New coach, same expectations Llewelyn hopes to guide Eagles to 9th straight tourney berth
Matt Llewelyn makes his head coaching debut today and will look to stabilize a Franklin County Technical School girls’ basketball program in need of some consistency at the top.
The Eagles host Greenfield High School today at 3 in the Eagles’ Holiday Classic Tournament.
Llewelyn becomes the fourth coach in four years at the school, replacing Ed Marvell after his one season with the program. It is the first head coaching job for Llewelyn, who graduated from Pioneer Valley Regional School in 2009 and went on to college at Plymouth State University, where he served as an assistant coach on the women’s basketball team last winter.
During his senior year at Pioneer, Llewelyn averaged nearly 10 points per game and was deadly from beyond the arc. He hopes to bring some of that playing knowledge to an Eagles team that, despite the coaching turnover from the past four seasons, has made the tournament each of the past eight years. The last time the Eagles did not make the tournament was the 2004-05 season.
“I could not be happier,” he said of the job, which he accepted after having applied for the opening at his alma mater. “The administration has been beyond welcoming to me. I’m in a great spot.”
Realignment has also changed the look of the Tri-County League, which has been divided into the North and South this season. Franklin Tech, which finished fourth in the TCL last season, will play in the North, which is the tougher of the two divisions. Last season’s TCL champion Gateway Regional High School joins the Eagles. The second-place team from a season ago, New Leadership Charter School, is no longer a school, but the third and fifth place teams from last year, Pathfinder Vocational High School and Pioneer Valley Christian School, are also in the North, meaning the top four remaining teams from last year’s TCL are in the North. They will be joined by a pair of newcomers — Putnam Vocational High School and Springfield School of Science & Technology — which both move in from the former Bi-County League.
Franklin Tech finished last season 10-10, winning its final four games to qualify for the postseason. Llewelyn is fortunate to have many of the same players back this year, including three of the top five scorers. He will be without two impact players from a season ago, but has six seniors to headline his roster. The biggest issue at the moment is depth, because after the six seniors, Llewelyn has just a pair of sophomores on the varsity roster, which currently sits at eight players. He said he hopes to make up for the lack of numbers with the experience of his returners. Seven of the eight players were on varsity last winter.
“Our strength is having experience,” he said. “We have a lot of returnees. Seven girls returning to varsity is always a plus. And all the girls like each other and want to be there. They want to win and they want to have fun and they give 100 percent effort every day.”
Senior forward Brooke Meuse led the team in scoring last season with 6.9 points per game and returns this winter. Sophomore shooting guard Brittany Andrews scored 5 points per game as a freshman to sit fourth on the team. Senior Alyssa Andrews (Brittany’s older sister) will handle the point guard duties, but is also a capable scorer, and averaged 3 points per game. Senior Nicole Miller will play at center or forward, and classmates Melissa Vatalaro and Jamie Judge will also play forward. Charisse Hutchinson is the sixth and final senior on the team and will serve as a backup point guard.
Sophomore Meagan Blais is the only newcomer to the varsity team and will play at both guard and forward.
“It’s not going to be a one-girl show,” Llewelyn said of his squad. “It’s going to take a team effort, and we have a lot of team players. And I look forward to going to practice every day and teaching them.”