Thursday March 14, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Junior Matt Springer is back contributing for the Binghamton men’s lacrosse team after having to red-shirt last year after two surgeries to repair an ailing foot. (Photo courtesy of Binghamton University)
When the Binghamton University men’s lacrosse team was looking for that extra offense or spark to get it over the top many times last season something seemed to be missing.
It was Matt Springer that was no longer there controlling the attack and serving as a presence in close to the goal. After tallying 58 goals during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Springer red-shirted last year due to an on-going foot injury that required two surgeries.
The former standout at Hamburg High School was certainly missed as Binghamton went 4-9 overall, losing three times by one goal, and 1-4 in the America East Conference to miss the postseason tournament.
After being sidelined for the better part of last year’s academic year, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Springer is back and hopes to again be a game-changer for what should be an improved Binghamton squad.
“You could tell, the guys were looking for him in the middle last year and he wasn’t there,” Binghamton second-year head coach Scott Nelson said. “Now, he’s back and the guys seem to always be looking for him and they know he’ll finish.
“He does the dirty work — gets the extra ground ball and is a tough and physical kid. He does more than just the glamour stuff,” he added.
Springer’s impact has already been felt through four contests as the junior has recorded a pair of two-goal games and the team has begun 2-2. His latest two-goal game helped Binghamton come from three goals down in the fourth quarter to win 9-8 at the University of Delaware, a NCAA Tournament regular, on Saturday (March 9).
“It’s been great being back,” Springer said. “Being out has been tough. You just try to do as much as you can from the sidelines, like working with guys and paying attention to new sets coaches work on during practices.
“I think my game is back for me,” he added. “You have the jitters the first two or three games, but it’s just like riding a bike — you get right back on.”
Admittedly, Springer’s road to recovery has been a “long journey.” After the initial surgery to insert a screw into his foot did not take, Springer went back under the knife, forcing him to sit out most of last spring and miss the season.
A few months of rehab and work with the college’s trainers was followed by an effort to get back into game shape. Springer said he worked hard but also at a gradual pace to strengthen his legs and feet after so much inactivity.
“I got a little rusty there, so it took a lot of reps and drills to get back,” Springer said. “I had to catch back up to the speed of the game.”
Springer began to lightly practice with the team the last few weeks of the 2012 season — but Nelson did not believe he was comfortable just yet, which was followed by spending the fall re-acclimating himself to being out on the field and going full force.
“Getting Matt back is certainly very nice,” Nelson said. “He’s a nice kid, is easy to get along with, is a captain and mentor to the younger guys and can also score goals. He gives us a nice boost and is a nice weapon.”
This year, Springer will not be one of only a few weapons. Nelson said there are a number of players who can put the ball consistently in the net. Junior Mike Antinozzi, who scored a program single-season record 32 goals last year, leads the team with seven, while senior Tyler Perrelle and the coach’s son, sophomore Tucker Nelson, have each added four.
Coach Nelson also noted that Tucker, a right-handed stick, has found a solid connection with the lefty Springer, helping his son to seven assists and a team-leading 11 points so far this season.
With additional scoring threats around, Springer feels as though he can work on becoming more of a complete player himself. While he may have been the player dodging and rushing the net more often than not in the past, now he can create havoc around the goal crease and focus on creating opportunities for others, as well.
“We’re more balanced on offense,” said Springer, who was also complimentary of a young Binghamton defensive unit that has held opponents to an average of less than eight goals so far this season. A starter on that unit is his former Hamburg teammate Shawn Needham, a sophomore. “A couple of guys did as much as they could last season, but there’s more options around the net now.”
In just his third active season with Binghamton, Springer has been so productive that he already ranks second in program history with 63 goals, just three short of all-time leading scorer Phil Cavallo, who graduated in 2005.
But in keeping consistent with the team concept that players are especially buying into this year, Springer gives that mark little attention.
“I’m more interested in the team thing and we’ve been playing pretty well,” said Springer, who did offer that it’s been a lot smoother of a transition going from a high school All-American to an impact player in college than he initially thought.
Springer said this year’s team has pretty high expectations and winning a conference championship should not be out of the question. The conference schedule begins on March 30 when Binghamton welcomes in preseason conference favorite Albany.
“This is a program that can be pretty good, but we’ve got a ways to go,” Nelson said. “We’ve been better defensively, so if our offense can come along as we expect it to, we’ll be good. It’s a tough conference but we can be right there.”
Springer is just happy to be in a position to contribute after being laid up for a season with a nagging injury that took multiple surgeries to repair.
“You’re definitely nervous in that situation,” Springer said of being injured. “You start to have certain thoughts about never being as strong as you once were. But the coaches and trainers did a good job of leaning me back into it and encouraging me not to come back too fast.”