By Ashley Edmonds
Varsity lacrosse captain Matt Ward isn’t one to toot his own horn. Push him to discuss the impact that he thinks he’s made on the University during his four years here, and he’ll answer “minute.” However humble he may be, there’s no disputing that the effect Ward has had on the University of Virginia has been anything but minute.
U.Va. offered everything Ward was looking for in a college. “U.Va. is a great institution, with a fantastic social scene and sports program,” he said. “It didn’t hurt that the lacrosse team was having a lot of success when I was applying, too.” As a northern Virginia resident, Ward’s parents were also very much in favor of his decision to attend the state’s flagship University.
Ward made a splash with his arrival on the U.Va. lacrosse field in 2003 and immediately found his niche among a young offensive attack unit. He was listed as the No. 3 freshman player in the country by Inside Lacrosse magazine and was one of only two freshman players in the country to score 20 goals and notch 20 assists in the season.
But Ward is quick to point out that he is not just an athlete, but a student-athlete here at the University. “U.Va. is in a league of its own in terms of its commitment to both sports and academics,” he said. “Getting a great education is very important to me.”
He graduated from the McIntire School of Commerce this May with a marketing concentration and will be attending law school next year.
A commitment to both lacrosse and his education means that Ward must work doubly hard to juggle these competing interests. He was working toward a finance concentration in addition to his marketing concentration before finding that a course required for the finance concentration fell smack in the middle of practice time this semester. “You have to compromise and find balance,” he said.
Ward scheduled all of his classes in the morning, while practices took up the afternoon. Extra practice and time in the training room kept his daily schedule packed before he could return home in the evenings to start on his classwork. Ward experienced early success as a first-year student and a member of the U.Va. team that swept the 2003 NCAA lacrosse championship.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of winning that tournament,” said Ward. “It was incredible and something that I never thought would happen so soon.” Ward the chance to relive that feeling when he led the Cavaliers to the 2006 NCAA national championship — a win that capped an undefeated season for the team.
“The experience that I have had playing lacrosse and the friendships that I’ve made with my teammates – those relationships are what I will cherish most from college,” said Ward. Still, Ward also appreciates U.Va.’s social scene.
“I think that other schools are a lot more cliquish,” said Ward. “A lot of my friends have gone to similar colleges with very different social scenes. At U.Va., everyone knows everyone. Just because I’m on the lacrosse team doesn’t mean that I don’t meet and hang out with other people.”
Ward credits the overall atmosphere at U.Va. with teaching him about openness. “I’ve learned, I think, to be accepting of everyone, and of differences,” he said. “There are so many special people here, all of whom have made a lasting impression on the school.”
He’d much rather talk about the effect that U.Va. has had on him than the other way around. “U.Va. has shaped my life. Whether it’s academically or socially, it is molding the man that I’ll become.”
2006 by the Rector and Visitors