"It was a lot different last year than it feels this year."
McClain gave up six goals in his first two games, including four to Frankfort in Boyle's second game. But it was his third game, a one-goal effort against Danville in which he had 13 saves, that impressed Boyle coach Greg Conley the most.
"This has been his year to step out of the shadows and step up, and he clearly did that in the Danville game," Conley said. "He's still learning."
McClain spent the past several years watching Evan Rice in goal for the Rebels. McClain said that experience taught him a lot.
"He was a goalkeeper with a great technique and he was a good leader," McClain said. "I just felt like I had to come in and fill some pretty big shoes. I learned a lot from him over the past few years."
A vocal leader
McClain has stepped in as the vocal leader in the back of the field. Junior Alex Wagner, who plays in front of McClain on defense, said the keeper is always offering positive reinforcement.
"He's done a great job," Wagner said. "He's always telling everyone what they're doing right, what they're doing wrong, but he's never negative about it. He's always the first one to say 'good game' or 'good job.' He's a good leader on the team."
The friendship between McClain and Wagner leads to some fun exchanges. McClain said the two have taken a phrase from Rocky IV - "No pain" - and made it a battle cry of sorts for them.
"That's what we say back and forth to each other," McClain said. "Whenever there's a corner kick or a free kick right outside the box, we'll look at each other and that kind of keeps us hyped. Alex and I just kind of talk during the game, keep each other up."
Another thing easing McClain's transition is the strength of Boyle's defense. Wagner, Jason Hopper, Patrick Barsotti, Aaron Curtis and Tom Valade form the nucleus of that defense, and McClain said that group makes his job exponentially easier.
"The defense is basically what makes the goalkeeper," McClain said. "They dictate the game in front of you, so it basically dictates how much work you have."
Conley said McClain plays better when he's having fun, saying the senior responds better to positive reinforcement than yelling. McClain seconds that.
"You just enjoy things when you're having fun," McClain said. "It feels better being out there whenever you're having fun and it motivates you to play well. If you're not playing well, you're not really having much fun."