA Class 1A champions, Mellott said he saw some good things in that game.

The Spartans also dealt with a scoring skid during a 1-4 stretch in which five of the six goals they scored came in one game, and they were shut out three times.

Mellott said, "Going into the season, scoring was where we thought we might struggle, and we did in the middle of the season. But once we got some confidence back, the momentum shifted at the right time."

In the first round of the District 5 playoffs, McConnellsburg hit the road and returned with a 2-1 victory over Conemaugh Township, a team it had lost to 1-0 earlier.

"That win out there was definitely the highlight," Mellott said. "It took the whole team playing well to get that win, and (goalkeeper) Kellyn (Perry) stopped a penalty kick, which was huge. It was a complete team effort."

With only two senior starters, the Spartans are hoping for more of those kind of wins next year.

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