The Power Of One: Greenfield’s Jenna Elwell closes out 14 years of a family tradition

  • Greenfield goalkeeper Sam Smith celebrates a Greenfield goal against Mahar with Jenna Elwell (1) during the 2018 season. Elwell is carrying on the No. 1 legacy with the program after sisters Brandi and Amanda also wore the uniform. Staff FILE Photo/Dan Little

  • Greenfield’s Amanda Elwell (1) chases a loose ball between Mohawk Trail’s Abbie Boswell, left, and Kelsey Scranton during action in 2016. Elwell’s younger sister Jenna is currently carrying on the No. 1 legacy with the Green Wave. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/16/2020 5:39:52 PM

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

The Greenfield High School field hockey team doesn’t put last names on its uniforms, but the No. 1 jersey might as well say ‘Elwell’ on the back. 

For each of the last 14 seasons, one of the Elwell sisters — Brandi, Amanda and Jenna — have donned the No. 1 jersey for the Green Wave. When one graduated, the next one picked up the jersey and on the tradition went. 

That lengthy 14-year run came to an end last week when Jenna, a senior, took the field for the final time as a Greenfield field hockey player. 

“When I was a freshman picking my number, I was worried somebody else would take it,” Jenna explained. “I’m really glad I’ve been able to wear this jersey as long as I have.”

Brandi, the oldest of the three sisters, joined the Greenfield field hockey team as a seventh grader in 2006. She was the first to don the No. 1 uniform, picking that jersey her first year on the roster. When Brandi was a junior, Amanda joined the program as a seventh grader. For the time being, Amanda settled on the No. 11.

Once Brandi graduated, Amanda took over the No. 1 jersey, and held it through her senior year. By that time, Jenna had been on the team for two years. Eventually, she kept the tradition going by taking the number once Amanda graduated, and she kept it in the family right through her senior season this fall.

For Green Wave coach Erin Thayer, who’s been in charge of the field hockey program for the last 15 seasons, it’s certainly going to be an adjustment not seeing anyone with the last name Elwell on her roster come next fall.

“It’s been a long time,” Thayer began. “I said to their parents, ‘It’s an end of an era because I’m finally not going to have an Elwell.’ Not only do you miss the girls when they graduate, you miss the family as well. They’re a supportive, great family that I knew I could ask anything of and they would do anything for us. They always had spaghetti dinners for us. It’s always hard to lose people who will do anything you need.”

One thing every coach values is versatility, and that’s something each Elwell has brought to the table. Thayer said all three sisters lined up at a variety of positions, allowing her more flexibility with the lineup.

“They’re sisters so they have some similarities,” Thayer explained. “They’re also very different in very different ways as well, but they’re all really great kids.”

Being the youngest sister in the family can have its advantages, one of which is getting to soak up all the knowledge from the older siblings and learning from their experiences. With Amanda being just four years older, Jenna was able to absorb what playing on the varsity team at Greenfield was all about. She said she drew from Amanda’s first-hand knowledge of how Thayer likes to run her program. 

“She didn’t really teach me the sport necessarily because I was on JV,” Jenna began, “but she taught me a ton about how Erin is as a coach and just to be prepared to come back for a season and how to get ready for the preseason. She taught me about team more than about the actual sport of field hockey and I’m really glad about that.” 

Brandi, the oldest sister in the trio, provided Jenna, who is nine years younger, with much different field hockey lessons.

“Brandi was teaching me more wisdom-like stuff,” Jenna said. “Even though we’re so far apart in age, we’ve always been really close. It’s like we’re a team ourselves.”

As one would expect, the Greenfield program has changed drastically in the 14 years the Elwell sisters have been suiting up in the No. 1 jersey.

Brandi got there while Thayer was trying to build the program in the mold she envisioned. That can take time. Greenfield was trending in the right direction once Amanda arrived, culminating in a Western Mass. championship her senior year. The Green Wave hit their peak with Jenna, winning back-to-back Western Mass. titles her freshman and sophomore years.

“Brandi started when we were in a bit of a lull where we just had a rebuilding year,” Thayer said. “Amanda got to experience some really great things and Jenna for sure has had the cream of the crop with experiencing all the Western Mass. championships and all the great stuff.”

Throughout all the highs and lows of the program throughout those 14 years, it’d be hard to argue who had the wildest ending. This season, Greenfield was aiming to avenge its 2019 Western Mass. Division II finals loss to Frontier, but COVID-19 ruined any chance of that happening as the MIAA canceled the 2020 postseason. 

Instead, Jenna’s last game came against Frontier on Nov. 2, albeit with less on the line than the pride of winning a rivalry contest. She thought she had one more game left against Pioneer to close out her Green Wave career, but that final tilt wound up being canceled. 

“I’m kind of sad,” Jenna said. “It’s crazy. I’m used to going to Indoor Action and playing in tournaments and going until we lose. We didn’t really have a last game (this year). We didn’t know the Frontier game was our last one. We did end it with a great win though. We haven’t won one like that in a long time.”

With the No. 1 jersey now up for grabs next year, Jenna said she’s just hoping somebody she knows takes it over. Who knows, maybe another family can start a tradition of their own, carry on the jersey’s legacy for another decade-plus.


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