By RICKY LINDSAY, Sports Editor
Even before he was born, the University of Michigan-Dearborn flowed through Matt Rosteck’s blood.
His father, Gary, was a student at the university before graduating in 1986. David Rosteck, Matt’s grandfather, coached the Wolves hockey program for two stints during the ’80s and ’90s.
But on January 24, Matt did something that no one, not even any of his family members, had ever done before— he became UM-Dearborn’s first lacrosse signee in program history.
“I think it’s just awesome to be part of the growing experience of the college,” he said. “It’ll just be a lot of fun.”
Mike Wagner was a founding member of the lacrosse program when it came to existence in 2002. Now the team’s assistant coach, this moment was something he’d been waiting for.
“It’s special,” Wagner said. “It’s a red letter day in the program’s history, to come from a bunch of guys getting together in a room just like this to be able to sit here and sign guys and get them really excited about playing lacrosse at a high level.
“The sky’s the limit. I can’t even explain it. It’s just so exciting for us. I’m excited to let the rest of the alumni base know. I think it’s really well received in the university as well as the rest of the lacrosse community.”
As Matt signed his letter of intent with the team’s new winged maize and blue lacrosse helmet resting in front of him, Gary, an excited father, was happy to see the past five years paying off.
“I’m excited for him as far as his opportunity. They’ve worked really hard,” Gary said. “I enjoyed watching them develop in lacrosse; they didn’t start until they were freshman in high school. They’ve played hockey their whole life and just to see them enjoy this sport and getting to travel lacrosse, this is just kind of like reaching the top level in a way to be able to justify all that work they put into it. I’m happy for him and look forward to him.”
Around five years ago, Debbie Rosteck was sitting in her car, waiting for her son’s Matt and Eric to finish basketball practice at Walled Lake Central High School. When the twins walked out of practice, they had an announcement to make: they had found their sport.
“They took a stick to their basketball practice one day and started throwing the ball around and they came out to the car and said, ‘We’re playing lacrosse this year,'” Debbie said.
Even though they were inexperienced, the passion the twins displayed for the sport immediately took off.
“They seemed to have a stick in their hands all the time,” Gary recalled.
Eric and Matt starred for Walled Lake Central and played for Champion Lacrosse and True Lacrosse, two travel teams in Michigan. Soon, the duo will reunite on the field. Eric, a hockey player at UM-Dearborn, will join the lacrosse program this season. Matt will follow in 2015.
When his time does come, Matt will be a midfielder for the new-look Wolverines. His athleticism and speed, two assets that he boasts, will help with the transition game.
“We knew they’d be a good fit for our program,” Wolverines’ head coach Jason Watts said. “Matt has size and speed. Defense has always been a focus of ours. We’ve strived on our zone defense for years as being the keystone of our program.”
“His speed and natural athletic ability will be his strongest assets,” Gary added. “And if you get into the lacrosse aspect, there’s not a better defender out there with shutdown defense.
“If you look at strengths and weaknesses, where he shines is going to be as far as no one will get around him on the defensive end.”
When David Rosteck was at the helm of UM-Dearborn’s hockey program, he desperately attempted to lead the program to the next level. On the ice, he did just that, leading the Wolves to No. 1 and No. 2 rankings in 1992 and 1993, respectively. Amongst several trips to nationals, David’s team won 32 games in 1992.
However, the hockey program never reached the CCHA, David’s goal.
In 2014, the lacrosse program is trying to do what David had attempted decades ago. This season will mark the team’s first as a varsity program.
Gary, who experienced the hockey team’s attempted leap first hand from his father will be in the midst of the current one involving the lacrosse program.
“Kind of the similar path, as far as trying to recruit and grow it,” he said. “It was a lot of work, to kind of get it off the ground. I can only imagine what they’re going through to really try to get a foundation. It’s tough to start. Hopefully it grows quickly from there.”
Like all the athletic programs at UM-Dearborn, the lacrosse team is undergoing a rebranding effort. The Wolverines name is now theirs, as are freshly made winged helmets. It’s been a memorable moment for Watts, a player on the first lacrosse team at UM-Dearborn.
“Just the last couple months have been really exciting, going from a club program, trying to get guys to come out, teach them how to play lacrosse,” Wolverines head coach Jason Watts said “Moving to varsity, the branding change to Wolverines, the dorms across the street, the whole dynamic of the program is changing now. It’s a big first step, a lot more to come, too.”
For the lacrosse program, signing Matt was just the first step to the next level.
“It’s a labor of love to get to this point,” Wagner said. “This is a very important day, that we’ve turned the corner officially, to be able to sign our first recruit. Our intention is to put a good class together around Matt and really make sure that we can have an impact immediately starting next season.”