New coach works to instill confidence in talented Fox Chapel girls roster

Friday, November 22, 2019 | 6:01 PM

When Marty Matvey arrived to take over the Fox Chapel girls basketball program this summer, he quickly realized there was talent from top to bottom in the lineup.

His goal from that point forward has been to put that talent in the best possible position to be successful on the court and also foster mental toughness in his players’ games.

Coming off a season in which the Foxes made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and having four returning starters and plenty of depth, there’s a lot of excitement heading into a new season.

“The previous coaching staff did an excellent job teaching everyone here the fundamentals, so there’s nothing really basketball-related that I need to teach them. I just need to help them play a little freer,” Matvey said. “I know there will be some mistakes, but I want them to not be afraid to push the tempo, shoot an open 3-pointer or take someone if they have a mismatch. Confidence is a big thing coaching women’s basketball.”

Matvey came over from South Park and replaced Jennifer O’Shea, who’s now at Montour. Matvey spent five years with the Eagles, the last three as head coach. He compiled a 46-28 record. Last year, the Eagles made the WPIAL Class 3A semifinals and qualified for the PIAA playoffs, where they fell in the first round.

Fox Chapel finished 15-9 overall and 8-6 in Section 1-6A last season. The Foxes lost to eventual WPIAL and PIAA champion Peters Township in the first round and fell to Cumberland Valley in the first round of the PIAA playoffs.

Senior guards Gabby Guerrieri and Claire Fenton, junior guard Domenica Delaney and 5-foot-11 junior forward Ellie Schwartzmann return to the starting lineup.

That gives Matvey plenty of experienced options to work with.

“I always like to start inside with a post presence, because not all high school teams have one,” Matvey said. “We have a good one with Ellie. She had a nice offseason. Domenica is primed for a breakout year. Then if Claire or Gabby can average 10 or 12 points a game and we get three players in double figures, that’d be great.”

Junior guard Marissa Ritter will likely slide into the starting lineup and there are plenty of juniors, sophomores and a couple of seniors to provide depth options. Freshman Elsie Smith is another player who will likely see playing time. Matvey said he expects to go with a 10-player rotation to start the season.

Matvey has been working on building a confident attitude. He doesn’t want his players looking over their shoulders all the time.

“These girls have enough pressures in life that they don’t need to worry about a coach yanking them if they don’t make a shot,” Matvey said. “At the same time, you have to hold them accountable. They need to know what’s a good shot and a bad shot. It’s one thing if you miss an open 3-pointer and another if you’re driving into two players and chucking something up. They’re all smart kids and respectable kids.”

It’s an approach the players appreciate.

“It’s always difficult to play when you are afraid of making a mistake,” Fenton said. “You’re more timid and not willing to take a risk. I’m a little hard on myself and I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I know what that’s like. To hear a coach say, ‘Go out there and shoot and just play basketball,’ because he knows the talent we have, gives you a lot more confidence as a player.”

Fox Chapel plays in Section 1 with perennial contenders North Allegheny and Norwin as well as Seneca Valley, Butler, Shaler, North Hills and Pine-Richland. They finished fourth in section play last year and the expectation is to be competitive again this winter.

“For all four of us (starters), making playoffs was a brand-new experience and it was a lot of fun,” Fenton said. “My first couple years when we didn’t make playoffs, you kind of get used to that, so to make the playoffs and feel the excitement of that atmosphere is motivation to get back there again.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


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