May 7, 2014
By Rich Hidy ('16)
Instead of the freshman 15, Sergio Perkovic has added the freshman 19 to the Notre Dame men's lacrosse team's goal total this season.
Perkovic, a midfielder who stands at 6'4 and weighs 220 pounds, is a mountain of a man who came to Notre Dame as the No. 58 prospect overall in the class of 2013 according to Inside Lacrosse.
Before the season, head coach Kevin Corrigan credited Perkovic's ability as a player when he said, "Sergio probably is the most physically ready to play [in the freshman class]. He's a big, strong and really athletic player who has skills."
It's not just his physical traits that have earned him the right to advance in his lacrosse career, but Perkovic, who has been on Notre Dame's first midfield line all season, said they play a crucial role in allowing him to have a distinct advantage over the opposition.
"[Physical attributes] help a lot, especially as a midfielder, where they're playing between the lines and running up and down the field," he says. "My physical attributes have definitely helped me adapt and play at the college level."
Perkovic has been a major contributor within the Irish offense all season long. He has registered six multiple-goal games, including a season-best four goals versus Robert Morris and a two-goal effort in the win over Syracuse in the title game of the ACC tournament. His 19 goals are the fourth-most on the team.
It took Perkovic some time to adjust to the college game as a young player, but like any top talent, he has grown throughout the course of the year and has been able to put up some big numbers.
"I've gotten more comfortable in the offense," Perkovic says. "Towards the beginning, I was worried about making mistakes. Now that I know the offense really well I can be more aggressive and look for my shots more. As the season has gone on, I've progressed and become more aggressive in the offense."
Perkovic credits the fall ball season as the key time period where he fully integrated his game into a Notre Dame scheme that has seen its young players pay huge dividends, such as with last season's honorable mention All-America citation for then freshman Matt Kavanagh. Perkovic earned the early respect of his teammates, who helped him pick up the intricacies of NCAA lacrosse.
"In the fall, it took a little time to adapt to the speed of the game. It's much faster in college. It's a lot more fun playing at that faster pace," Perkovic says. "Right when we started playing I adapted really quickly and just learned from the older guys like Jim Marlatt. They helped bring me to the point I'm at today and taught me the offense. The fall gave me a chance to learn it and adapt."
Perkovic has really made his presence felt on Notre Dame's man-up offense, which ranks second nationally with a .564 conversion percentage. Perkovic, the team leader with nine man-up goals, has been invaluable at making sure the Irish cash in on their advantages.
"It's always a good opportunity when you get a man-up," he says. "You should score most of the time and we have a really good man-up percentage. I take a lot of pride in doing well in man-ups and converting them when I get the chance."
Perkovic hails from Michigan lacrosse powerhouse Brother Rice High School, which is located near Detroit in Bloomfield Hills. He quickly built his résumé and emerged from the pack as a two-time player of the year in Michigan and four-time state champion. Michigan is a budding lacrosse region, but it does not have the quantity of marquee programs like the East Coast is littered with.
"Michigan really isn't that big for lacrosse, but Brother Rice is a big time lacrosse school," he says. "I had a good coach there in Coach [Rob] Ambrose who had coached there for a while and taught me the game, and I just developed from there. I was a part of good programs, and that gave me a chance to play in college."
Perkovic was captain of both the lacrosse and football teams during his senior season at Brother Rice and was considered the top lacrosse player in the Midwest for his class. Perkovic has been able to translate his success to the college game because of his maximum-effort playing style that stretches opposing teams.
"At Brother Rice we played some good competition, but not as good competition as some of the East Coast schools played," Perkovic says. "I'm pretty much playing with the same aggressiveness I had at Brother Rice and carried over my athleticism, aggressiveness and playing fast and then learning quick."
The rookie midfielder from Michigan has played a large role in the season-best three-game win streak the Fighting Irish will take into Saturday's NCAA tournament first-round showdown with Harvard. With Perkovic's cool confidence influencing the team, the Irish have their sites set on a deep run in May.
"I never knew I'd be playing this much, but I had some goals to be playing," Perkovic says. "I didn't know where it would go, so I've been doing better than I expected. My goals for the future are to continue to get better and to win games."