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Weare’s Matt Richard leaves his mark, and a few records, with NEC men’s lacrosse

  • Weare’s Matt Richard (right) wrapped up a very successful career with the New England College men’s lacrosse team this spring. Richard set the Division III single-season record for assists with 93. Mike Broglio / New England College

  • Matt Richard, a native of Weare, has left a lasting mark on the NEC men’s lacrosse program as the all-time leader in career points (418), career assists (253) and single-season assists (93).  Mike Broglio / New England College

  • Mike Broglio—



Monitor staff
Sunday, May 20, 2018

As a teenager playing high school lacrosse at John Stark, Matt Richard didn’t think the college game was in his future. But Jedd Brown had different ideas, and the New England College coach recruited Richard to play at the Division III school in Henniker, just down the road from Stark.

Even though he was close to home, Richard still felt out of place as he suited up for his first practice with the Pilgrims back in 2014.

“I was this awkward 5-foot-10 – I just had a growth spurt – kind of goofy looking unathletic kid watching these other guys who had been lifting and were huge,” Richard said. “All of these upperclassmen looked like men and I was a skinny little tube who’d never been in the gym before.”

He may have been intimidated during the first few days, but that quickly changed. It turned out Richard was right where he needed to be and four years later, he has left a mark on the NEC lacrosse program that won’t soon be erased.

Richard received his diploma at NEC’s graduation May 12, but a Bachelors in accounting isn’t the only thing he’s holding now. Richard set a school record in men’s lacrosse for points (418) and assists (253).

He authored a spectacular senior season, leading all of NCAA Division III in points (133), assists (93) and assists per game (4.43). The assists mark is an NCAA D-III record, one that stood for 19 years.

Richard is the first 400-point scorer in NEC lacrosse. He set the school mark for most assists in a game when he collected 11 helpers in an 18-5 thrashing of Lyndon State in March.

So how does a self-described “unathletic kid” become one of the most productive players at the Division III level?

“Hitting the gym and running more often,” Richard said with a laugh.

Okay, but it can’t be that simple, right?

For Richard, it was as much about improving physically as it was adjusting his expectations for what he could do on the field.

“There were always kids much more athletic than me, bigger and stronger, that I wasn’t really able to dodge on and create offense by myself,” he said. “I had to find a way to compete, so I just tried to be smarter than everyone else and find ways to get my hands free and feed the ball inside or see skip passes over the defense. I’ve always had that skill and was very lucky to have it thanks to having some great coaches in youth.”

Richard was 10 years old when he found an old lacrosse stick in the basement of his family’s home in Weare. His father first taught him how to catch and throw, and then it didn’t take long before Richard was trading in his baseball glove for his own lacrosse stick.

He joined a youth league in Goffstown and quickly fell in love with the game.

“Our town didn’t have a team, so I went to Goffstown and met some of my best friends,” Richard said.

In Goffstown, he played alongside a handful of others who would go on to play college lacrosse, including Bishop Guertin graduate Tom Hurley (who received all-conference honors at D-III Springfield this year) and Dunbarton’s Jack Carney, a three-time All-State pick at Goffstown High who recently wrapped up his senior lacrosse season at Franklin Pierce.

Richard earned Second Team D-II honors as a senior at Stark. About five months later, he was tossing a ball around with his friend and fellow Stark grad Tom Zervos on the turf field at NEC.

Brown took control of the NEC program in 2014, the year before Richard and Zervos arrived on campus. As a new coach at the college level, Brown’s first priority was to create a recruitment plan. It started locally with players like Richard and Zervos and has expanded throughout New England and the Northeast since, but the local emphasis remains.

A recent example is Charles Hacking, who graduated from Belmont in 2017. Hacking was recruited to join the lacrosse program at NEC and was recently named the NAC’s Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, Belmont’s boys’ lacrosse program shuttered and didn’t field a team this spring.

“I think we do a good job of finding those players that might not be on the best teams in the state,” Brown said. “Seeing the potential, and we take a lot of pride in developing our players here, and finding those guys that are under the radar.”

Richard certainly qualified as an “under-the-radar” recruit who didn’t receive much attention from other programs.

“You can see the effort factor and that’s a big thing,” Brown said. “Matt always had a high, high effort factor. When you have effort and commitment, those two things always equal success.”

Richard went to work quickly during his freshman season in 2015, notching 33 goals and 44 assists. It seemed like NAC Rookie of the Year Award was a lock for Richard, but that was just about the only thing he didn’t net that season.

“It was absolute robbery that he didn’t get it,” Brown said. “But that actually helped him out. He didn’t get what he sought out for right away. It allowed that fire inside to be a little bit more of an inferno rather than just trying to be as good as he was the year before.”

Richard agrees that missing the honor ultimately motivated him.

“My coach and I thought I deserved it, but I think it was humbling for me,” he said. “I was like, ‘Okay, now I really need to put the work in.’ ”

Richard recorded 89 points his sophomore season and was named NAC Player of the Year. He earned that same honor as a junior when his numbers blossomed to 124 points (56 goals, 68 assists) and again this season for a third consecutive time.

As Richard gained notice in the league, so did the Pilgrims. After falling short of a NAC title in 2015, NEC has won three straight since then. They’ve won a total of four NAC championships in five years with Brown at the helm.

This spring, the Pilgrims were a perfect 7-0 in conference play and defeated Castleton, 12-7, for the NAC championship.

The conference title delivered them to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. In the first round, the Pilgrims defeated Albion College in overtime, 10-9. Richard tallied three assists in that game to make him the D-III leader with 93 on the season.

NEC was swiftly dispatched in the tournament’s second round by No. 1 RIT, but Richard doesn’t believe that will be his last time competing in lacrosse.

His next stop might be the sideline.

“I love the game,” he said. “I can’t imagine it not being a part of my life. … Coaching is hopefully something I can do to stay a part of the game. I think I have good knowledge of the game – I’ve always known the game better than I can play it.”

Brown saw the signs of a coach in Richard’s attitude and leadership as a co-captain this season.

“He’s not going to lie to you. He’s going to tell you exactly how he feels, good or bad,” Brown said. “If it’s bad, he’s going to tell you how to make it better. You can walk into a room and say ‘This isn’t good, this isn’t good,’ and then walk out. That’s not a good leader. He’s the type of person who will walk in and say, ‘This needs to be fixed and this is how you do it.’ ”

Brown added: “His want to win and compete is something every coach needs.”

(Nick Stoico can be reached at nstoico@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @NickStoico.)