By Tim Lima
---- — From Byfield to Beloit: Matt Kelly’s success on the lacrosse field has traveled cross-country from Triton High School to Beloit College.
A four-year starter for the Vikings lacrosse team, Kelly made a lasting impact on and off of the field before his high school graduation last spring. He was a team captain of the lacrosse and soccer team his senior season, before turning his sights on Division 3 collegiate athletics.
The road would lead Kelly to Beloit College: a small, liberal-arts college in Beloit, Wi. With an enrollment of just 1,250 and a 30 percent involvement rate in athletics among its students, Kelly knew that his impact on the school’s lacrosse program could not only be strong but also appreciated in an environment where sport is engrained in campus culture.
“I didn’t want to go to a big school,” Kelly said. “I liked the fact that Beloit was a small school. The fact that it’s a big sports school was also a big part of it because most of the kids I hangout with are athletes. Also, my Dad went here so that attracted me to this school as well.”
Beloit lacrosse is undefeated in its first three games, due in large part to the offensive production from Kelly. In his first game as a college athlete, Kelly scored the game-tying goal against Elmhurst with two minutes remaining in the contest. Then, with just seconds remaining, he recorded an assist that would be the game winner.
Kelly would back up his game one effort with an impressive game two when taking on Fontbonne University in St. Louis, Mo. He would tally two goals, helping his team pull away to an eventual 17-7 win.
With a goal against Benedictine University on Wednesday, Beloit improved to 3-0 and Kelly’s goal total grew to four.
“I am pretty happy with the start I have gotten off to,” Kelly said. “I didn’t expect to be getting off to this good of a start, but it has definitely helped my confidence because I didn’t know how big of a transition college lacrosse would be from high school lacrosse. Coming out and knowing that I could score has helped me get a lot more comfortable.”
Also working to make Kelly more comfortable is the age of his lacrosse team. In only its second year, Beloit’s team is entirely freshmen and sophomores. Kelly is also teammates with three kids from Massachusetts. Beloit freshman Brendan FitzGerald is from Duxbury, while sophomores Ikey Chafkin and Trevor Kenahan are from Chestnut Hill and Swampscott, respectively.
“When I got out here, I met Brendan and we started hanging out because we had stuff to talk about,” Kelly said. “That has definitely helped.”
His four goals in three games has proved critical, for the position he plays warrants heavy attention to offensive production. Playing attack, Kelly focuses entirely on offense.
“At attack, your job is to be on offense the whole time, so you have to stay on the offensive part of the field,” he said. “I have been playing since third grade so where to be on the field and what to do on transition has become second nature to me.”
While his campaign to achieve his individual goals is off to a strong start, so too are the goals that the team has set for itself.
“Individually I just wanted to come out and have an impact,” Kelly said. “I wanted to make a difference and get to play. I’m off to a pretty good start and want to focus on keeping that going. As a team, Coach said he wanted us to be over .500 for the year with more wins than losses. Last year, we finished .500 so our goal is to beat that as a team.”
Though moved on from high school, Kelly misses an interesting part of Triton lacrosse: the intense rivalries. A part of a young program and still unaware of much of the teams he is competing against, Kelly misses the passion that went along with high school competition.
“I miss the rivalries,” he said. “I don’t know many of the teams that we play out here yet. Playing in big rivalry games against teams like Newburyport or Pentucket were always fun.”
Kelly will look to continue his scoring streak and his team’s undefeated record when Beloit travels to Ashland, Va to play Kenyon College on Tuesday.