Spend the summer on the sidelines at the East Coast’s more elite recruiting events and you’d be hard-pressed to find a rising sophomore prospect who plays with more grit and IQ than Matt Licciardi of the Tenacious Turtles and Cold Spring Harbor HS.
Built low to the ground at 5-foot-4 and 140 pounds, the Long Island native is an energetic and athletic midfielder with impeccable vision and two-way play. Offensively, if No. 2 ranked sophomore Connor DeSimone (Hopkins) is ‘Batman’, Licciardi acts as ‘Robin’, working in conjunction with him to form a deadly duo on a Turtles squad that many consider to be the best 2017 team in the nation. His commitment marks the 14th Division I commit for the Turtles.
Licciardi is dangerous as an one-man clear and can essentially dodge from every area of the offensive zone. He’s able to stymie bigger defenders because of his quickness and physical style of play, getting into his defensemen and freeing up his hands. His vision – gained from his basketball prowess – is consistently apparent both in transition and settled situations.
The Cornell Big Red received great news on Thursday, October 23rd when the sophomore set his heart on Matt Kerwick’s program. Longtime Turtles assistant Sean Haggerty speaks highly of Licciardi, suggesting that the whole staff believes he’ll be a team captain at the next level.
“He plays with a huge heart and his competitiveness is contagious throughout the team,” Haggerty, a former Villanova standout, says. “Those qualities make him one of, if not the most, valuable player to the success of the Turtles over the years. We fully expect those qualities to be a big part of his success at Cornell.”
Recruiting Rundown caught up with Licciardi, who will play in the Quaker Fest and Adrenaline Fall Invitational in November, to talk about both the past and future of his lacrosse career.
What were some of the reasons why you chose Cornell?
I broke it down to four aspects: most importantly, education – followed by lacrosse, the coaching staff and how respectful and tight the players were. Cornell had all four and that really stood out over the other schools that I considered. On my visit, all of the players were so kind and very interested in me, showing me around for 3-4 hours and teaching me what Cornell is all about. I really respected that and wanted to be a part of the Big Red program.
What were some of the other schools you considered and how did the process go?
I loved each school – Brown, Bucknell and Denver were the others. I saw a lot of other 2017 players make commitments but I didn’t get nervous… I just kept working as hard as possible and let it all come to me. When the offer came in, I knew Cornell was the best option.
What has the experience been like playing for the Tenacious Turtles? Whether it’s for the prowess of your team, ranking or commitment, do you feel like you have pressure to perform well?
It’s truly been a blessing. I respect every player out there both on my team and my opponents and they really push me to be the best player I can possibly be. Our coaches – George Powers, Sean Haggerty, Joe DeSimone and my father – preach to us all of the time that there will consistently be a ‘X’ on our backs so we try and work our tails off to live up to the expectations and hype.
As for the ranking, it’s an honor and I think both that and the commitment to a great program make people who aren’t committed want to catch up and outperform me and my team. Being ranked is a good thing – each and every day it makes me want to work harder to prove myself.
As a player who is undersized, do you feel that you have to play with a certain mentality? Also, what are some of the things you’d like to work on?
I look at being undersized as and advantage because I play much harder and with more heart and IQ. I don’t let bigger kids get to me so I try to outsmart and outplay all of them. It’s hard to point out any one thing that I can work on so I’d generally like to work on every aspect of my game. Maybe my finishing is something I can improve, I feel like I’m a very good feeder out of the midfield who also plays strong defense.