At every level of sports, athletes are often more concerned with personal accolades and statistics than they are about winning and team success. Because of this, it’s always refreshing to speak with an athlete with a team-first mentality.
Meet Matt Sheldon. This junior from Portland, Ore. has been the leader for the UC Davis men’s soccer team this year and realizes there’s more to collegiate athletics than his individual stats, even though his are superb.
The Aggies finished the season on Nov. 15, following a defeat to UC Irvine in the Big West semifinals, ending the year with a 9-9-3 record (4-4-2 Big West).
Sheldon, who tied for the team lead with six goals and eight total points this year, believes the Aggies can move even further into the playoffs next season.
“My main goal is for us to win the Big West tourney,” Sheldon said. “I don’t care about my accolades. If we win the Big West tourney, it’ll be the best season.”
He has been a factor for UC Davis each of his three years here. He played in all 19 games as a true freshman, starting in nine of them, finishing the year with two goals and two assists. Last year, Sheldon once again played in each game (21 total), making six starts. During his sophomore season, he tied for the team lead with three goals and eight total points.
Sheldon’s play has steadily improved each season he’s played for the Aggies. He attributed this success to strong offseason workouts.
“This last year was the hardest I’ve ever worked in the offseason,” Sheldon said. “I went out every single weekend and on off-days. Throughout the summer, I stayed here and trained.”
According to Sheldon, his personal season highlight came against Cal Poly on Nov. 6, when he scored the game-winning goal with five seconds left in regulation, giving the Aggies a 2-1 victory.
“The feeling about that [goal] and knowing that we really needed that win … was just a lot of emotion,” Sheldon said.
Sheldon played basketball and ran track in addition to playing soccer in high school, and picked UC Davis over Oregon State. An applied math major, he is minoring in coaching principles and methods and looks to possibly become a soccer coach one day.
He knows what he needs to work on to raise his and the team’s game for next season, and his sights are set for an even more successful senior campaign. He realizes that his success will facilitate team success.
“Next season I’m trying to get 10-plus goals,” he said. “The main things I’ve been talking to my coach about are working on my touches and my dribbling and shooting and keeping all my soccer specific skills fine-tuned.”
In the meantime, in addition to working out and improving himself, he spends time following sports. Sheldon follows the Portland Timbers of the MLS and the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA, and he enjoys watching the English Premier League.