Lacrosse Goalie Life at a Small D1 School
By Coach Damon on June 25, 2018
A lot of my goalie analysis on this site focuses on the top lacrosse programs. The Dukes, the Marylands, the Yales.
But what about the Wagners?
Today’s post comes from Matt Sefcik who is about to head into his senior year at Wagner College – home of the Seahawks.
It’s an incredible story about finding success in untraditional places. I hope you enjoy it.
Enter Matt Sefcik
All I ever ask for is a chance.
In anything I do, I simply want to be given the chance to perform.
Whether it is in the classroom, looking for a job, or playing lacrosse, all you ever need is to be given a chance.
Although here’s the thing about being given a chance. You better be more than prepared when one is presented to you to take full advantage.
Just as you hope to be given a chance, sometimes you also need to give someone or something a chance as well.
Giving someone or something a chance does not always work out for you, but at least now you will never have to wonder.
Wagner College gave me a chance.
And like them, I also decided to give them a chance, and now a few months before I am set to begin my senior year, I could not be happier with my decision.
I like to think Wagner is happy with their decision as well.
I want to take the time in this post to talk about my experiences of playing Division 1 lacrosse at a school that many people, even people in the lacrosse community might not know about.
Lesser Known Lax Programs
To me it has always seemed like almost all coverage of lacrosse is focused on the same few schools like Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Maryland, etc.
I am not trying to say they do not deserve the coverage they get. By all means, they do with how hard they work and the skill those teams possess.
But I feel like there are so many talented players out there playing at smaller, lesser known schools who do not get the recognition they deserve because they are not playing at a “prestigious” lacrosse school.
Many kids today are hung up on the idea of playing at a major, brand name school and do not bother to look into other opportunities that may be out there.
So, I just want to take this time to reflect on my own experiences and how I got to where I am today.
Introducing Wagner College
Wagner College is a small, and I mean very small (only 1,800 undergrads) liberal arts college located on Staten Island, one of the boroughs of New York City.
Staten Island is very unique as it does not look like the other boroughs. No skyscrapers or subway systems, the island is more like a densely populated town than a part of the city itself.
We are a 25-minute ferry ride away from Lower Manhattan and our campus sits atop a hill on the north side of the island. Even though we only have 1,800 students we still compete at the division one level in the Northeast Conference with teams like Bryant, St. Joes, and Robert Morris.
The school is known for its theater program, having one of the best in the country. Wagner College is also where one of my favorite movies, School of Rock, was filmed.
The campus is small and compact with it being less than a five-minute walk between pretty much any two points on campus. My classes are small, the biggest one I have ever had probably being about 30 kids with most of my classes being about 20.
The professors know almost all of their students by name and you cannot make the two-minute walk from the dining hall to the library without seeing at least one person you know. This kind of college was by no means the kind I expected to go to, always picturing myself at a large state university, but after three years here now I could not imagine myself anywhere else.
By no means is it perfect, but nowhere is perfect, and Wagner is as near a perfect place for me as I could ask.
About Me and My Recruiting Process
I am from Morris County in North Jersey, about 45 minutes outside of New York City.
I grew up in a county that has produced many top-level lacrosse players. I went to the Morristown-Beard School where I had the honor of playing for three years with the college lacrosse legend that is Trevor Baptiste, and graduated from there in 2015.
I was lucky enough to start high school the year after the previous varsity goalie had just graduated and I was able to take over the starting job and start all four of my years in high school.
My junior and senior year we went a combined 36-8, largely on the backs of a fantastic offense that we boasted that feature current college players like Teddy Hatfield (Richmond), Thomas Rago (Marist), Connor Morin (Notre Dame), John McDonald (Colgate), and Kevin Gill (North Carolina), in addition to Trevor who was on the team up until he graduated a year before my grade did.
Unfortunately, my junior and senior year both ended with losses in the state championship.
My recruiting process was by no means a glamorous journey. I did not start playing club lacrosse until the fall of my sophomore year of high school when I began playing for a local club team based out of my hometown, New Jersey Thunder.
I was going through the recruiting process before the rule that absolutely no contact was allowed to be made with a player before September 1st of their junior year. Players and college coaches found ways around the rules that were in place at the time.
So, by the time my sophomore year of high school ended many of my friends and people I grew up playing with had already committed to schools and I began to get nervous that I was not going to be given a chance.
I was very proactive in my recruiting process, as I think everyone should be. I did not limit myself to only a few schools but probably emailed close to 50 coaches. I emailed schools at every level (D1, D2, D3) and coaches all over the country, telling them what summer tournaments I would be at, and sending links to my highlight videos.
I still was very unsure of where I actually stacked up in comparison to other goalies and was not sure if I had what it took to play division one lacrosse. At one of my first tournaments of the summer that year I played very well in front of some coaches, and after one of the games, I had the chance to talk to an assistant coach from Detroit Mercy.
He was a terrific guy and told me to send them an email about possibly visiting. While my recruiting with that school did not end up going much further than that conversation after one of my games it gave me the confidence that I had what it took to play at the Division 1 level.
Playing with Confidence and Commiting to Wagner
That summer I really began to play with confidence and that made it more fun for me.
I ended up having a successful summer, making a few all-star games at some tournaments and showcases but when September first of my junior year rolled around and coaches could start emailing back prospects my inbox was pretty empty.
I was getting some interest from some Division 2 and 3 schools but nothing really from Division 1 schools.
Around the end of September that year, I got an email from one of Wagner’s old assistant coaches saying how he saw me over the summer and would like me to come to a prospect day so they could get another look at me.
At that point, I had never really considered Wagner as a possibility but I knew one thing, they were giving me a chance.
I went to the prospect day and was beyond nervous. When we pulled up to the stadium I felt all sorts of nerves but I knew I had to put those aside and just play my game.
I ended up playing very well that day and was unbelievably excited that they invited me back for another visit to spend the night with the team the following week. I went back to Wagner the following week to meet with the coaches and the team and fell in love with it.
Not just the school itself but the team and the idea of getting to play there. I got the feeling from the coaching staff that they really believed in me and wanted me to be a part of their team.
A few days after my overnight visit I got an email asking if I would like to commit to Wagner.
My parents told me I should probably wait and explore other options but I told them no, I wanted to go to Wagner and called the coach right then and there and committed to the program. A week after I committed to Wagner I went and played at a tournament in Connecticut that was being run by the coach of Sacred Heart at the time.
I played exceptionally well that tournament and received an email following the tournament from the coach at Sacred Heart with an offer. I had previously visited Sacred Heart and done a prospect day there, and while I did enjoy the school, the players, and the coaches and I am very grateful for the opportunity they gave me I knew I had to go where I felt like I was most wanted, and that was Wagner.
My Experience at Wagner
So now what has it been like playing at Wagner these last few years?
For me it has been a challenge, an honor, an experience of a lifetime, and most importantly even through all the six a.m. practices, run tests, lifting packets, and long bus rides it has been fun.
We are not a major program, being one of the smallest schools in Division 1, I believe VMI may be the only one smaller.
Our facilities are not flashy like Johns Hopkins or Hofstra, we do not get completely new helmets and uniforms every year, and we don’t have sold out crowds at our games but I have come to realize that that is not what makes your college lacrosse experience so special.
Yes, having the nicest, newest equipment is cool, and playing in front of a packed house is fun but the only thing that really matters are the 40 other guys both on the field and sideline wearing the same jersey that you are.
They are who you play for. The guys you are out on the field with at 6:30 a.m. in January while it snows during practice. The guys you are in the weight room with on a Friday morning while the rest of the school is sleeping in. The guys you spend nearly every waking moment with.
I am a HUGE Michigan football fan and in the words of one of their most famous coaches, Bo Schembechler, the only thing that matters is the team, the team, the team.
I was lucky enough again when I came into Wagner my freshman year to have the same type of opportunity as I had in high school, the goalie from the last season’s team had just graduated and the starting role was up for grabs.
I won the starting job as a freshman and have been able to hold onto it since, starting every game in between the pipes since I arrived on campus. It has come with a lot of challenges, I have had to work on many aspects of my game to be better equipped for the college game but I have been able to do so with pretty solid success.
I was named to the Northeast Conference’s Rookie Team my freshman year and have gotten some other player of the week honors along the way. I have broken the school record for wins in both a season and a career.
But none of that would have been possible without every single guy on that team contributing every day. Our school mascot is a Seahawk but the guys on the team like to refer to ourselves as the “junkyard dogs”.
We try and play with a gritty mentality and I often make the joke that Wagner is the Island of Misfit Toys, a school where kids go because other schools did not want to take a chance on us but Wagner would.
Wagner has given me many opportunities both on and off the field to succeed. I am extremely grateful that I decided to attend this school for my four years of college.
I have gotten to play with many kids at other schools in summer tournaments during my time in college and so many of them comment about how they have met other guys on the team who all seem to just love Wagner and being a part of the team.
I, nor did anyone on the team, come to Wagner for the glory, but came to Wagner to challenge ourselves. Our lifting coach always tells us: “embrace the suck”.
By this, he means when things get tough, and your body and mind start to hurt, and you want to just quit you need to embrace the challenge and push through.
It is bittersweet that I am going to be starting what will almost definitely be my final year of competitive lacrosse.
Wagner has given me so many fond memories and lacrosse has been such an enormous part of my life, but I am looking forward to seeing what life has in store for me after lacrosse. I am a psychology major who plans on attending graduate school for clinical psychology after graduation with the dream of one day becoming a research professor.
Wherever life ends up taking me I will always have Wagner to thank for helping me along the way and allowing me to meet some of the most incredible people I will ever know.
Highlights from Playing at Wagner
Here are the highlights from my playing time at Wagner College:
Freshman year: 6-9, 153 Saves, 50% Save Percentage
- Starting in and getting my first career win against Manhattan in our season opener
- Defeating Dartmouth for Wagner’s first program win over an Ivy League opponent
- Earning Conference Rookie of the Week after a win over Sacred Heart
- Spring break trip to Virginia where we stayed in Charlottesville and played games against VMI and Hampton
- Being named to the Northeast Conference Rookie Team
Sophomore year- 6-9, 170 Saves, 55% Save Percentage
- Being named NEC Defensive Player of the Week, after 17 saves in a 9-8 win over Lafayette
- Even though we lost our season opener this year to Manhattan in triple overtime it was one of the most fun games I have ever been a part of, playing in a dramatic back and forth game in front of a very excited crowd
- Playing at Rutgers in their football stadium where the game was broadcasted on live TV. This was the week before they were ranked #1 in the country, and while we did not win and was a great experience and I was able to have a solid game in my home state
- An exciting 7-6 double-overtime win over Dartmouth
- A win over conference rival Mount St. Mary’s at home
Junior year- 4-10, 183 Saves, 58% Save Percentage
- After losing to Manhattan the previous year in the season opener we bounced back this year with a great overall team with over them
- Recording a career-high 20 saves in a 9-8 win over VMI
- Spring break consisted of busing up to Dartmouth in NH, then down to VMI in Virginia, then back up to Quinnipiac in Connecticut. While it was a lot of traveling any time spent together as a team is always going to be fun
Tips for being recruited as a goalie
If you would like to play college lacrosse here are the recruiting tips I followed that I’ll share with you.
- Be proactive, do not wait until coaches contact you. Contact as many coaches as you can, explore as many options as you can and do not close off any doors completely.
- Make a highlight video! Coaches will want to see film on you. I would recommend not adding in music, let the sound from the game be the only noise so coaches can also hear how you are communicating with your defense during the game. Because if you can’t be heard on the film, you are not being loud enough! Here is my highlight video.
- Work on your clearing game! Yes, being a goalie is about keeping the ball out of the net. But it does not matter if you make 30 saves in a game if you cannot clear the ball.
- Be coachable, and approachable. Coaches are not just looking for players, but are looking for people who will best fit in with the rest of the team. You can be the best player out there but if you are not able to mesh with other players a coach will not have a spot for you, remember it’s all about the team, the team, the team.
Back to Coach Damon – Conclusion
Great story from Matt Sefcik of Wagner College!
Thanks for writing that. I enjoyed reading it and I’m sure all the goalies out there did too.
As you know, I played college ball in the MCLA and it just goes to show you that you can have an amazing college lacrosse experience at a smaller non-traditional lacrosse powerhouse.
Also if you liked this post, be sure to check out these other guest posts talking about life as Division 1 lacrosse goalie:
Matt sure did! Good luck in your senior season! I’ll be watching.
Until next time! Coach Damon