The rise of Matt Knote: UMass’ star goalie
With help of teammates and coaches, Knote has grown into a star for the Minutemen
May 17, 2022
It was March 11, 2020.
The Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team was coming off a win against Long Island University the day before, preparing to play Utah in a few days. Head coach Greg Cannella and players Gabriel Procyk, Jackson Suboch, and Devin Spencer spoke to the media.
No one knew what was coming.
COVID-19 was in the global news cycle but wasn’t a serious concern yet in the United States. The team took one extra precaution that seemed fitting at the time: instead of shaking hands with media in the room, Cannella and his players gave fist bumps. Other than that, business continued as usual.
The next day, March 12, the NCAA canceled the rest of the season for all winter and spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When it first happened, we were doing really well … and then the world just kind of ended,” Knote said. “You had to work out as much as you could at home and get out of the house as much as you could, but it was obviously tough in the beginning.”
Made tougher was the fact that the Minutemen were off to their most promising season in recent memory before the shutdown. They beat then- No. 1 nationally ranked Yale at home, No. 12 Ohio State on the road and toppled a strong Albany team led by Tehoka Nanticoke. An NCAA tournament berth didn’t seem to be the ceiling for UMass, it was closer to the floor of potential success.
Knote was a freshman at the time of the shutdown, in his first season at UMass and from day one, he was given the starting role at goalie. Knote was the first Minuteman goalie since 2006 to start his season-opening games as a true freshman, showing how much confidence the team had in him.
“I think it’s a great benefit for those guys, obviously for the program that those guys will come back and continue to grow,” Cannella said back of Knote and other freshmen back in 2020. “Hopefully the experience that they have this year [is] a positive one can help push them forward and help them in the future.”
Knote started all seven games in his first year, and all was going well until the shutdown. It was an unceremonious end to his first season, but it wasn’t one without accomplishments. Knote was named to the College Crosse All-Freshman first team. He also excelled off the field in the classroom, earning a spot on the Colonial Athletic Association commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll.
With the full support of his teammates, Knote blossomed, and he always acknowledged the help of his teammates and coaching staff. Among his coaches, Knote mentioned Doc Schneider and Noah Fosner but said all of his teammates and coaching staff have been helpful.
Schneider, a former UMass associate head coach, was a 4-year starter in net from 2006-2009 and works with the Minutemen goalies. Fossner, a current assistant coach for UMass, was a former goalkeeper at Delaware from 2008-2011, and provides a wealth of experience and leadership for Knote.
“Without them you wouldn’t be able to do any of this,” Knote said.
Knote’s teammates have also been a great source of leadership and support for him as he’s developed. Learning from the leadership of players on the defensive end like Jackson Suboch, who was a senior in 2020.
His game continued to develop as a sophomore and despite navigating through a pandemic-affected season with an unusually conference heavy schedule, Knote was still able to finish his season as the top goalie in the CAA.
Having just finished his junior season and an upperclassman, Knote knows that his role has shifted to become a leader in addition to his important on-field presence.
“Try to be a role model for the young guys, do the best I can each day, show up to practice and play like it’s a game,” Knote said about his leadership role.
Although Knote’s first year was cut short, some of his best memories come from his freshman season. He remembers two games in particular fondly.
“The first one that happened was definitely us winning at Ohio State because that was my whole grade’s first college win, and it was after we lost the week before to Army,” Knote said. “And then definitely when we beat Yale.”
Matt Knote’s rise to becoming the CAA’s top goalie and a player receiving national attention in college lacrosse was meteoric. But underneath that quick success was a mountain of hard work from a young age.
Knote’s lacrosse journey started in first grade when he first started playing lacrosse and it wasn’t long before he discovered that he wanted to play the goalie position.
“I was playing one time at a little indoor tournament field, and we didn’t have one, so I just hopped in and it kind of just stuck after that,” Knote said.
In high school at Eastport South Manor in New York, Knote was a three-sport athlete. He played lacrosse but he also wrestled and played football. When it came time to make his college decision, Knote had multiple Division I lacrosse offers, and he considered UMass as well as Richmond and LIU.
Ultimately, he chose the Minutemen for multiple reasons. He was drawn toward the coaches and the ability to play lacrosse at the highest level. But he also wanted to be a part of the historic program UMass built. He wanted to be a Gorilla.
Knote’s preparation as well as his supporting cast has helped him to excel at the Division I level, a highly competitive atmosphere with games against some of the best players and the best schools in the country.
“Take every day, and just try to get a little bit better, and whatever you feel like you need to work on that week,” Knote said about his preparation. “You take some extra time and work on that, and anything else you need. Watch a bunch of film.”
Adjusting to college lacrosse and the highly competitive atmosphere also involves dealing with the pressure. During huge games and at critical moments, goalies are often tasked with making what could be a game-winning save.
There have been many close, big games in Knote’s career against top opponents. On March 5, UMass fell to No. 12/13 Yale on an overtime sudden death goal. On April 2, the Minutemen earned a thrilling come from behind win against Delaware, 11-10 in overtime at Garber Field.
Knote stands in net for all the highs and lows. He feels the pressure at every moment but strives to do whatever he can on and off the field to deal with those situations and alleviate the pressure.
“If you get all your schoolwork done on time, you have all that situated, everything else besides lacrosse situated then everything in lacrosse is going to be a lot easier, so once you prepare all week for that you’re all set,” Knote said.
With the help of his coaches, teammates, and his own hard work and preparation, Knote can be elite between the pipes for UMass this season and made another strong campaign to be named the best goalie in the conference.
Every day, every practice and every game, Knote carries the same mentality with him. An idea that nothing can be taken for granted formed through an unprecedented pandemic and multiple tournament losses that abruptly put an end to seasons in front of his very eyes. That helped Knote learn to relish the chances that are put in front of him.
“Be the best team that we can be, no matter what happens and no matter how many more opportunities we get, just give it all we got.”
Marco Lopez can be reached at [email protected].