CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.--Former Virginia lacrosse player Matt Ward just wrapped up his second year as a professional for the Washington Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse. The 2006 Tewaaraton Trophy winner, who helped lead University of Virginia to an NCAA championship that season, had 18 goals and nine assists this summer.??
The Bayhawks finished 5-7 and failed to qualify for the playoffs. In addition to embarking on a pro lacrosse career, Ward has started a new job in sales at ESPN. Virginia lacrosse beat writer Whitelaw Reid recently caught up with Ward.??
How would you say your first couple years as a pro went, what was the experience like? I definitely missed my days at Virginia a lot, but competing is great. I think every college athlete just has that attitude to go out and compete at the highest level, and the MLL gives you a chance to do that once your college days are over.??
Any personal highlights from this season, games that really stuck out? "I made the All-Star game, which was really a great honor--(former UVa teammate) Kyle Dixon and myself. (Matt) Poskay, (Mike) Culver and (J.J.) Morrissey made it, too. So we had five guys from our '06 UVa team representing. For me, that really stood out. It kind of validated what we were able to accomplish in college. It showed we could play at an even higher level and with the best players in the world."??
What was the biggest adjustment from the college to the pro game? "Staying in shape and getting used to a more physical style of lacrosse. In the MLL, players kind of have free rein to do whatever they want--they cross-check, they slash."??
What is the salary range for MLL players? "Anywhere from $8,000 for rookies to about $20,000 for the better players."??
Did you follow Virginia this year--what was your reaction to the team getting upset by Delaware? "It was tough. (Delaware's) face-off guy was the best in the country. [Virginia] was a young team, but I think this year they'll have some seniors who are going to take charge, plus some freshmen and sophomores who are going to make names for themselves. That will be fun to watch for alumni."??
How long do you think you'll continue playing? "I think as long as my body lets me. I love playing lacrosse. Guys in this league don't play for the money. You do it to help the game grow. For the game to be as good as it can be, it needs a pro level. Hopefully we can be part of the group that can look back and say, 'We helped build that league.'"??
Anything you'd like to tell people back at UVa? "We're missing our days in Charlottesville for sure, but we couldn't have asked for a better experience there. We're going to keep in touch."??
To see more of The Daily Progress or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to www.dailyprogress.com.
For more information on Major League Lacrosse visit www.majorleaguelacrosse.com.