Campbell River’s Matt Zeller had the surprise of his life during his midget lacrosse team’s run at provincials last month.
Standing next to eight other lacrosse players from across the province, Zeller,16, wasn’t expecting to hear his name as this season’s Player of the Year was announced.
The young goalie had already been named Player of the Year in the Island zone but had no idea he would be the province’s overall winner.
“I was surprised,” says Zeller, who played for the midget B Ravens this past season.
“All I knew was that I had got the Zone 6 but I had no clue at all that I was getting the BCLA (British Columbia Lacrosse Association) one.”
Zeller’s father, Jim Zeller, was in attendance to see the moment unfold.
“I was pretty proud and he’s pretty well-known with the Victoria teams and the Lower Mainland teams so he got quite the reception when it was announced,” Jim said.
Along with being acknowledged as the province’s best lacrosse player this year, the two Player of the Year titles combined earned Zeller a $1,000 scholarship to put towards his education at any post-secondary institution he chooses.
Zeller, who is starting Gr.11 at Carihi this September, isn’t sure just yet where he wants to go to school.
Still, his mom Tanya Zeller, says the money will be a huge help to her son.
“The scholarships will be held in trust until he graduates and they’re good for anything he wants to do, unlike a lot of them that hold you to having to play for the school you’re attending,” Tanya says. “This is a great award, it goes a long way.”
Zeller, who has played lacrosse since he was six-years-old and was influenced by a former Storm billet to play, took on a lot this year.
Not only did he play on the midget team, but he also played on Team Island, which features the top lacrosse players from the region and he was called by the Jr. B Ravens, a step up from minor lacrosse, to backup goalie Logan Down.
Zeller also volunteered as an assistant coach for the peewee C Ravens and helped out with the Learn to Play mentoring program which gives kids who have never played lacrosse before a chance to try the sport.
While lacrosse took up to five to six days of his week the entire season (April to July), Zeller still managed to make the honour roll at school, part of the criteria for winning his two awards.
“We are all extremely proud of him,” says Christine Mitchell, president of Campbell River Minor Lacrosse.
“Matt has been my daughter’s coach this year in lacrosse and he has dedicated a huge amount of time to instructing the younger generation in the sport of lacrosse. He is a talented young man with a very bright future.”
Zeller’s accomplishments couldn’t have come at a better time – in his last year of minor lacrosse.
“He had a huge, huge year,” mom Tanya says. “It’s just a really fitting way to end his minor lacrosse career but he’s not done. He has high hopes.”
Zeller plans on trying out for the intermediate A team in either Nanaimo or Victoria, while still living at home and commuting back and forth for practices and games.
Whatever he chooses to do, lacrosse will surely play a role, Zeller says.