Favorite athlete: Saquon Barkley (Previously PSU football but now New York Giants)
Favorite team: Any Penn State team, although specifically football – there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere in Beaver Stadium.
Favorite memory competing in sports: Making playoffs for the first time last year. Everyone on the team was so excited to make history, and there was such a high level of energy and intensity that made it so enjoyable and unforgettable.
Funniest/most embarrassing thing that has happened while competing in sports: During warm-ups, we were doing our job around the field, and I was running next to my friend who somehow didn’t see everyone in front of him go around a hurdle, and he ran right smack into it.
Music on mobile device: This is probably going to seem strange, but I listen to a lot of Spanish music. My top artists would be Ozuna, J Balvin and Maluma.
Future plans: Next year I will be attending the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University to study International Politics and minoring in Spanish
Words to live by: “Never be satisfied.”
One goal before turning 30: I would like to have been a campaign manager for a public election.
One thing people don’t know about me: I love to go boating and sailing – I fine it to be both fun and serene.
By Ed Morrone
With the onset of years, many people look back on their high school days and lament the fact they didn’t get the most out of the experience.
Matt Lista will not be one of those regretful folks.
The Souderton senior lacrosse player is restless in his ambition, both on and off the field. On the field, he is a team captain, has earned four varsity letters and will be nominated and in contention to earn all-SOL honors. As someone who plays the position of long stick middie, Lista has worked tirelessly at his craft to become one of the team’s most important defensive players, drawing difficult assignments in every game the team plays. A year removed from Souderton qualifying for district playoffs for the first time, Lista has helped lead the Indians to a 12-6 overall record in 2018, including a 6-2 mark in the SOL American Conference, which leaves the team tied for second in league play. Souderton will participate in the district postseason for the second straight year, and Lista hopes he can cross ‘first ever postseason win’ off his checklist before he graduates.
This fall, Lista will be bound for Penn State University to major in international politics with a minor in Spanish. He is set to matriculate into the university’s Schreyer Honors College, and has his eventual sights set on law school and a career in politics, where he hopes to make a difference and be able to help those who need it most.
His extracurricular activities read like a grocery list for a family of five. Lista is involved in Souderton’s student government, is the secretary for the Young Politics Club, participates in Inter-Club Council, the Law Club, serves as president of the Mock Trial Club, is on the principal’s student advisory board and is a member of the National Honor Society. He holds down a ridiculous 4.584 GPA, is a valedictorian applicant and will graduate in the top five percent of his class.
In addition to his duties as a lacrosse team captain, Lista is a Souderton Lacrosse camp counselor and youth lacrosse coach, as well as a volunteer for the Darren Daulton Foundation and Brothers Helping Brothers charitable organization.
On one hand, Lista feeds an insatiable ambition while on the other he tries to overachieve to prove to himself that he cannot just perform all of these tasks, but do so in a manner that emanates pure excellence. It’s amazing he ever finds time to breathe or sleep, but for Lista, this is just a fixture of his personality. He’s always on the go, and that’s just the way he likes it to be.
“I’m the youngest of my relatives, and I’ve seen my older siblings and cousins go through the college application process and how much it stressed them out,” Lista said. “I wanted to get into my top schools, so once I got to high school I just made a decision to work really hard to get good grades so that I wouldn’t be so stressed out. Other than the Ivy League schools, I wanted to make sure I got into anywhere I wanted to apply.
“As the youngest one, I think I just had a desire to grab the attention of the adults and make myself stand out from the other members of my family. Other people in my family, they all played lacrosse and were captains too, so the academics are what help me distinguish myself.”
Lista has been playing lacrosse since the first grade. He tried every sport possible and figured out that he didn’t enjoy baseball as a spring sport, so he gravitated toward lacrosse. He was drawn to the sport’s constant gameplay and the fluidity of the movement.
Lista played mostly on the jayvee team as a freshman, but head coach Mark Princehorn recalled a story from that season when he carried Lista to a varsity scrimmage. The team played well enough for Princehorn to throw Lista onto the field later in the game, and the Indians’ coach was delighted at how effortlessly the freshman seemed to fit in. After the game, Princehorn approached Lista as he was loading his gear onto the team bus, and what followed was his favorite coaching memory in Lista’s time with the program.
“I went up to him and told him, ‘Hey bud, good job,’” Princehorn recalled. “Matt just turned to me stone-faced - no ‘thank you,’ no ‘I appreciate that, Coach.’ He looked me right in the eye and asked me what he could do to get better.
“I could tell right then and there that I had a kid who was going to be an impact player for years to come. He wasn’t trying to impress his coach or be clichéd, he just immediately asked me, ‘What can I do?’ That tells you a lot about the kid, and he’s gone on to become a tremendous player and one of the best captains and leaders we’ve ever had.”
It was no surprise to hear Princehorn use the word ‘cerebral’ when asked to describe Lista’s strengths on the lacrosse field. A student of the game in addition to a student of academia, Lista absorbs knowledge and understands concepts and is able to translate that into making both himself and his teammates better.
Lista wasn’t necessarily an impact player for Souderton right away. After being thrust into a varsity starting role as a sophomore, there were some growing pains.
“At first, it was trial by error, and Matt had a bit of a rough sophomore season,” Princehorn said. “But the potential and talent was there. He just needed the experience, and as he got it, he got better and better each day. As a junior and now as a senior, he turned his difficult struggles into game experience, and he’s shown the younger kids what can happen when that takes over.”
Lista admitted his lacrosse IQ wasn’t where it is now in those early stages, but as time went on, he developed an aggressiveness and toughness from going toe-to-toe in practice with some of Souderton’s most talented offensive upperclassmen.
“I’m not the most rah-rah captain; I more try to lead by example,” Lista said. “I won’t tell another player to do something if I’m not executing that same thing myself. I try to model myself by doing the right things, help guys understand they need to communicate and be loud and clear out there, kind of demonstrate to them how they can become the best player they can be.
“I try to go out there and be physical, but I play smart too; I don’t go out there and try to beat people up, because I’m not the biggest or strongest person. I try to use my mind — deciphering what the opponent’s next step will be so I can strip the ball and predict takeaway opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
It’s no surprise that Lista’s increased role on the team coincided with Souderton lacrosse making history his junior year. He said his own favorite sports memory was being a part of the program’s first-ever postseason berth a year ago.
“The most critical aspect of us succeeding as a unit was prioritizing camaraderie over infighting,” Lista said. “We worked on correcting things when they went wrong and not caring who was at fault; we just worked on fixing the mistakes. If you have negative thoughts about your teammates, you’re not going to play well together. Getting along was a critical factor for us.
“When we made the playoffs, there was just a level of euphoria we all experienced in making history together. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and now the new goal this year is to make it past round one. I honestly don’t want my high school lacrosse career to end since I won’t be playing in college beyond maybe club lax, so it would honestly mean so much to me. I’ve been playing with some of these guys for 12 years, so to win in the playoffs as a senior is what I want most in life right now.”
Win or lose, it’s clear Lista has much to look forward to at Penn State and beyond. He always knew he wanted the full experience of attending a large university, but at the same time, he will be in a smaller class environment in the Schreyer Honors College.
An experience that helped dictate his academic direction was last summer when he was part of the Georgetown University Law Institute internship, a weeklong seminar in Washington, D.C., that offered a full 12-hour class schedule and an intense exposure to the legal system in America.
“Everyone in the program had the same high-strung, competitive mindset to be the best like I do,” Lista said. “Law professors and guest speakers came in and talked about everything from trade and defense law to forensics. I enjoyed my time in D.C. It’s a nice city with a lot to do, and I could see myself being back down there one day.”
An important part of Lista’s high school experience was his involvement in the Mock Trial Club.
“Every year the PA Bar Association releases an 80-page case file, and you have two months to develop a legal case before going to the local courthouse for a playoff-style tournament where you compete against other high schools to get to states and nationals,” Lista said. “A lot of my family was always involved in politics talk at the dinner table growing up, so I just developed a passion for it. I like to argue, so between politics or being a lawyer, I’d like to have a career that allows me to do that. I figured, ‘All right, I may as well pursue something I enjoy and get paid to do it.’ I want to make people’s lives better, and I can do that in those fields.”
Princehorn said he has no doubt that Lista will succeed in whatever he decides to do, mainly because the coach knows that his player will put 100 percent of himself into everything he does, much like his effort on the lacrosse field. The Indians’ coach called Lista’s time management skills ‘second to none,’ and said his work ethic and effort were equally impressive.
“A kid like Matt, he pours so much into everything he does,” Princehorn said. “He’s so driven and ambitious, and doesn’t accept failure; he’s just wired that way.
“He’s beyond his years maturity-wise, and I just want him to look back on his time in high school and enjoy it, to stop and smell the roses. Work hard, but also not take things too seriously and treat everything like a job. I want him to be able to find enjoyment, fulfillment and happiness, because he’s doing this as a lacrosse player for the last time. Like any coach, I hope he gets what he deserves, and just enjoys the moment while he still can.”
Lista plans to adopt the ‘work hard, play hard,’ attitude upon entering college, but not before he gives the lacrosse postseason his best shot in his last go-round.
It has been a whirlwind experience for the Indians’ senior captain, who hasn’t pushed himself past the point of enjoyment.
“I’ll miss almost how tiny our school is,” he said. “Penn State is such a huge school, and in high school it’s nice going from class to class seeing a lot of people I know in the hallway; there’s so many people at Penn State that I might not pass a single person I know, so I’ll miss that sense of closeness Souderton brought to me.
“I’ll miss the bonding experience of lacrosse the most, because I’ve been playing with these people for the last 10 to 12 years. I started playing with a lot of them in first grade, so it will be weird next spring not being with them anymore. I’ll miss the bond we all formed during conditioning week, when we were together complaining how hot it was to the point of (throwing up). School spirit has grown exponentially in the time I’ve been here to the point where everyone supports each other. I’m excited for Penn State, but it will never be the same as all the fun and energy that Souderton brought to my life.”