Lacrosse history was made this past weekend, and one former Quaker stood right at the center of it.
The Ohio Machine were crowned the new champions of Major League Lacrosse, the team’s first title in its six year existence. After falling just short of a championship last year, the Machine broke through against the Denver Outlaws, winning 17-12 in a thrilling comeback.
Finishing the regular season with a record of 9-5, the Machine were led by reigning two-time League MVP Tom Schreiber, midfield legend Kyle Harrison, former Tewaaraton winner Peter Baum, North Carolina great Marcus Holman and, last but certainly not least, former Penn standout defenseman Matt McMahon.
McMahon, in only his second full MLL season, has developed into one of the best lacrosse players in the world. The rangy six-foot-four cover man who led the 2014 Quakers to an Ivy League Tournament title has since become a takeaway artist and the backbone of the Machine Defense, and as such, he was named to the All-MLL Team.
Only a few days after achieving these heights, McMahon, a 2015 Wharton graduate, was kind enough to talk with the Daily Pennsylvanian.
[The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.]
The Daily Pennsylvanian: We at the DP first wanted to congratulate you on the Championship and the All-MLL recognition.
Matt McMahon: I appreciate it. Thanks a lot. It was a lot of fun this year, and I’m glad that it worked out as well as it did this past weekend.
DP: Where do those accomplishments rank among your other lacrosse achievements?
MM: You know, each accomplishment kind of has its own special place, and you kind of end up thinking back to who you accomplished them with. So, obviously the accomplishments I was able to achieve at Penn have a special significance because those were the guys that I spent four years with and lived with, so winning that Ivy League championship will always have a special place in my heart. But, at the same time, it was really special to be able to take home the championship at the highest stage of the sport. I had never really ended a season with a victory like that in a championship game at any level, so it’s tough to say which one stands out between the two championships, but they both mean a heck of a lot to me.
DP: Can you describe the feelings you were experiencing immediately after winning the title?
MM: Well, honestly it was a bit of a shock. In the third quarter, we were in dire straits, down a couple of goals with things not looking too good. But then, we just battled back in a way we had been doing all season. A couple leaders of the team stepped up with some big plays and were able to give us a bit of separation down the stretch. So, even though the game had kind of been decided by the final two minutes or so, I was in a state of disbelief even by the time the final whistle blew. It was a really special moment for a lot of guys that have been playing in the league for years and years, with some even playing over a decade without having won before. So, disbelief, relief, euphoria—all of those were kind of rushing through my head at the same time.
DP: That must’ve been quite the rush, especially considering that you played a pretty important role in the game yourself. You guys gave up 12 goals in an MLL championship game. That’s a pretty impressive stat line for a defense in this league.
MM: The more this group has played together, the better we’ve played. We kind of set out before the game to make this last game our best performance of the year. I think that defensively in this sport, the more that you play with the same group of guys, the more you’re going to be able to anticipate what they do and make plays off of that. So as our group continues to play together and gel together, it should be no surprise that our last game was our best, our masterpiece.
DP: With the All-MLL honors, you’ve established yourself among the best players in the world. Did you have any doubt you would do so, and how long did it take for it to really sink in that you could thrive at the highest level of lacrosse?
MM: [Laughing] Honestly, it’s something that I’m still a little bit surprised about. Each accomplishment this year on the individual level has been a pleasant surprise for me. That being said, I do hold myself to a very high standard, and that goes back to my days at Penn with coach Murphy. We always scheduled the toughest competition and set out with the highest expectations for the season. Our stated goals were always to win an Ivy championship and a national championship, so [Murphy] kind of impressed upon all of the players the importance of pushing yourself to the furthest of your abilities. It’s really been an honor to gain some recognition at this level.
DP: I was actually just about to ask you how your experiences at Penn and with coach Murphy prepared you for that level, so I’ll instead shift to asking you how your experiences at Penn helped prepare you for post-college life in general, beyond the field.
MM: Coach Murphy tells the recruits, the alumni, and the players that he’s trying to prepare you not only to be the best lacrosse player you can be but also to be the best young man that you can be. I think that his lessons have definitely been felt in my day-to-day. Even looking at what my former teammates have done these past couple of years, I think that everybody goes about their lives with a really strong foundation. He really set us all up with a set of skills that make success all but inevitable for a lot of us, and that should come as no surprise because he’s a terrific mentor and a great leader of young men. I definitely owe a lot of my success to him, and I know that my teammates feel the same way.
DP: Sticking with the Penn program, do you still follow the team closely? If so, would you share some thoughts you had about last year’s performance?
MM: Absolutely. The program is definitely one of the things the alumni care about a ton. We find ourselves getting together in the spring to watch a lot of the games on TV. We all monitor the program very closely. Actually, speaking of which, I had the opportunity to spend some time with rising junior attackman Simon Mathias this summer, as he worked with us a bit, which was terrific. It’s always great to spend some time with these guys in the program. We get to see that they’re the same high-quality individuals as my teammates were. It’s all just a function of the program that coach Murphy has put together. I think they’re poised to have an excellent season this year. I think that the have some tremendous leaders coming up. In particular, Kevin McGeary and Simon Mathias are two of the best players in the Ivy League. I think that they’re really setting themselves up for a big season this year. You’ll definitely see a lot of their hard work pay off, so I’m pretty optimistic about this year for Penn.