Lady Tigers pass torch

The Westfield Vocational-Technical High School girls’ basketball team looks to get the jump on the competition with a series of practices this week. (Photo by Fred Gore)

WESTFIELD – “We’re going to go undefeated … win a league title … and win Western Massachusetts,” Westfield Voc-Tech girls’ basketball coach Matt Seklecki said Wednesday when asked to predict the upcoming season. The conversation ended with a wink from the Lady Tigers head coach.
Westfield Voc-Tech went 12-8 during the 2010-11 season, and earned their first tournament berth in nearly a decade, raising hopes within the program that floundered in mediocrity for many years. But eight of those players – six via graduation and two transferred – are not back.
“It’s going to be a lot different than I thought,” said Seklecki, who noticed the names of longtime players, such as the Cyr sisters, absent from the roster for the first time in four years. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Still, Seklecki said the fact that the organization has a pool of talent from the junior varsity squad to pull from, makes the transition much easier. It is the third straight year that the school has a JV unit.
“At least now it is not the first time that a player has picked up a ball,” Seklecki said of the new varsity players.
While the team continues to hold tryouts to determine this season’s role players, the coach said five student-athletes who have paid their dues in the program have already solidified the starting five.
Senior 6-foot, 1-inch center Amber Rode, who received some offseason work on an AAU team, returns alongside junior guard Brandi Van Gelder, junior forward Monica Iglesias, junior guard Nadine Tran, a three-year player, and sophomore forward Shannon Michaels, who has received playing time in both varsity and JV.
“I know these five players will be consistent,” Seklecki said. “And we have a lot of young role players.”
“Given what I know about Pathfinder and all the other teams in the league, I think we will be competitive. If we can just stay competitive and win games that we’re supposed to win, we will continue to change the atmosphere we’ve created.”

DULUDE TAKES CENTER COURT: With longtime boys’ hoops coach Len Larabee now retired, another familiar face jumps into the role. Kyle Dulude, who made a successful leap from the girls’ soccer head coaching gig to the boys’ team this past season, is taking over for Larabee.
Dulude helped turn around the girls’ soccer program over the past few years and took the softball team to new heights recently as well.
Dulude and the Tigers will open the boys’ basketball season at home against Turners Falls on Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.

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