By EMILY KUBE
The University of Mary Washington men’s soccer team has had an amazing start to their 2017 season. Senior goalkeeper, Matt Spencer from Stafford, VA, has also had an incredible season thus far. Spencer talked about his background and how his collegiate soccer career started. Spencer’s parents taught him how to play soccer when he was just 5 years old.
“My dad played soccer his whole life, so he was able to coach me and teach me the basics when I was young,” said Spencer. “I played a lot of sports when I was young, but I excelled at soccer so I stuck with it.”
When Spencer got a little older he found an interest in watching professional soccer on TV which is where he says his passion grew. “I love watching Chelsea FC and the rest of the English Premier League… Iker Casillas is my favorite goalkeeper, I grew up watching him play in his prime and he inspired me greatly.”
Spencer went on to play at Mountain View High School and was a four year starter at the varsity level. He won many awards during his career in high school. During his junior year, he was named player of the year all conference, first team all state and first team all area. Senior year was a repeat for Spencer with being named to first team all state, conference and area again. His talent was recruited by Coach Kilby, UMW men’s head soccer coach, in the winter of his senior year.
He continued at Mary Washington, and earned Coastal Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors for the third time this year as a senior, after posting a pair of shutout wins in CAC action last week. Spencer registered a pair of saves in a 1-0 win at Frostburg State on Wednesday, and added five stops in a 2-0 shutout win over York on the road on Saturday. He has posted 0.81 goals against average with 39 saves in 11 games, with five shutouts.
Spencer was nominated as captain in the winter of 2016 by his fellow teammates and coaches. Being a captain has put much more responsibility on his career.
When asked if he enjoys being a captain, Spencer responded, “Yes, I am honored and extremely proud to be able to represent our team… It comes with a lot of hard work with staff behind the scenes, but I enjoy every second of it.”
Success does not come from minimal input. “We probably train close to 10 hours a week, we also have weight training two days a week, games on Wednesdays and Saturdays, film sessions, team meetings and team dinners… We spend a lot of time together,” says Spencer.
When asked about his biggest challenges, Spencer said, “the hardest part is scheduling classes around practice and lifting times.”
Spencer has a routine down and shows his hard work and dedication on and off the field. UMW’s biggest conference opponent this season is Christopher Newport University.
“More times than not we have to take morning classes so our afternoons and evenings are open for practice, lift and games,” says Spencer. “Getting enough sleep at night can sometimes be hard especially when you get back at 1am from an away game and have class the next morning at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m.” Trying to balance playing a sport in college and academics can be very challenging.
Shutouts, low GAA and a high save percentage are among the accomplishments Spencer has had this season. The senior goalkeeper has won three Coastal Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week Awards.
“We made it to the conference final last season against them and lost 1-0… We are the only two teams with perfect 5-0 records in the conference thus far,” said Spencer. “It’s our turn to hand them a loss in the final this year, [we] could not have received these awards without the ten players playing in front of me.”
When asked how much it would mean to him to take his team to the championship, Spencer said, “We’ve been there once in my four years and lost so getting there is one thing, but winning it would mean the world to me… There is nothing else I want more, it’s something I would remember for life.”
As of now, Spencer has no plans to continue soccer after graduation in May, 2018. Due to this being his last season, he is living in the moment. “I plan on ending on a high note here and winning a conference championship and going to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001… All my focus is currently here, right now, in this moment.”