Cavalier Corner

February 2021

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Page 27 of 31

28 CAVALIER CORNER Matt Williams (Col. '08) is a notable example of the kind of student-athlete alumni UVA produces. He grew up in Richmond and devel- oped a passion for the close-to-home Univer- sity encouraged by alumni relatives including a granddad, aunt, and uncle. His family con- sidered UVA to be the gold standard to which you aspire! His granddad received his law degree from UVA and played on the UVA soccer team in the 1950s on a field described as a cow pasture. Matt's uncle is a fraternity brother of Barry Parkhill, who ranks on his "top five best people ever list." According to Matt, "He (Parkhill) is a major reason why I support VAF. I'm eternally grateful for such wonderful role models like Mr. Parkhill." Matt grew up playing sports and was fortu - nate to have David Cox, a UVA men's soccer alumnus, as his high school coach. Cox had an impressive college career and was part of the 1991, 1992, and 1993 men's soccer national championship teams. Matt credits Cox for his opportunity to play at UVA, saying he was instrumental in getting him in front of the coaches to be recruited. "I owe him a big debt of gratitude for getting me on their radar." When the opportunity arose, his decision to play for the Cavaliers was a "no brainer." He isn't sure there would have been another school or athletic program that would have posed a more attractive opportunity. Among his favorite memories as a student- athlete is an ACC Championship title won against impressive ACC competition. He still feels disappointment, though, that he didn't experience winning a national championship. His most memorable games included a victory over rival Wake Forest during his first year, a win against South Florida in highly contested penalty kicks during his second year, and beating Notre Dame at home to make the Final Four during his third year. Matt says his athletic and academic opportunities were un - paralleled and a dream come true. Matt believes UVA soccer's rich and sto- ried tradition speaks for itself. The program's leadership had impressive connectivity and experience. George Gelnovatch played at UVA and professionally before returning to coach at UVA. Richie Williams and Kenny Arena played and now coach professionally, and Matt Chulis played professionally before re-joining the college ranks as a coach. Together they embod - ied what it meant to be a player at UVA and provided great lessons to Matt and his team- mates. "As I look back now having been out of college for almost 13 years, I realize it was such an intense experience emotionally, physically, and mentally which forged a strong bond that can last for a lifetime and spans generations. My personal experience as a player embodied what it means to be a college athlete. It is ro- manticized a lot of times, but it's really not a linear path. Everyone has a learning curve. I got to see every facet of what it meant to be on the team as I progressed — not playing often, coming in as a sub, playing all of the time, and then being a leader as a fourth-year captain. I experienced all the ups and downs of college athletics." Upon graduat - ing, Matt main- tained his close connection with the University, including be- coming a VAF donor. After spending a few years in Denver, Colo., he moved to Charlotte, N.C., to be closer to family and pursue a career with CCA Financial, an equipment finance company based in Richmond. The owners have deep ties to UVA and Matt's dad, another long-time supporter of the VAF, has worked for them for 40 years. Matt has a unique opportunity to work closely with his dad even though his work is remote. In Char - lotte, Matt has become close friends with fellow alumni he overlapped with at UVA but didn't know. He is grateful for the network of people who share a lifetime connection. Matt and his wife Christianna met in Char- lotte in 2011 and have a two-year-old son, Henry. They are expecting another child in April and look forward to bringing both children to Charlottesville to walk around Grounds and attend soccer games. Matt jokes, "I felt good about my own abilities until the last five to seven years. My wife was a gymnast at Georgia and won two national championships, my dad was inducted into his high school hall of fame recently, and my brother-in-law played lacrosse at Penn State and in the World Lacrosse games in 2012. I am surrounded by impressive former athletes and made the obvious fall from the king of the house when our son was born." As Matt reflected on the challenges of 2020, he was motivated to increase his support of the VAF through a generous Coaches 10 gift in honor of his 2008 soccer class to support the program that means so much to him. "It dawned on me how special that bond is when you watch what so many people are go - ing through and how many lives have been impacted. The coronavirus and the political and social climates really helped clarify for me how important and meaningful relationships are, and the University and soccer are still important in my life. "Realizing the impact on athletics' 2020-21 budget and the potential shortfall struck a chord with me, and Heather Troudt men - tioned that a gift to Coaches 10 would have an outsized impact. I really want all current and future student-athletes to be afforded the same opportunities that we had and continue to have as former men's soccer players." Matt appreciates Heather and Coach Gelno - vatch for organizing multiple alumni Zoom calls and for helping the men's soccer alumni realize how meaningful the soccer fraternity is. "I felt like the Coaches 10 gift allows them to focus on the things the coaches need to do and want to do to keep the program where it is," he says of his motivation for making his gift. Matt developed lifelong friendships playing his team sport and he stressed, "You don't win or lose because of one guy. A class gift made sense because it is a team sport and that was the class I was part of." In addition to providing financial support, Matt recognizes there are other ways to support the program through time, energy, emotion, and staying connected. He looks for - ward to future Zoom calls bringing generations of coaches, players, and alumni together. — Jessica Armistead CONTINUED SUCCESS: MATT WILLIAMS Williams — pic tured with his two-year-old son, Henry, and wife, Christianna — was a team captain for the men's soccer team as a fourth-year.

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