So you think that you’re ready for spring to start, huh?
You’re probably not as excited for it as new Mashpee High School girls’ lacrosse coach Todd Franks, who will begin his first season on the bench for the Falcons after serving as the junior varsity coach a year ago. Franks ascends to the top spot in the coaching hierarchy at MHS after former coach Arlene Petrunich had to step down from her position after her husband’s career relocated the family south to Florida.
Under Petrunich the Falcons’ program improved both on the field and off. The program’s structure strengthened and lax at MHS became a sport that was taken quite seriously, both internally and by the competition. While Mashpee may never have contended for a league title, thanks to the inclusion of Norwell and Cohasset in the South Shore League (two perennial state championship caliber programs), the Falcons were not only competitive every year, but were usually in the mix for the postseason.
Franks said that he looks forward to building on top of that strong foundation, while bringing his own tweaks to the process. He has the backing of the Mashpee athletic department toward his goals.
“Todd helped to build the boys’ youth program in Mashpee, which became extremely successful. He understands the fundamentals and X’s and O’s of field lacrosse and will be driven to take our girls’ lacrosse program to the next level,” MHS athletic director Matt Triveri said.
A costly injury in the offseason before the start of the 2019 season proved too much for the Mashpee girls to overcome in their goal toward earning a playoff spot last year. With senior captain Michelle Hambly (the top returning player from the previous season) out with a knee injury, coupled with the graduation of the school’s all-time leading scorer, Tara Palermo, MHS was left with a young and inexperienced team that still overachieved at times, but came up a little short of their aim. Coach Franks believes that the knocks that the Falcons suffered through a year ago will prove quite beneficial this year.
With a roster that is still quite young, the coach said that he can’t wait to see just how much improvement that the team has made because he knows that the core of the team has been putting in the time during the offseason to get better.
“I’m excited. This is talented team, it’s raw, but they could make a little noise,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun season.”
Franks said that he will use a lot of what he learned from Petrunich while serving as an assistant and JV coach in his role, but will bring his own style to the mix. A retired intelligence analyst from the US Air Force, he said that he will look to instill some of the military discipline that has been a core value for him over the years. That does not mean, though, that girls’ lacrosse is going to become a dreadful experience for the girls.
“The girls on my JV team learned last year that I am strict, I have rules, but we also had dance parties during practice,” he said with a chuckle. “They know that they have to work for their spots. I want to instill a sense of pride and ownership. I don’t want it be my winning, but their winning. I want them to want to win games and make the tournament...we have a sense of family. There will be squabbles, there always are on teams, but we win as a family and lose as a family. It’s a team.”
Franks’ own family was what spearheaded the birth of Mashpee Youth Lacrosse. While home from work with an injury, his sons Cole and Matt—who were both playing lacrosse in other towns—asked him why there was not a Mashpee program. While healing from his injuries he had time on his hands and decided to build the program from scratch, which was quite successful from the get-go. Unfortunately his work commitments, which took him abroad for extended periods of time, as well as a family illness, forced Franks to turn the program over to others to run. The MYL did not last long after that, and the program is now defunct.
Franks retired from government service in November, which gave him the opportunity to start pursuing passions again. When he learned that Petrunich was not going to be around to coach the girls’ team any more, he applied for the vacant position, even though his daughter, Emily, had graduated the year before.
“(Being retired) affords me to do what I truly love to do,” he said. “The reason that I threw my hat into the ring is that (Arlene) was such a great mentor. I knew boys’ lacrosse, and she would explain everything to me so well while the game was going on, and she was managing everything with the team. She’s just an unbelievable mentor and a great friend.”
Franks said it took a bit to grasp the intricacies that differentiate the boys’ and girls’ games. With no hitting, and smaller pockets on the sticks, he said that the female version of the sport is much more about precision and adhering to fundamentals and finesse. “You have to be on point with your game. It’s definitely a mental game,” he said.
On Monday, March 16, he will head up his first official practice. The rosters for the varsity and JV will be determined within about a week of that, and then it will be all about getting ready for the season, starting with game one that he is looking forward to. On Wednesday, April 1, the Lady Falcons begin the 2020 campaign with a home game.
“I love that our first game is against Bourne,” he said. “There is a rivalry there. They don’t hate each other, but it’s always a great game and they love playing against each other and have had some great games.”
Two days later the Falcons have another non-league Cape rivalry contest as well. The second game of the year is at Falmouth.
Coach Franks believes his team has what it takes to be competitive. He said he was getting reports from the offseason Mashpee team playing at the Jungleplex in Plymouth, and the team is on target for success.
“They have a spark,” he said. “They have the thought process going. I think it’s going to be good.”