Senior Player Finds Unexpected Home in Volleyball

Ryan Coyle, Sports Reporter

Before stepping foot on campus in 2017, senior physical therapy major and volleyball player Matt Lavin had never played in an organized volleyball match.

The Clifford Township native’s high school athletic background was originally in basketball, but he said his interest was piqued when he heard that the university was forming a volleyball program.

“I saw that they were the new program on campus. I started to become friends with a lot of guys on the team and the team was looking to expand its numbers,” Lavin said.

Lavin had a strong desire to compete again and said he knew joining the volleyball program was a great opportunity to fulfill that desire. He said he was worried about his lack of experience with the sport but he had plenty of opportunities to learn.

A year later, he was able to step in and play the role of the middle blocker during the 2018 season. He demonstrated his skills right away. Lavin appeared in 100 sets and recorded 115 kills and ranked first on the team in blocks with 51 in that season.

Lavin said he is grateful for the great relationship he formed with Head Coach Robert Wingert, as well as the different graduate assistants who have made their way through the program over the past four years. He said the staff has been welcoming and personable to the team since day one.

“Coach Wingert does a great job on connecting with his players on a personal basis,” Lavin said. “He has a high amount of volleyball knowledge. He also brings in awesome graduate assistants who have really made our program take a step up.”

With the Middle Atlantic Conference cancelling fall sports this past fall due to COVID-19, Lavin didn’t believe he would be able to compete on the volleyball court again before he graduated.

“I was very surprised. I really did not expect us to have another chance to compete. Many conferences did not allow teams to come back and compete, so I definitely am grateful,” he said.

With the program now in the beginning part of their season, the senior leader for the Cougars is hoping for some normalcy and to complete in all their matches, with his eyes set on a MAC Freedom Championship.

Matt Lavin, senior physical therapy major, jumps up to hit the ball over the net. (Courtesy of Misericordia Athletics)

“I just hope to get through the entire senior year without any cancellations or quarantining,” Lavin said. “I would also love to compete in the MAC championships once again in my final year.”

He said he is grateful he knocked on Wingert’s door and asked to join the team at the beginning of his freshman year. He said the memories he has made will last a lifetime and he has certainly left a legacy, including being selected as Wendy’s Athlete of the Month last February.

“My favorite memory of playing volleyball has been being able to say I was a part of the first four years in a program’s history. Not many people get to say that, so I think it is pretty cool when considered,” Lavin said.

With his career winding down, Lavin said he has looked at his time on the men’s volleyball team through a bittersweet lens. He encourages other student athletes to cherish the time they have left with their teams.

“Enjoy the time you have with your teammates,” Lavin said. “I recommend being a part of a program in college just because of the lifelong friendships you end up making.”