Feb. 29, 2000
by Gene Brtalik
Look at the boxscores from any of the past three years and you will rarely see his name. Never has he found the back of the net multiple times during one of his games. He rarely is part of the starting lineup, but he is one of the most important members of the 2000 Notre Dame men's lacrosse team.
Kevin Higgins may not be the one who gets all the press when the Irish take Cartier Field each spring, but he is a vital cog in the success or failure of Notre Dame.
Higgins, a senior midfielder from Wilton, Conn., has been a four-year member of the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team and each year his role has greater meaning to the team. Higgins holds the honor of being the one Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan sends out to take the faceoffs.
The faceoff is a key part to any lacrosse game because depending on the situation, it can either increase or decrease the momentum of the game. It is also not for the weak of heart, because you and your opponent stand head-to-head, stick-to-stick waiting for the referee to blow his whistle and begin the most intense two to three seconds in a player's life. The people involved in the faceoffs must be workhorses, as well as being able to phase out the taunts of their opponent, which try to break one's concentration and lead to an "L" in the faceoff column.
Higgins has fared well in eliminating the jeers from his opponents as he won nearly 60 percent of his faceoffs last year. He looks to continue that success this year with a faceoff percentage that ranks among the top-10 nationally.
His strategy to winning the faceoff takes on different meanings throughout the game.
"The first couple of faceoffs I try to figure out my opponent and will predominately use a more conservative move," said Higgins, "Later on in the game, I may use a strong move to ignite the fast break when we need to score, or stay conservative to keep control of the ball."
In close games, the faceoffs become more and more important and it is at this time in which Higgins reaches for something from within to win the ones that matter most.
Although prominently known for his faceoff ability, Higgins is also respected for his expertise in scooping up groundballs like a vacuum cleaner sucks up grime off the floor. Teams should be on notice that if they should lose the ball, they need to jump on it as quickly as possible, because soon enough Higgins will be on the prowl to pick up what they dropped.
Being the player who takes the faceoffs and picks up the groundballs isn't as glamorous as the player who shoots the ball from behind his head and over his shoulder into the back of the net, but it is a role Higgins is fine with.
"Getting groundballs doesn't translate in the boxscore, but it counts just as much in the final outcome of the game," Higgins says.
Higgins is a 1996 graduate of Wilton High School in Connecticut. While there, his team won three state championships, and in his junior year, the team was undefeated and ranked second in the country. The success of his high school team caused the phone at the Higgins' home to ring off the hook with coaches foaming at the mouth to attract Higgins to their lacrosse programs.
One of these suitors was Corrigan hoping to convince Higgins, the lifetime Notre Dame fan, to travel over 800 miles to play the sport he loved. The decision for Higgins was an easy one.
"Notre Dame was a perennial top-10 team and was constantly in the NCAA tournament, but the most important thing was the academics," stated Higgins, "Right now a player doesn't have much of a future in lacrosse after college, and I knew that a Notre Dame degree was important thing to have when my lacrosse days were done."
Getting that degree was such an important part of Higgins' time here at Notre Dame that he was named to the Academic Honors Program at the end of last year.
"Academics are very important and I had to learn how to budget my time. I would study before and after practice and sometimes on Sunday. It all paid off last year as I made the Dean's List for the first time."
Like most Notre Dame fans, Higgins dreamed of one day strapping on a gold helmet and playing for the Irish. Last spring, that dream became reality when Corrigan unveiled newly produced gold lacrosse helmets that resembled the ones worn by the football team, who coincidentally practice next them.
The Irish are now one game into their season with a triumphant 10-4 win over 13th-ranked Penn State on Sunday. This season marks a year of change for the Irish as they switch from a defensive-minded team to one that will rely on offensive power. The game plan may have changed, but the goals remain the same. The team will once again look to win the Great Western Lacrosse League title and earn the NCAA's Western bid, but Higgins doesn't want to be known as the team that snuck into the tournament.
"We want to earn our way in this year," Higgins states. "We want to be ranked nationally and have teams around the country acknowledge us as a force. We feel that we match up with any team, and that we can beat any team."
In order for these goals to checked off, the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team will have to rely on the unsung hero of the team - #44 Kevin Higgins.