Since leaving Wake Forest to join the Bulls in 1998, USF men’s soccer coach John Hackworth has always had a link to his days at Wake, whether a former Demon Deacon player or teammate, within the fold.
Now that the 2001 season has ended, Hackworth loses the final remaining link to his Wake Forest days – senior Matt Cavenaugh.
“I’ll feel pretty fortunate to have spent some time with him,” Hackworth said. “Hopefully he’ll feel the same way about me. But I think I’ll always smile when I remember Matt … it was better having him around than not.”
Cavenaugh spent his freshman year at Wake in 1997 and transferred to USF the next year, the same season Hackworth – a former assistant coach at Wake – assumed head coaching duties at USF.
Cavenaugh said one of the reasons he left Wake was because of its conservativeness, but he said the main reason he came to USF was Hackworth.
“I think he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had, one of the best people I’ve ever known,” Cavenaugh said. “I felt a connection with him from the minute he recruited me up until now. He had to be a pretty good guy to get me away from Duke.”
In his three seasons at USF (he redshirted the 1998 season because of the transfer), Cavenaugh, playing different positions, became a fixture on the field for the Bulls and also grabbed attention with his long hair and goatee.
“He believed that I might be able to provide him with an opportunity to play and to have fun and fulfill his goals. And I’m glad he chose that because it turned out to be a good choice,” Hackworth said.
Cavenaugh was the team’s third-leading scorer in 1999 and 2000, and was named third team All-Conference USA after the 1999 season. This past year, playing mostly in defense and outside midfield, Cavenaugh scored a single goal (the winner at Louisville), giving him 10 for his career.
“He followed me down here, he sat out a year, and he ended up having a great three years,” Hackworth said.
Hackworth was hard-pressed to name a single favorite memory of Cavenaugh, but he remembers fondly an incident at Wake in 1997 after the Demon Deacons’ trainer announced to the team that he was taking a job with the World Wrestling Federation.
“And there was a small pause in his goodbye speech, and you could tell he wasn’t done,” Hackworth said. “All of a sudden, Matt just went up and gave him a big hug, and everyone was like, ‘What is he doing?’ But it was funny because it was so Matt Cavenaugh, just to be like, ‘OK, goodbye, let me give you a hug.’ And he gave him a goodbye hug, and everyone started laughing. And then it ended up that everyone gave the guy a hug. It was pretty funny.”According to Hackworth, that was an example of Cavenaugh’s ever-positive nature.
“Always fun-loving, always positive, always willing to go out on a limb to be himself, which a lot of people have a problem with,” Hackworth said.
This past season, Cavenaugh did something that he had not done in his previous three seasons – he played in the NCAAs. Cavenaugh said if the Bulls did not make it into the NCAAs, he would still look back fondly on his career.
“I played as hard as I could, and I pretty much got everything out of it,” Cavenaugh said. “So I would have been fulfilled if we didn’t make the NCAAs.
“But to tell you the truth, that really just kinda put the icing on the cake for me, even though I feel we exited a little early. We had the potential, I think, to go on another round or two or who knows.”Besides being a team captain in his final season, Cavenaugh also has the distinction of being the scorer of a bicycle kick goal – against Mercer in 2000 in a 3-1 USF win. Both Cavenaugh and Hackworth jokingly referred to the effort as a “tricycle kick,” as Cavenaugh did not connect cleanly.
“The players on this team respect him a lot, as both a player and a person – some for things that they admire about him, and some for things that they never want to ever duplicate,” Hackworth said.
In the near future, Cavenaugh plans to return to his home state and continue his education.
“I’m going to go back up to North Carolina and live around the Raleigh-Durham, Chapel Hill area … I want to get into a graduate program somewhere around the North Carolina area and take it from there,” Cavenaugh said.
If all goes as planned, he will be known as Professor Matt Cavenaugh.
“If I get my way, I would be a professor of communications somewhere when it’s all said and done,” Cavenaugh said. “But I don’t know – that’s a lot of schooling, so we’ll see. I’m just going to take it one degree at a time right now.”