March 30, 2012

Hearn Rekindles Love of Lacrosse at Westminster

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

He won a state title at Dulaney High School, and gave it a whirl at Salisbury and Essex, but Matt Hearn (above) has finally found the perfect collegiate lacrosse fit at Westminster, in Salt Lake City.
© Bob McLellan

Collegiate lacrosse can be a washing machine. Once you get caught up in the cycle, it can be extremely difficult to break out of the spiral, and, sadly, sometimes kids see their lacrosse dreams washed down the drain.

It nearly happened to Matt Hearn.

Graduating from Dulaney High School with a Maryland state championship to his credit, Hearn matriculated at Salisbury before finding the school wasn't for him. A year later, he was at Essex Community College, where he played defensive midfield for the NJCAA tournament finalist.

And then, just like that, his playing career was on the brink.

"I didn't really see lacrosse as being something I needed to do in college," said Hearn, unhappy with the lacrosse options he had nearby. "I started focusing more on school, getting my associates degree and moving on. I really had plans of getting out of Baltimore."

Roughly 2,000 miles away in Utah, Westminster head coach Mason Goodhand was talking with Chris Hutchins, a Baltimore native known for his work on the lacrosse tournament and camp circuit nationally, about putting a tournament in Las Vegas. While Westminster – an MCLA Division II program – is in Salt Lake City, Hutchins was contacting coaches in neighboring states to network a little bit.

"Whether he was patronizing me or genuinely interested in my cause, [Hutchins] said the East Coast was full of kids who went to a place for a year and found out that they weren't going to be the guy, and the MCLA could be perfect for them," said Goodhand, a Towson, Md., native. "And he had a guy named Matt Hearn working for him. He had just finished up at Essex and wasn't happy."

Goodhand contacted Hearn, and continued to follow up all last year before meeting up with Hearn and his parents during the NCAA championships on Memorial Day Weekend. Hearn was coaxed out to work a camp at Westminster, with his paycheck offsetting the cost of his plane ticket.

"I fell in love," Hearn said, an avid snowboarder. "Salt Lake City is a great place and the mountains are awesome. I get to play lacrosse again for a competitive team, which I really didn't think was the way it was going to be."

Like many who have never seen the MCLA, Hearn was operating under some misguided assumptions about club lacrosse. He had seen how the Salisbury club team – a member of the NCLL – operated and figured it would be about the same at Westminster.

"I came out in the summer and met Brad Lavoie, the offensive coordinator, and saw he knew a lot about the game and could teach me," Hearn said.

Just as the non-varsity program impressed Hearn, the Baltimorean ingratiated himself to his new teammates.

"He was one of our hardest workers in the fall and never had that 'I'm an East Coast, Baltimore kid' attitude," Goodhand said. "It was always 'yes, sir, and 'no, sir,'; first one to show up and last to leave. The guys on the team elected him as an offensive captain after our fall ball and he's been really strong. My hat is off to him because a lot of kids who are transplanted from East to West begin with a little more condescending attitude, and he has never shown that."

Hearn has embraced Westminster because he has been given the keys to the offense. After playing on the second midfield line for the '08 Dulaney state championship team and as a shorty with Essex, Hearn was inserted into the starting attack for the Griffins.

"I said 'That's awesome, because the last time I played lacrosse, it was as a d-middie,'" Hearn said. "I get to be on the field a lot more now and get some of the glory and some of the goals."

He has delivered. Despite missing a pair of games, he is second on the team in goals (20) and points (29) for an undefeated Westminster squad that is ranked No. 3 in the country. This weekend, he'll join his teammates in entertaining No. 1 St. Thomas in Salt Lake City in a midseason showdown. Hearn describes the feeling in the lacrosse room as "pure excitement."

Most excited about Hearn's lacrosse resurrection with Westminster is his father, Bill. A former staff member of the Lacrosse Foundation – the predecessor of US Lacrosse – and a long-time coach, Bill Hearn brought his son to Homewood Field at Johns Hopkins for all the events, and Matt was even a ball boy for the 1998 Men's World Championship hosted by US Lacrosse in Baltimore.

"When I stopped playing lacrosse, my dad was so disappointed," the son admitted. "He just loved going to games, so when he heard about Mason trying to get me to come to Westminster, he was all for it. He loved the idea of me playing again, and he knew I loved to go snowboarding. I didn't have to do any selling; they were trying to push me out here."

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