New men’s lacrosse coach Matt Colombini has one goal: build a competitive, winning team at Emerson.
The school’s athletics department named Colombini, 26, head coach on Aug. 2. Colombini competed at the Division III level as a goalkeeper at Ursinus College, where he graduated in 2012. He was named to the 2011 All-Centennial Conference Sportsmanship Team.
After graduating, Colombini gained experience coaching in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). He first served as the defensive coordinator at Wheaton College for three years, and last fall, he became the defensive coordinator at Colby College. He was the only coach on staff from November 2015 until February 2016, after Colby’s head coach, Jack Sandler, passed away unexpectedly.
Emerson’s men’s lacrosse team currently suffers from low numbers, with only 16 players on last season’s roster. Colombini cited larger NEWMAC programs as the model Emerson should follow, such as Wheaton and Clark, which carry 46 and 45 players each.
Colombini stressed that recruiting will be crucial for the program’s future success.
“We’re at about 15 or 16 guys right now,” Colombini said. “We should be at 35 to 45. We’re at a disadvantage with that right now, but we want to bring in a big class of current high school seniors. We’re hoping to bring about 20 to 25 guys from that class, and then from there continually bring in 10 to 12 guys and keep the roster number pretty big.”
Aside from recruiting, the new head coach also wants to implement a fast-paced game plan for the Lions.
“I want to be able to play pretty up-tempo and push the ball and be fairly aggressive defensively. I think that’s the way the game is moving, with the shot clock being implemented,” Colombini said, referring to an NCAA rule dictating that all Division III schools must have visible 30-second shot clocks by the 2017 season.
Colombini also highlighted the importance of high scoring and speed in today’s game.
“If you look at the best teams in the country, they score a lot of goals and play pretty fast, and I think it’s more fun that way,” Colombini said. “It’s tough to win games 4-3. I’d like to win 18-13. We want to score a lot, play fast, play up and down.”
Colombini also recruited a new assistant coach, Ryan Clair, to round out the coaching staff. Clair played goalkeeper at Wheaton College while Colombini coached at the school, and he will primarily work with the Lions’ goalkeepers and defensemen.
The Lions’ current roster has only one goalkeeper, sophomore Bailey Kennedy. Colombini expects Kennedy will benefit from both his coaches’ experience at the position.
“I worked with [Clair] for three years,” Colombini said. “He was a really good player and he’s a smart kid. He’s going to do a great job with Bailey. Bailey is going to get attention from two goalie coaches, and at the D3 level, sometimes you don’t get any.”
Kennedy said he is excited to work with his new coaches.
“The one thing [Colombini] definitely saw was hand movement,” Kennedy said. “He wants my hands to get quicker. It’s great having someone who played the position like him. I’m hoping to get some great knowledge on the position from him.”
Assistant coach and Emerson’s director of media relations and game operations Matt Ulrich, who is entering his fourth season with the club, said he is excited to work with Colombini and help him increase the program’s reputation.
“So far it’s been great,” Ulrich said. “He came in with a lot of experience at Colby and Wheaton, he worked for a lot of great people there, and he’s really bringing a professional touch to the team. He came in with a whole plan of attack on what he was going to do.”
The Lions are looking to turn the corner after last spring’s 0-14 season. Despite that record and a small roster, Kennedy said he and his teammates are optimistic.
“Just from getting in the weight room with all the guys, I can tell it’s going to be a totally different dynamic and different season,” Kennedy said. “I set myself up for high expectations and I think Coach Colombini will do the same.”
Though there is a long road ahead of Colombini, Ulrich has confidence in his abilities.
“He came prepared,” Ulrich said. “He came here to build a program.”