My goal was to play Division 1 soccer in college. My journey started at a top premier club in Connecticut at the U-17 age during my junior year of high school. Our coach told us at the beginning of the season that his #1 goal was to get us all to the colleges that we wanted to play at. After a few long months, I began to realize that this statement was completely false, and I also began to realize that this coach did not have my best interests at heart. He also did not like me. He didn’t like the way I played; he didn’t think I was good enough technically; or fast enough; or whatever. I simply did not fit his mold of what he thought a good player should be. There was a tournament I remember coming back from on a coach bus with the team, and when we got back I remember telling my dad that I wanted to quit soccer and never play again. I was so upset I almost punched a hole in the shower when I got home.
After a little pep talk from my parents, we decided that I just needed to keep working hard and eventually it would all work out. I stayed on the team, making sure I continued to attend every training session, and play as well as I could. As a team, we were doing well, and we won our semi-final state cup game to reach the finals.
I woke up in the morning and my parents and I made our way to the field. After checking in with the referee, we all went to put our bags down by the bench. I heard the referee ask my coach for his team-sheet. My ears perked up, and I turned around to see my coach looking at me. He quickly muttered, ”Matt, you’re not rostered for the game," and then turned away. Immediately I zoned out. It was like that sentence had taken me from the state cup final and submerged me underwater in the Arctic Ocean. Surrounded by my teammates, I was the loneliest person on the planet. I couldn’t hear anything anyone said, and I knew I was watching my dream of playing in college being slowly drowned and washed away.
We won the match, but I don’t remember the score or what happened. All I remember was being approached by my coach after the game, as he tried to tell me that there would be lots of college coaches in the Regional tournament to see me play. I gave a slow nod, trying to hold back how I really felt. I decided that if I hadn’t even made the squad of 18 for this game, there was no way I was going to play one minute in the Regional tournament. I left the team, and decided to focus exclusively on my college camps and finding a new club.
I have to thank Coach Quinn, because he saw something in me that this other coach didn’t. He thought I could develop into a solid player, given the right coaching and the right situation. I know I wouldn’t be playing at Fairfield today if it wasn’t for South Central, and I have to thank them for giving me an opportunity to develop and become a better player.
Despite having a good high school season, I still hadn't found a place to play in college. I had remained in contact with Yale, but they had informed me that I wasn’t one of their top recruits, so they wouldn’t be giving me any help with admissions. I emailed Fairfield to tell them I was interested in the program. I told them that both of my parents had attended Fairfield, and that I would love to be a part of the soccer team. In January of my senior year, Fairfield U saw me play in a couple of home games for South Central. They told me that they liked what they saw from me, and that if I decided to attend Fairfield; I would have a spot on the team for preseason. It wasn’t a scholarship, or even the guarantee of a spot, but it was exactly what I was looking for, an opportunity.