KP’s Mattson Aims for Bounce-Back Season in Lacrosse Midfielder Handled Adversity in Classy Fashion
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Sam Mattson is worthy of some good fortune.
The King Philip senior will be competing for the lacrosse team this spring and it would be a blessing if his fourth and final season is better than what he experienced in his first three years. It would be a plus if adversity takes a vacation and stays clear of the 6-foot-4, 195-pound midfielder.
Mattson’s career began as a freshman reserve on the varsity. He scored two goals in three games but that was it for the season because he was academically ineligible.
Rolling up his sleeves and facing that hurdle head-on, Mattson conquered the problem. Now, he’s an honor student (3.0 GPA) who’ll be at UMass-Amherst in the fall.
As a sophomore, Mattson scored 20 goals and had 9 assists, helping the Warriors post a 14-4 record and qualify for the sectional tournament. But, as the season was moving into its late stages, he suffered a fractured hip and missed three games.
Mattson was unable to compete for his club team during the summer, fall and winter of 2019. He’s a veteran of club lacrosse (eight years with Boston Laxachusetts).
Long and arduous rehab sessions were needed for Mattson to get ready for his junior year. He paid a physical price to return but adversity struck again — this time in the form of a pandemic that put 2020 spring sports on the shelf.
“I was crushed when lacrosse was canceled last year,’’ said Mattson. “I had done lots of rehab work and canceling the season hurt me in the recruiting process. But, now I’m excited and thankful that we’ll be playing. I’m eager to compete and take the next step.’’
That step will lead to UMass, whose lacrosse team was ranked No. 14 in pre-season polls.
“The transition to college lacrosse will be a challenge,’’ Mattson said. “The speed of the game is faster, the players all have size and strength and everyone will be talented and skilled.’’
Mattson, nevertheless, should make the grade because he’s the total package. KP coach Hal Bean greatly admires how his two-time captain competes.
“Sam is focused, attentive and knows how to execute a game plan,’’ Bean emphasized. “A great role model and team player, Sam leads by example. He’s got an exceptional shot, is smooth in transition, a good passer, and he’s strong on defense. He makes other players better.’’
Mattson’s goals for KP are to win every game and qualify for the sectional tourney. “Although we lack experience, we’ve got aggressive defenders, versatile midfielders and talented attackers,’’ he noted. “My individual goals are to be a Hockomock League all-star and to be ranked in the top 50 of Bostonlax.net. I’d also like to double my goals and assists stats.’’
Relying on a high lacrosse IQ and quick instincts, Mattson likes his role as a midfielder because “I love playing defense and like the challenge of being in transition.’’ Mattson’s passion for lacrosse is fueled by the sport’s aggressive nature and fast pace. “Skill and athleticism are needed for what’s a pure team game,’’ he said.
With only one season under his belt, Mattson can still point to a memorable game and a top thrill.
“My best game came against Grafton,’’ he recalled. “They were really good and both teams were aiming to get a high seed in the tourney. We were called for lots of penalties and were short-handed for 19 minutes. I got two goals in the first half but we were trailing, 9-6, going into the final quarter. We got three goals in 1½ minutes, tied it, but lost when they scored with 8 seconds left. I had three goals and played well on defense.’’
Mattson’s top thrill was being named a captain after his sophomore season. Unable to display his leadership ability as a junior since the season was canceled, he’s striving to be an asset to his teammates in his final year. “I’ll lead by example and be supportive,’’ he said. “And, if anyone needs a confidence boost, I’ll be there to help.’’
A trio of teammates Mattson believes will be prime contributors are senior co-captain Sean Cullagh (defender), senior midfielder David Lawler, and sophomore goalie James Boldy.
“Sean is fearless, aggressive, a good leader and able to read plays well,’’ Mattson said. “David is versatile, athletic, smart on offense and solid on defense. James is vocal, has good instincts and is rock solid in defending perimeter shots.’’
Mattson, who plans on majoring in business at UMass, is ready to compete and adjust to whatever modifications are in place for lacrosse. He and his teammates will abide with whatever is required.
“The health and safety of everyone are what’s important during the pandemic,’’ he said. “My prayers go out to anyone who’s had to deal with the virus in their family. I’ve got so much gratitude for those who’ve made playing this spring possible.’’
Mattson’s competitive philosophy focuses on winning, reaching his potential and having fun. “Winning is important,’’ he emphasized, “and that’s what happens if everyone reaches their potential. Winning also create fun.’’
Calling his father (Scott) a role model for his support and encouragement, Mattson knows that athletics can teach valuable life lessons. “You learn to work hard and to be a leader,’’ he said. “But, what I’ve learned most from sports is how to overcome adversity. I learned a lot from the troubles I had academically and I had to bounce back after my hip injury, then cope with COVID-19 canceling my junior year of lacrosse.’’
Bean has lots to admire about Mattson’s ability but saying that his star player “is like a coach on the field’’ is humbling for the midfielder.
“To hear that gives me an awesome feeling,’’ Mattson said. “I have high expectations and always strive to raise my game to a higher level. I also enjoy helping teammates succeed.’’
Sam Mattson is ready for his final campaign of lacrosse and he definitely deserves lots of good fortune.