BATAVIA, N.Y. and PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Mat Anderson’s going DI.

In his time playing high school lacrosse for Gorham – he graduated in 2017 – Anderson made a name for himself as one of the best defenders in the state. And for the past two years, he’s been plying his trade – and earning further accolades – as a Genesee Community College Cougar in Batavia, in western New York.

Mat Anderson (35) will be moving from the Genesee Cougers to the DI Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Photo courtesy of Lauren Hull

Now, Anderson’s finally achieved the dream of many a young athlete: Beginning next year, he’ll be playing Division I ball. Anderson recently signed on with the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers University in New Jersey. Even better, he’s going on scholarship.

Anderson is talented, no doubt. But he’s logged the long hours of hard work necessary to develop his talent, too. “Getting an athletic scholarship and committing to Rutgers University didn’t just happen for me,” he says. “It took a lot of work on and off the field.”

By “off the field,” Anderson means both in the classroom and in the weight room,

“Academics was very important to me,” he says. “I knew focusing on having a good GPA would only make it easier for me to transfer and to reach my goal,” he said. “Another big thing was hitting the weight room hard, out of season and in-season. I struggled maintaining weight throughout the season in high school, so my goal in college was to maintain weight in-season and even try to put on some weight from weightlifting.

“I would lift five days a week in-season and out of season,” he says. “It was challenging sometimes to push myself mentally to get in the weight room while in-season, but once I got to the gym it was always easy to lift. You have to enjoy it and want to get better.”

As anyone serious about putting on muscle mass will tell you, you’ve generally got to stuff your face to do it – especially if you’re tall and lean by nature, which Anderson is. But wolfing down mountains of food on a daily basis isn’t actually as fun as it sounds, not even for early-20s males.

“Another thing that came with the lifting was eating a lot of food,” Anderson says, “which, after a while, I kind of got use to.”

As for the skills aspect of his game:

“The biggest thing was trying to improve on my weaknesses, to be creative with my style of play, and to be as versatile as possible,” he says. “There is always room for improvement on the field. The most important thing for me was mentally and physically being consistent each day.”

Realizing his DI dreams is, of course, immediately meaningful to Anderson. But it’s also important to him as an avenue to his future, where the education he’s getting will figure more prominently.

“Getting an athletic scholarship to compete for a top, nationally ranked lacrosse program in one of the toughest conferences, and getting my degree from a top-ranked university, means the world to me. Especially coming from Maine, where it’s not a lacrosse hot spot and many kids often get overlooked.”

Rutgers competes in the Big 10 Conference.

Anderson is the first Gorham alum to ever go DI in lacrosse, which he sees as a “big stepping stone” for the high school program. He hopes to lead by example – to convince younger athletes that what he’s accomplished for himself, they can accomplish for themselves as well.

“I want others to see it is possible to reach your goals,” he says. “You just have to put in the work, be consistent, and want to get better every day.”

Interestingly, Anderson didn’t pick up lacrosse until he was a freshman at GHS. The lax bug bit him from day one, though:

“When I first started playing lacrosse, I immediately fell in love with the sport,” he says. “I wanted to play it as much as possible. I knew I wanted to play after high school at the Division I level and my dream conference was the Big 10. I love the feel of those schools and the support around the programs.”

But a number of hurdles lay in his way. Perhaps the highest of those was the sheer difficulty of getting scouted by big-name colleges, coming out of Maine as he was.

“I had a hard time getting the looks I wanted to from schools I was interested in,” Anderson says. “Most schools wouldn’t even consider me out of high school, which limited me to looking at mostly DIII and some DII schools. I didn’t want to settle for that, so I looked into other options. Junior college was a great opportunity for me to play against a high level of competition and gave me another two years to improve my game while getting better looks from colleges I was interested in.”

Genesee is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association. Anderson played his two seasons as a defenseman and a long-stick middie for the Cougars. This past season, he figured fourth on the team in groundballs, with 40, and helped lead the program to its eighth NJCAA Region III championship. He started all 25 games he appeared in for GCC, and scored three goals.

This year, he was named to the NJCAA Region III All-Region First Team; he was also named a Second-Team All-American. Last year, he earned All-Region Second-Team laurels.

Anderson seems to be able to say something many of us cannot: He’s made all the right choices so far. Of course, he’s had good support along the way – good help in settling on his decisions.

“In the end it was all worth it to me,” he says. “I am so thankful for the opportunity Coach (Brian) Brecht and his coaching staff have given me to continue my athletic and academic career at Rutgers University. I’d like to thank my mom and dad, and I would also like to thank Coach (Dan) Soule, Coach Ferro, Coach Bussey, and Coaches Dave and Derek Hoover. I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of these people.”

Soule was Anderson’s head coach at Gorham, and Ferro his defensive coach there. Bussey was his defensive coach at GCC, where Dave Hoover is the head coach and Derek Hoover an assistant coach.

Adam Birt can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @CurrentSportsME.


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