Matikowski Commits To Playing Lacrosse Down South

Matikowski Commits To Playing Lacrosse Down South

For the past four years, Cheshire High School senior Ava Matikowski has enjoyed being part of the field hockey and girls’ lacrosse teams. Since growing up playing with many of the same girls, Matikowski has only been able to connect with teammates with manners.

“All you have to do is nod your head. We know how each other plays and that helps us on the pitch,” said Matikowski.

As she nears the end of her Cheshire sporting experience, Matikowski has recently finalized plans to extend her career to the collegiate level. On January 12, Matikowski committed to playing Division I lacrosse at Elon University in North Carolina.

“It feels great to find a school that suits us,” Matikowski said.

During her search, Matikowski knew she wanted to go to school down south. For lacrosse, she looked at the Colonial Athletic Association programs, including Elon.

“I like to explore. I really liked the atmosphere down there,” said Matikowski.

She felt that the recruitment process opened her eyes to just looking at one school. The day she visited Elon, Matikowski knew she wanted to go there.

“People say you can just imagine being there and going to that school,” Matikowski explained. “When I met the coaches and the team, I felt the energy and it hit my energy. Any team you think you won’t feel that, but when I went there (Elon) it was there.

Led by Josh Hexter, Elon plays women’s lacrosse competitions on the east coast. Matikowski looks forward to building new relationships within the team.

“It will definitely be different, but it will be good to meet new people,” Matikowski said. “Talking to the Elon girls, they are amazing people and I can’t wait to play with them.”

“I think she’s going to do great,” added CHS girls’ lacrosse head coach Dan Warburton. “I think they (Elon) will get a great player who will do good things for them.”

Matikowski likes the Elon classroom environment as well as the lacrosse program.

“As an academic, you have to go to a school that you love, regardless of sport,” says Matikowski. “Elon has a great reputation. They support you in starting your career.”

She is excited to have fellow CHS seniors Ava Harris (Bucknell University-Pennsylvania), Lauren Samela (Wagner College-New York) and Taryn Ugrin (Southern Connecticut State University) join her at the collegiate level next year.

“It’s so great for her,” Matikowski said. “I’ve played with them for so long and they’re good.”

In making a dream come true, Matikowski appreciates the support of her family.

“My mom (Cory) and dad (Joseph) always wanted what was best for me. They taught me that if you don’t get what you want, it shouldn’t be,” Matikowski said. “They shaped me into the person and athlete I am today.”

She added that being a role model for her younger sister means a lot. Stella Matikowski, a fourth grader, also plays lacrosse.

“I want to show her what she’s capable of,” Matikowski said. “She’s already better than I was when I was her age.”

With her college process complete, Matikowski feels there is no stress going into her senior season of lacrosse.

“It’s the end of an era, but it’s the beginning of a new one,” Matikowski said. “I get to play with girls I’ve been with forever and I know I’ll have a home after high school.”

Ever since she started lacrosse in fifth grade, she’s found it amazing to think about her evolution in the sport.

“I want to thank Coach (Lee) Bailey and Coach Warburton. My dad used to work with me in the backyard from a young age,” said Matikowski, a midfielder. “They shaped me into the player and person I am today.”

She loves being creative on offense in lacrosse and having the chemistry with her teammates.

“I love the in-game communication,” said Matikowski. “It’s such a fun sport.”

Matikowski was excited to play at CHS with her friends, but due to the pandemic, her 2020 freshman season was canceled. A year later, she joined many of her classmates to immediately jump to the varsity level.

“It was really scary at first because we went from a low youth level to a game against (teams from) Fairfield County,” Matikowski said.

As a sophomore, Matikowski had 14 goals and 10 assists. The Rams made the Southern Connecticut Conference playoffs, winning their Class L opener (12-11) at Glastonbury.

She believes that working with her friends has made the transition at CHS easier.

“It’s been so much fun growing together,” Matikowski said. “We learned so much from (former captains) Raegan (Bailey) and Taylor (Warburton).”

As a junior last spring, Matikowski had 43 goals and 23 assists to help CHS build a 14-7 record. The Rams advanced to the SCC Finals, where they lost 6-12 to three-time reigning champion Guilford.

CHS rallied in the States, defeating Conard (14-11) and host Farmington (12-7). In the L-class quarterfinals, Cheshire lost 17-6 at Wilton.

“It (last season) was definitely easier than the sophomore,” said Matikowski. “We knew Dubs’ coaching style and the players we were playing against. We knew what our individual goals were and that made it easier to achieve our team goals.”

In 2022, Matikowski made the All-SCC First Team and All-Class L Second Team.

“She’s been an important part of our team for the last two years and I expect she will be again this year,” Warburton said. “Ava has the ability to turn it on in a game where we needed it. She is aggressive and has a great shot.”

Warburton believes Matikowski plays a key role at all levels of the field.

“We have a few people that we can use for the draw to give us different looks. In a game against Glastonbury we drew Ava and she placed the ball well so we could gain possession,” Warburton said. “With her athleticism and stick work on the circle, she is also able to invent decisive groundballs for us.”

Matikowski likes to run around the field and be able to score on transitions.

“Fast pace is what makes the game[of lacrosse],” Matikowski said. “It’s about doing your best in everything. It’s about enjoying every second you’re on the field.”

Matikowski feels like Warburton has taught her so much over the past three years. She believes he is personable and wants the best for the players.

“He improved my game IQ along with my skills. He really is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” said Matikowski.

For the sake of familiarity, Matikowski likes how many lacrosse teammates also played field hockey with her.

“It was great to play a different sport with them,” said Matikowski. “When you’re in the off-season you don’t have as much motivation, so another sport drives you.”

Lacrosse is her favorite sport, but Matikowski is glad she picked up field hockey at Dodd Middle School and continued through high school.

As a junior in 2021, Matikowski became the starting forward, recording seven goals and four assists. She returned last fall to help CHS set a 14-5-1 record and win the SCC tournament for the first time since 2013.

Matikowski found the title game to be a special experience. At Amity, Cheshire and Branford were tied 1-1 in the final minute, but Matikowski struck the winning goal with just 29 seconds left. In the play, she converted to a pass from senior Taya Buntin.

“It was so great,” Matikowski recalls. “(Senior) Julia (Bailey) and I looked at each other and said, ‘No way.’ We had just won the SCC and had the biggest hug. Everyone ran towards each other like there weren’t 30 seconds left.”

After narrowly finishing in the finals for the past two years, Matikowski felt the 17-man senior class title meant a lot.

“We showed that we are a force to be reckoned with,” recalled Matikowski, who scored eight goals and five assists last season.

Matikowski aims to achieve the same goal in her lacrosse season this spring. CHS girls won the SCC crown in 2014, but the Rams have finished runners-up five times since that year.

“We don’t just have to prove a lot. We also have a lot to do,” said Matikowski. “We don’t want to leave without betting on this (SCC) banner in 2023.”

Over the years, she has met many opposing players who have played club lacrosse in the off-season.

“It’s really cool because we learn from each other. It also helps when we play each other,” said Matikowski. “We can be adversaries and competitors, but we can also remain friends off the pitch.”

With Team 203 Lacrosse Club in 2021, Matikowski helped her team win the Open Division of the 2021 Brine District East National Cup in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.

Last year she switched to Nor’Easter Lacrosse.

“The club season is definitely different than high school,” Matikowski said. “You have to develop your style because you see so many different styles.”

This year she has been training to be ready for spring.

“I’ve been working hard in the offseason because it’s not just about the senior season, it’s also about (college) lacrosse after that,” Matikowski added.

She will miss field hockey, but Matikowski believes focusing on one sport will help her fulfill her potential in college.

“I will get better because I only have one focus and one purpose. The future is what you make of it,” explained Matikowski. “I really want to help my team (at Elon). I look forward to growing as a player and as a person.”

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