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Matt Freitas’ love for lacrosse leads him past childhood accident
Matt Freitas was named an All-American in his senior season at Williams College with 245 saves with a save percentage around 57%. (Photo: Jay Corey/Williams College Athletics)

Matt Freitas’ love for lacrosse leads him past childhood accident

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. (BVM) – When he was in fourth grade, Matt Freitas began playing lacrosse by mistake. While his mom thought she had signed him up for indoor flag football, it turned out to be lacrosse, but it was too late to back out.

Although playing the sport might not have been his intention, Freitas quickly found a love for being a goalie. 

“I convinced them to throw me in to play some goalie and I never let go of that spot,” Freitas said. “I just kind of fell in love with it right away.”

Over a decade later, Freitas has become a collegiate All-American in the net at Williams College. However, his path to get there has been different than most.

Freitas lived a normal life growing up in Massachusetts, gaining a passion for lacrosse in addition to his other main sport of baseball.

However, in 2013, when he was just 11 years old, Freitas’ life changed completely. While riding in the back right seat of his dad’s car on the highway as they headed to Maine for a ski trip, Freitas, who was taking a nap at the time, was struck by a car that had swerved to the left and hit his father’s car right where Freitas was sitting.

Waking up suddenly, Freitas never went into shock, remembering every moment of the crash in detail. 

“In that moment, it was just a lot of pain, a lot of confusion,” Freitas said. “Especially when you’re a kid, I’d broken bones before and everything, but you really do think you’re invincible. So when you go through something like that, you realize that your body is a lot more fragile, your life is a lot more fragile than you might think.

“It just made me realize that I was really grateful for the good things in my life.”

Matt Freitas Williams College Ephs lacrosse NCAA Division III All-American
Following a car accident when he was 11 years old, Matt Freitas had his right leg amputated, and has played the rest of his lacrosse career on a prosthetic leg as a result. (Photo: Jay Corey/Williams College Athletics)

One of those good things in Freitas’ life was lacrosse. However, he had to have his right leg amputated as a result of the crash, potentially putting his future in the sport in question.

Freitas never saw it that way, though. As he was eventually transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital, he was fitted for a prosthetic, and was given around a year-long timeline to walk normally again. Yet, Freitas’ sole focus was when he could get back in the net.

“My first question to the doctor once they kind of explained what my life would look like, it wasn’t will I play lacrosse again, or will I be able to be normal again, or anything like that,” Freitas explained. “It was just when can I play lacrosse again? It really was a foregone conclusion that stuff like that would eventually happen again for me.”

Throughout his recovery process, Freitas stayed positive, and became thankful he lost the leg when he did compared to having it happen at an older age. Within days of receiving his prosthetic, Freitas was up and playing dodgeball at a Boy Scout event, and returned to the lacrosse field. It was then and there he gained a perspective he still holds onto today.

“I’m never going to let this thing have that big of an impact on what I can do and what I choose to do,” Freitas said. “Especially sports related, but obviously life related, I really try to continue to live that everyday. It makes as much of an impact as I let it.”

As Freitas entered high school at Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, he was inspired to take up wrestling, relishing each victory he earned on one leg, which predictably often surprised his two-legged opponents. However, the goalie’s main passion remained on the lacrosse field. 

“Being able to go to CM was a huge blessing,” Freitas said. “I really feel like I developed as a person there … I enjoyed every second of being a student there, and obviously, a part of that was being able to play lacrosse and wrestle there.”

Matt Freitas Williams College Ephs lacrosse NCAA Division III All-American
Matt Freitas built a strong relationship with Coach George McCormack and the rest of the Ephs’ coaching staff that led him to Williams College. (Photo: Jay Corey/Williams College Athletics)

Following the accident, Freitas realized he wanted to take one of his true passions in life as far as he could, and that meant playing lacrosse at the college level. Had he never lost his leg, Freitas is not sure he would have pursued that opportunity. 

“I kind of found this newfound gratitude for the good things in my life,” Freitas said. “Lacrosse was one of those things that I just really wanted to hold onto tight and never let it go. So by the time that college recruiting came around, the chance to extend my tenure as a competitive lacrosse player, that presented itself.”

While Freitas had garnered a bit of college interest prior, playing at the next level became a reality when Williams College lacrosse head coach George McCormack saw the goalie play in a tournament.

“I definitely lucked out,” Freitas said. “I had a really good tournament one day with Coach McCormack there watching.”

With sweatpants on, McCormack didn’t even realize Freitas had a prosthetic leg. Once it was revealed, he only became more intrigued.

“He said that made him want to recruit me more, which obviously is a huge compliment,” Freitas mentioned. “Being able to work with Coach McCormack the last few years has just been remarkable.”

As Freitas built a relationship with Williams from there, he was sold on the facilities, the school’s rich athletic history, and its academic background. However, the biggest thing that stood apart was the confidence the coaching staff had in him.

“There wasn’t a single person who doubted me for my leg, which was amazing,” Freitas said. “I think I just kind of fell in love with the idea that I was trusted here.”

Once Freitas got to college, he wasn’t an instant star like a lot of players who eventually become All-Americans. In fact, with only nine games between his freshman and sophomore seasons due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and playing behind a talented goalie in Harry Gahagan, Freitas barely saw the field. But, at the same time, being able to learn from Gahagan among others was invaluable.

“I lucked out that I had a lot of upperclassmen goalies that I could learn from, guys that I really liked on a personal level,” Freitas said. “It was the closest goalie room I’ve ever been a part of.”

Going into his junior year, Freitas was still expected to be a reserve behind senior Will Bock. But right before the season opener, Bock suffered a concussion, and was re-concussed during the season, thrusting Freitas into a starting role.

“It was definitely weird to think about the idea that I ended up starting most of the year,” Freitas said. “At least in my head, I was never fully the starter, because Will was always there, obviously being as much of a mentor as he could be, and just pushing me to be as good as I could be in the cage … I put together some good performances and felt really good. I think it was really important for later, what senior year would end up becoming.”

Constantly gaining more trust from his team, Freitas had a solid year for a near-.500 Ephs squad, setting the stage for his senior season. Going into it, the goalie set out to make first-team All-NESCAC, become an All-American, and earn the USILA outstanding goalie award, each of which he accomplished as he made 245 saves across 18 games with a nearly 57% save percentage.

“Really, anything short of that, I would’ve been pretty bummed,” Freitas explained. “When it came to team goals, we wanted to win it all. We really thought we could.

“The individual awards are a huge honor. It makes me feel really proud of what my lacrosse career has become. But I think it’s really important to remember that a goalie award, even if goalie seems like an individual position, I think we benefit from others’ success more than anybody else.”

Matt Freitas Williams College Ephs lacrosse NCAA Division III All-American
Matt Freitas finally earned his chance as a starter in goal for the Ephs during his junior season in 2022. (Photo: Jay Corey/Williams College Athletics)

While Williams fell short of its ultimate goal of winning it all, the Ephs did still have a successful season that culminated in a Division III NCAA tournament berth. With Matt Wetmore set to take over his spot next year, Freitas believes the future is bright for the program, and hopes he was part of a stepping stone to success.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime being able to play here for four years, and even more so to be named a captain by my peers, be named a starter by my coaches, and really get an opportunity to make an impact on the field and off of it,” Freitas said.

The senior captain’s legacy on the lacrosse field is one that will likely stand the test of time at Williams, but so too will what he has done off of the field. That begins with his work with the non-profit organization A Shot For Life, which sought out the help of Freitas as it implemented lacrosse into its program. Since, the lacrosse portion of the organization has already raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“A Shot For Life has been, honestly, one of the most important organizations I’ve been a part of,” Freitas said. “It’s going to be really cool to continue to see it grow and it’s been an honor to be a part of that.”

Meanwhile, Freitas has also given back over the past few years by assisting at a summer camp for limb-different children in Illinois. 

“It’s been so much fun,” Freitas added. “From a really selfish perspective, it’s been a phenomenal growth opportunity for me, just because I’ve never, other than this camp, been in a place where being limb-different is the norm … Being able to go out there and build relationships with kids and families, they say they’re looking up to me, but I’m really looking up to them.”

All of this is in addition to Freitas finding time to compete on “American Ninja Warrior,” become an award-winning student broadcaster, and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in political science with a concentration in leadership studies.

“I think being broad is really important,” Freitas said. “Williams is a place that really supports you as you try to do pretty much whatever you want … Stuff like that works out and I’m able to continue to keep going into new passions, different passions, and get a lot done.”

Now, Freitas is set to begin the next chapter of his life in Washington D.C. working in government and consulting. Once his work schedule is set, he hopes to get back into lacrosse as a coach.

Matt Freitas Williams College Ephs lacrosse NCAA Division III All-American
Following an All-American career at Williams College, Matt Freitas will look to stay involved with lacrosse in the future by coaching. (Photo: Jay Corey/Williams College Athletics)

It’s a remarkable story for someone who endured a devastating incident just 10 years ago. Yet, Freitas has always persevered, and has never wavered in his mindset, one he hopes others in a similar position can look up to.

“When you have a very obvious disability like mine, a very visible disability, people don’t think the odds are very slim, people look at you as a different type of person,” Freitas said. “I want somebody to look up to me because I’m able to do things with it, not despite it, and have a good mindset and still be able to enjoy life with that.

“If I was speaking to anybody who has a similar situation to mine, it’s just to accept that this is part of your life, and the word ‘despite’ should never be part of your vocabulary. If you want to prove people wrong, you should want to show everybody that a life with a prosthetic leg is a life worth living, and it’s a life worth living to the best degree possible. When it comes to stuff like lacrosse, that’s always been the avenue to show people that.”

After essentially being inadvertently introduced to lacrosse, Freitas has climbed to the top of the sport, and did so even with a major setback. It’s what ultimately makes him so proud of his journey, and is something he hopes has impacted anyone he has been around in a positive way.

“I was competing on the exact same field as a lot of people with two legs,” Freitas concluded. “Everybody else had two legs. And obviously I made it work. I’m really, really proud of that, and I always will be.

“I hope the opportunity to play with or against a kid with one leg normalizes it a little bit in their lives. It’s not as rare as you’d think.”