WASHINGTON – For Matt Rambo, all he needs is a pocket of space to strike.
With a little over four minutes remaining in the first quarter in the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) game against Atlas, the former University of Maryland attacker surveyed the field, looking for one second of freedom to make a play.
As his Whipsnakes LC teammate Michael Ehrhardt shielded his defender away, Rambo got the space he needed and fired a diagonal shot from inside the 15-yard 2-point arc. The ball flew directly into the net, passing goalie Jack Concannon for the goal.
“I had my hands free so I just said, ‘you know what, I’ll just bomb it,’” Rambo said.
For Rambo, 2019 is currently his best year as a professional lacrosse player. Following a strong 2018 campaign in Major League Lacrosse (MLL), the former University of Maryland star continues to score, making him one of the sport’s most lethal attackmen. Now, playing in his third league, Rambo is showing his offensive prowess as one of the leaders in the emerging PLL.
Rambo’s growth has been a gradual climb. As of July 8, he leads the PLL in points with 27, averaging 4.5 a game. He is currently tied with a team-high 12 goals and leads the Whipsnakes with 15 assists. With the former Terp at the helm of the offense, the Whipsnakes hold a 5-1 record, including an 11-9 victory over Atlas at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on July 6.
“I’m taking care of my body more since coming out of college,” Rambo said. “The game is coming slower to me so I am just so happy to be here… just being around and trying to play as much as I can, 24/7, indoor or outdoor. It has really brought me all over the place and I love it.”
The jump into the professional lacrosse world was a slower process than expected for the first Maryland men’s lacrosse player to win the Tewaaraton Award. After being picked No. 3 overall in the 2017 MLL Draft by the Charlotte Hounds, he was limited to six games played and only scoring nine times.
His first year with Charlotte was a far cry from his senior season as a Terp. In 2017, the Glenside, Pennsylvania native shined, scoring 42 goals and adding 45 assists for 87 points. He finished his career becoming Maryland’s all-time points (257) and goals (155) leader.
Head Coach John Tillman said that Rambo’s emergence as a top scorer came just in time to lead Maryland to their first NCAA Men’s Lacrosse National Championship since 1975.
“We graduated some attackmen, and we needed somebody. We needed a few guys that could come in and play right away,” Tillman said. “Matt, physically, just the way he’s built, was ready to play basically the day he walked on campus.”
In 2018, Rambo bounced back with a 27-goal season and 20 assists after appearing in 13 games for the Hounds. However, his season ended early as Charlotte’s 7-7 record was one game shy from a playoff spot. Instead of preparing himself for the third season in MLL, he decided to head back to his home state to the National Lacrosse League (NLL) and play for the Philadelphia Wings.
The move meant playing the indoor version of the sport, also known as box lacrosse. The sport is 5-on-5 with shorter sticks and a smaller net compared the outdoor game. Even with the subtle changes, Rambo found success right away, scoring 26 goals and providing 30 assists for the Wings.
“Indoor is a whole different game,” Rambo said. “It is a different game but it makes me better in tight situations, off-the-ball and picking stuff. And indoor helps me with outdoor and outdoor helps me with indoor. They complement each other in certain ways.”
The time spend honing in his craft in indoor lacrosse with the Wings prepared him for his next challenge in the PLL, Whipsnakes LC Head Coach Jim Stagnitta said. After coaching him for two years in Charlotte and meeting again in the PLL, Stagnitta said Rambo’s full time dedication towards the sport has made him into an elite player in just three years as a pro.
“Matt’s become a professional,” Stagnitta said. “He prepares every week; he shows up and plays every second of the game at 100 miles an hour. I think box lacrosse helped him and his game. Overall, he’s becoming one of the most dominating attackmen in this game and he is showing it in this league.”
At the end of the NLL season, jumping to join the PLL was a “pretty simple” decision for Rambo due to its increased exposure and playing against the best players in the world. Even with his strong start to the inaugural year, the attackman wants to focus on making improvements in his skills, including off-hand shooting and making his fists stronger.
With his continued success, Rambo hopes he is seen as one of the league’s best moving forward while becoming the star that younger lacrosse players want to emulate.
“It is a dream come true,” Rambo said. “You want to be the guy that everyone looks at. You want to be the role model guy; we are trying to set something up for the generation after us and make this a huge stage for professional lacrosse.”