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All-Area Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year: Matthew Gallagher, E.C. Glass
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All-Area Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year: Matthew Gallagher, E.C. Glass

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Q: Did you know, even when you were in elementary school when you started playing, that you wanted to play lacrosse for a while?

A: Not really. My mom played lacrosse in high school. My dad played sports at E.C. Glass. … My mom was just like, “Yeah, you should give it a try.”

Q: When you were younger, was it your parents who pushed lacrosse?

A: They weren’t really pushing me toward any one sport. They were happy with whatever I played. My parents think baseball is the most boring sport in the world, but if I wanted to play baseball, they would’ve let me play baseball. I played football when I was younger, too, I just had too many concussions. I got two in one year, [but] only one of those was football-induced.

Q: What do you like about lacrosse?

A: I like it because it’s physical. It’s like a combination of all sports. Like for basketball, you play defense by sliding your feet and pushing people. For football you obviously get to contact people, but it’s also a team sport. I just enjoy it.

Q: When you’re facing off, that’s obviously a little more physical than in other parts of the game. Do you like that?

A: When I’m facing off, I don’t usually try to be super physical. I’m not super big, but I have super quick hands, and I try to get the ball out quickly. But if I have to be physical, I’m pretty aggressive, so I can definitely do that.

Q: How long have you been a faceoff man?

A: I started facing off when I was in eighth grade. I was just like, “I’m kind of smaller, so I don’t think I’m gonna play midfield a lot.” I used to play goalie, actually, when I was in eighth grade, and I was just like, “I am not playing that.” I need to run. My mom was fast, so it’s genetic, and I’m pretty fast.

Q: Did you know quickly that that was something you liked to do?

A: If you don’t watch lacrosse, you don’t realize how important winning faceoffs is. I think people are starting to become more aware of how important facing off is. I like facing off because the faceoff guy controls the game, pretty much. … You can have a dominant attack who scores like three goals, but if you have a dominant faceoff guy who wins like 80, 85 percent, then there’s nothing more dominating than that. I love … having the ball in my stick and getting it to playmakers, like all my teammates.

Q: How did you develop your faceoff technique, and are you still honing that?

A: I kind of think of it in steps. Each year I have something I try to improve on. My eighth-grade year, I just had quick hands. Ninth-grade year I changed up my stance a little bit. Tenth-grade year I changed my grip on my stick. … And then this year it was mostly about developing more strength and becoming better at picking up ground balls. Next year I’m working on continuing to get better and stronger and developing moves — like if I don’t get the clamp right away, then I’ll do something else to get the ball.

Q: You play travel ball for a team in Richmond, too, right? How long have you been doing that?

A: It’s a travel team for three years. You play after your freshman year, after your sophomore year and then junior year, so this summer’s gonna be my last summer playing.

Q: Do you have college plans?

A: I’m down to a few schools now: Dennison, Washington and Lee, Gettysburg and Christopher Newport. … I’ve been talking to coaches at smaller Division I colleges, but I’d rather play Division III, because it’s more like you want to do it. DI is a job.

Q: Did you have a dream school?

A: UVa. My parents went there. It’s a good school. I go to UVa football games, basketball games, lacrosse games, but I’d rather go DIII where I actually have a chance to play.

Q: So you won most of your faceoffs this season, but does any one faceoff or the ones you miss get in your head?

A: I have a tendency to lose the first faceoff. I don’t know why, it just happens. But if I lose a faceoff, I try to think, “OK, I lost a faceoff; move on to the next one,” or if I won a faceoff, “OK, I won a faceoff; move on to the next one.” … You’re just trying to think one win at a time.

Q: Was the state championship your favorite memory of the year?

A: Yeah, for sure. We had a lot of good memories this year, though. My friends are gonna laugh at me for this, but I scored a behind-the-back goal against [Patrick Henry-Roanoke] this year. I had mono at that point, and I did not feel good at all, but that was probably the most exciting moment for me personally. But when we got to the state championship, I just straight up knew we weren’t gonna lose that game.

Q: What was it like when the final buzzer sounded?

A: I can’t explain it. It was unbelievable. Just pure happiness. … We were a special team this year.

Q: What’s the outlook for next year?

A: Across the board this year [we were] very solid. … We’re definitely gonna have some holes to fill, but I think we can fill those.

Q: What are some lessons you learned this year?

A: Appreciate the time you have with your friends, for sure. ... Next year it’s gonna be different. I’ve been playing with [the seniors] since I was a kid, so it’s gonna be sad.

Q: Are there things your coach, Eddie Ranuska, did this year that were important in your team’s development and eventual state championship?

A: I remember one practice he got mad at us for something, and he just made us keep running and running. I think we ran 4 or 5 miles, just sprinting. It was terrible and so hot. … But all of it was just getting us ready for the state championship.

Q: What’s your dream vacation?

A: Probably Turks and Caicos. We always go somewhere cold to go skiing. So definitely going somewhere warm.

Q: If you could have dinner with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

A: I’m gonna have to go with Shaquille O’Neal. He’s a funny guy. … He’s a man of many traits.

Q: What’s your favorite restaurant?

A: I don’t know my favorite, to be honest with you. I eat anywhere. I just eat.

Q: And your favorite TV show?

A: “Family Guy,” “South Park” and “First Take” on ESPN with Stephen A. Smith. He’s hilarious.

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