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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

July 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Sports

Leading by example

The sound of the referee’s final whistle makes the frigid day seem even colder. The men’s soccer team just surrendered two late goals and lost the regular season finale and final home game for this year’s senior class.

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Players from the men’s soccer team gather around senior center back Matt Anthony before practice Monday at Higgins Stadium. RACHEL ORLOW/THE ITHACAN

Steady wind blows snow across the field as senior back Matt Anthony starts to jog toward the stands for the ritualistic cool-down. A fan comfortingly yells, “I love you Matt A.!”, But Anthony does not say a word. His play on the field speaks for him.

Anthony started 15 games as a freshman on the 2008 team, which consisted of four upperclassmen, and surrendered an average of less than one goal per game. He has made 51 consecutive starts dating back to Oct. 28, 2008.

Standing tall at 6-foot-1, Anthony is an imposing presence on the field. He anchors the defense with precision, stepping up to cut off a pass or leaping to head a ball away from the goal.

Head Coach Andy Byrne said Anthony has been the team’s most reliable defender this season.

“There’s not a whole lot of flash to his game, but he’s a good solid defender,” he said.

Anthony has played soccer since he was four years old. He was a four-time letter winner for the men’s  soccer team at Pine Bush High School in Pine Bush, N.Y., where he also
excelled on the men’s tennis team. He was named to the Times-Herald Record All-Star Soccer Team his senior year.

Anthony said he could not imagine his life without playing on some kind of soccer team.

“I’ve put a lot of time into it, and it’s been a part of me for basically my whole life,” he said.

Anthony came to the college not only as a recruit for the men’s soccer team, but also a recipient of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship. The sports management major has studied abroad at the college’s London Center and interned in the athletic department at Pace University.

Anthony said he is going to volunteer as a mentor at a local elementary school this spring as part of the community service his scholarship requires him to take part in.

Helping younger kids is nothing new for him, as he has grown up with an autistic younger brother. Anthony’s father, John, said Anthony has taken the initiative to look out for his brother throughout both of their lives by helping him with schoolwork.

“It’s a burden we did not want to put onto Matt, but it’s something that he took on on his own because he felt, as a brother, that’s what he needed to do,” John said.

John said Anthony’s maturity has helped him balance all of his responsibilities, which include maintaining the B+ grade average that his scholarship requires in addition to competing on the men’s soccer team.

Anthony’s reliability on the field reassures his teammates when they fall behind in games.

Anthony said he has grown confident in helping his teammates as he has played more games as a Bomber.

“The younger guys always ask me questions about the other teams or on the field during the game,” he said. “And I feel like I give them good information.”

Though he has had an impact on many people, Anthony has remained the same quiet, humble individual throughout his four seasons on the team.

Byrne said Anthony’s body language following the scoring play spoke volumes about his reserved personality. He said his leadership style involves more showing than telling, which can be an issue when the team is trying to get out of a slump.

“Matt’s a very quiet guy, which is sometimes a problem,” he said. “But he’s more of a leader on the field, leading more by example in how hard he plays.”

The South Hill squad will have to find a new center back to replace Anthony when the season ends. John said he will miss watching his son compete for the South Hill squad.

“We’ve dreaded this moment,” he said. “It’s been a joy watching him play at the collegiate level, but now we’re going to have to find something to do next fall.”

A photo of Matt sits at the end of the Hall of Champions in the college’s Athletics and Events Center, along with other representatives from each of the college’s athletic teams. Matt said he was humbled by the honor, and said it shows how the college recognizes the efforts of him and his peers.

“It just shows that people are appreciating all the time and effort student-athletes put into these sports,” he said. “It’s a lot harder than it looks, but it’s also very fun.”

Anthony said he has built trust with his freshman teammates throughout the season.

“At the end of the day it’s soccer,” he said. “My teammates know what they’re doing, so I don’t really need to tell them much.”