It is never easy to start a season with a loss, especially when you are shut out at home. But that hasn’t dampened Matt Duffy’s spirits as he enters his final season on the field as a Triton.
One of two returning players to their same positions from last year’s team who unexpectedly went to the Sunshine State Conference Tournament only to lose a tight game to Rollins College, Duffy says this year is about unfinished business.
In his third year wearing the captain’s armband, the English import has become one of the biggest emotional forces on the field. Playing in Eckerd’sdefensive end, Duffy can see the pitch from a unique perspective and can visualize the entire field in front of him, knowing where each player happens to be and where they will direct their runs. His emotion for the game is made clear through body language for anyone to see even from the stands, but his real strength comes from his voice. Coach Steve Magee praises Duffy for being able to provide a directive voice on the field for other players to abide by. That was evident on Thursday night as Eckerd played Clayton State from behind much of the game. Even though his team was down, Duffy was still in each of his teammates’ ears encouraging them to keep going, trying to instill a second wind in the team.
That second wind is what drives Duffy in his pursuit of a place of honor at Eckerd College. When asked how he manages to motivate himself after these years of playing his game he responded with a two-pronged approach.
“It’s the desire to win, you know? It’s tough because we’re always ranked in the bottom three of the conference so you’ve always got something to prove every time you step on the field.” The bulletin board material that seems to go up every season only provides as further motivation for Matt in his pursuit of glory for a budding program atEckerd College.
But Duffy is far more than a motivator on the field; he has the ability to back up what he says. Last season, Duffy led Eckerd defenders with six assists in the season on the way to a Sunshine State Conference first team selection and a team MVP award. Magee has stated he would be delighted with similar production this year. Magee did admit he would like to see a few more goals from free kicks but noted, “As always in soccer, we are going to need a little luck.”
Duffy would also like to see similar numbers from last year although he does add a humbling qualifier. “It’s never about the stats or the personal recognition of ‘oh you made this team,” Duffy said. “In the end it’s about what the team as a whole can accomplish.”
With his team’s back against the wall against Clayton State, Duffy watched the ball sail into the back of Clayton State’s net off the foot of Eckerdmid-fielder Mark Lee in double overtime, and instantly the imposing six foot one defender exploded with emotion as his group of underdogs shocked the number eighteen team in the nation. For Duffy, moments like that Thursday night in Tampa remind him why he made what he called the “toughest decision of his life” to come toEckerd. Even now, four years later, Duffy still definitively says that he made the right decision with no regrets, despite “moments on the bus ride back from tough losses to Rollins or Lyon where he would ask ‘what if’” to himself.
For his final season, Duffy feels confident with the talent level of the Tritons entering conference play. He enthusiastically looks forward to home games, noting that “the team feeds off the fans’ energy. It causes the will to win to only grow stronger and stronger.” When asked about his goals for this season, Duffy only talked about the team. His words echo in the hopes of every Eckerd fan: “the goal is to make the conference tournament,” Duffy said. “If we do that, I’m sure we can win one or two games; the best is yet to come.”