LYNNFIELD– In sports, the athletes who don’t show up with big numbers on the stat sheets are often overlooked and underrated. The players who contribute quietly are often the ones who coaches will look at as the most reliable, and turn to in important situations. For coach Brent Munroe and the Lynnfield boys soccer team, that’s what Matthew Ricciardi provides.
Ricciardi, a senior defender, has been tabbed to be the backbone of the Pioneers this season. After the team lost a handful of defensive stars from last season’s team to graduation, Munroe’s looking for Ricciardi to lead the Pioneers defense.
“We have a lot of scoring for us this year,” Munroe said. “The kids we lost last year were primarily defenders. If we don’t defend well, we won’t make the tournament. Without quality defenders, we won’t go anywhere. We have Matt there because we’ll go as far as we defend. He’s the key back there because he’s so versatile.”
Ricciardi, a four-year varsity player and three-year starter, has excelled in every area the Pioneers have needed him to. The senior has played multiple positions in his Lynnfield career, meaning his versatility and knowledge of the game provide a boost for the Pioneers.
“Matt’s a really solid player,” Munroe said. “He has moved around a lot for us. He has played multiple positions for us. He’s an important player for us, in a lot of areas. The most important thing is that he’s so versatile and he’s willing to do whatever we need.”
“He’s probably not going to end up with a ton of stats this season,” Munroe added. “That kind of stuff is important for people who read the numbers and don’t know the game. For us, his impact goes beyond the stats.”
Last season, Ricciardi and the Pioneers reached the Division 4 North state tournament but the bid was short-lived. Lynnfield was defeated in the first round of the tournament with a 1-0 loss at the hands of Austin Prep.
Coming into this season, his final year wearing the Pioneers uniform, Ricciardi’s motivated to get back to the state tournament.
“That’s definitely our goal,” Ricciardi said. “We want to get back to the state tournament. We got bounced in the first round last year and that left a pretty sour taste in our mouths. We want to get back in the tournament because we know we can win some games.”
Ricciardi’s confident in his teammates this fall. He believes that the Pioneers have a good blend of talented underclassmen and experienced upperclassmen, which should equate to a successful season.
“We have a bunch of young kids doing really well for us,” Ricciardi said. “The seniors have shown them what to look for and certain tactics to use during situations. The underclassmen have looked great and they’ve really helped us at the beginning of this season.”
Leadership will be a big aspect of Ricciardi’s senior season, as he’s been tabbed to captain the team for the second year in a row. As a captain in his junior season last fall, Ricciardi learned the key components that come with being a team leader.
“I was a captain last year as a junior,” Ricciardi said. “I had two other senior captains that helped me out. I learned from them not to be negative with my teammates. The best thing I learned from them is to stay upbeat and my teammates will follow me. That helps us win games.”
“It has been fantastic, being able to help lead this team,” Ricciardi added. “We were able to make the tournament last year and we’re looking to do it again this year. I just have to thank coach Munroe for trusting me and my teammates for trusting me as well.”
Another important part of being captain is keeping the positive chemistry among the team. Ricciardi feels chemistry is one of the team’s strong suits this season.
“We have amazing chemistry between all of us,” Ricciardi said. “That’s going to be the main reason for our success. We all trust each other and I think that’ll be the main reason for our success.”
With a strong start to the season, Lynnfield, which stands at 2-0 on the year, is looking primed to make that tournament run Ricciardi’s hoping to end his career with. A tournament run, Ricciardi said, would give him the ideal ending to his career as a Pioneer.
“It would be great,” Ricciardi said. “I definitely think this team works hard enough to get there and deserves it. Hopefully we make it all the way. That would be everything I can ask for as a senior.”