February 16, 2012

Keene State's Traveling Man Finds a Home

by Jac Coyne | LaxMagazine.com | Coyne Archive | Twitter

He's bounced around for a while, but Matt Schairer has found his spot at Keene State. "I'm a captain here and I've never been a captain before," he said.
© Ryan Szepan

When do you know you're home?

For most of us, there will always be one location that stands out. It might be where you first rode a bike. Or where you backed out of the driveway. Or waved goodbye on the way to college.

The concept of home is a slightly different for Matt Schairer. Not that Schairer, a senior two-time captain for Keene (N.H.) State, has spent his youth moving from one New England house to another, but judging by his lacrosse career it would be easy to think that.

Schairer started his prep lacrosse career at Noble & Greenough, a private school in Dedham, Mass., but it was just a one-year stint. It was followed by two years at Medfield High School and then a final season at King Phillip (Wrentham, Mass.). There was also Schairer's one-year stint at Quinnipiac – a Division I program in Hamden, Conn. – to nearly round out his nomadic existence.

"I've met a lot of people along the way," said Schairer, with a chuckle. "I've got a lot of connections."

Nobles was admittedly a bad fit, but the success at Medfield was unquestioned. During his junior year, Schairer quarterbacked the Warriors to the Massachusetts state championship in football, as well as the state crown in lacrosse as the top-scoring attackman. But with his father Steve – the long-time head coach at Dean College – snagging the athletic director job at King Phillip, it was off to his third school in as many years.

Growing up in the backyard with his old man paid obvious dividends. Schairer's stick is sublime, and the coveted 'Lacrosse IQ' is off the charts.

"He is that quintessential old school player because of his dad's background," said Keene (N.H.) State head coach Mark Theriault. "He's a hard-working player; nothing flashy but he always seems to get it done."

Before he arrived at Keene State, Schairer's skills made him attractive to Division I Quinnipiac. With the Bobcats struggling and his classmate, close defender Sean LeBlanc, bailing for Keene State, Schairer had to reevaluate things. He knew about Keene – his father coached Theriault back in his early days of post-grad club ball in Boston – so he gave it a shot.

"I liked Coach Theriault and thought he was the man," said Schairer. "I liked the school, so I decided to do it."

The impact was immediate. Schairer scored 60 goals and set up 25 others in 2010 – a number only behind his prolific classmate Griffin Meehan (69g, 36a). The same happened last year when Schairer (47g, 27a) fell in the shadow of Meehan (63g, 26a). Due to collegiate realities, Meehan is out of the mix this spring, meaning the show now goes through Schairer.

"He is a tremendous player and I love playing with him, and I'm sorry he's not playing this year beause he was an awesome teammate," said Schairer of Meehan. "We now have an opportunity to run it through a lot of different guys."

Instead of waiting for the offense to formulate via someone else, it'll be Schairer leading the way.

"He is very thoughtful about how he does stuff," said Theriault. "I think he'll do a fine job with that. Our whole offense is geared upon a bunch of people taking responsibility offensively rather than just Griff."

The heightened leadership role for Schairer is something he's been looking for since his freshman year in high school.

"It's nice to be comfortable," Schairer said. "I'm a captain here and I've never been a captain before. In high school, I was never a captain because I was always coming from a different place. I feel like I have a strong place on this team."

The team is very strong. The Owls have qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of Schairer's two years, and they are huge favorites to accomplish the feat again as the top squad in the Little East. The loss to Amherst in the '11 tourney still stings, and probably will for quite a while. As a captain, Schairer is looking forward to guiding the Owls past the first round, if only to thank the other players for accepting him into their program.

It's strange for Schairer to uncover that key bond now. Most lacrosse players find it early in their collegiate career. Schairer found it a lot later, but the satisfaction is the same.

"I'm happy to be at a place that I really enjoy," said Schairer. "Not that I didn't like the places in the past, because I did like all of them. It's just that Keene State has been a really good spot for me. I'm glad I found it."

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