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Rachel Aiken

Coach Rachel Aiken made quick work of the rebuild for Creekview’s girls lacrosse program this season.

The Lady Grizzlies needed to replace eight seniors who took the team to the state playoffs in all four seasons, but Creekview did not miss a beat, returning to the postseason and advancing to the second round.

“Going into the season, I knew I had a lot of strong players,” said Aiken, the 2019 Cherokee Ledger-News Girls Lacrosse Coach of the Year. “I had seen them play in eighth grade or on the JV team the previous season. We knew we had the talent, so it was more a question of how we use what we had after losing so many seniors last year.”

Not only was Creekview young this season, it was also looking to replace the group Aiken credited with putting the program on the map.

“The group we lost was kind of the first really good group through,” she said. “We had good players before, but they were the first group that had been playing together for a really long time. By the time they were seniors, they had great chemistry that takes time to build. They were that first group that really broke through for us, so we just wanted to live up to that group that set all those team and individual records.”

With a new cast of players leading the team, Aiken knew some things had to change. She stressed patience and discipline on the offensive side while trying to simplify things defensively, but her bigger challenge was recreating the chemistry from previous seasons.

“They all had a great skill set,” Aiken said. “It was more about building the chemistry. We were pushing them to branch out of their groups and learn about their teammates. A lot of the coaching was just trying to get them to bond and know each other. They knew the fundamentals. It was trying to get them to understand the higher level of thinking of the game.”

While it took some time to build the mental aspects of a successful team, the talent of the young group showed right away.

Creekview opened the season by beating Union Grove, Forsyth Central and Cherokee by a combined margin of 59-7. While the hot start was followed by close losses to North Paulding and Harrison, a one-goal area win over Lambert showed Aiken the potential of her team.

“We came out pretty strong this season, but we knew the competition wasn’t that great,” Aiken said. “We hadn’t really been tested until we played Lambert. They’re always a really strong team. When we played them and won, we realized these girls were just really competitive and could play with some of the best teams in the state.”

Creekview rode that momentum to a runner-up finish in the area, one game back of eventual state semifinalist West Forsyth.

A 20-5 win over Parkview started Creekview’s postseason run, and while a rematch with North Paulding in the second round ended the season with a loss in double overtime, Aiken thinks the experience of erasing a nine-goal deficit in the final 10 minutes of regulation will be valuable next season.

“We’re really excited to only lose two seniors,” she said. “We saw what these girls can do, and we have a strong group coming up behind them, too. For the girls who were here this year, we know they’ll be motivated by the way the season ended. They really hated losing the way we did in the playoffs, so I think we’re just going to come back really hungry next year.”

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