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Men’s Lacrosse

Sergio Perkovic attempts to lead Irish to program’s first national title

| Friday, May 19, 2017

One hundred ten goals.

Only eight players in the history of Notre Dame lacrosse have hit the century mark in goals scored over the course of their Irish careers. And only one of those players has ever done it from the midfield position.

Irish senior midfielder Sergio Perkovic looks for the ball during Notre Dame’s 11-10 loss to Syracuse on April 1 at Arlotta Stadium. Kathleen Donahue | The Observer

Irish senior midfielder Sergio Perkovic looks for the ball during Notre Dame’s 11-10 loss to Syracuse on April 1 at Arlotta Stadium.

Sergio Perkovic has accomplished plenty in his career: His scoring tally is tops at his position in program history; he’s twice earned a spot on the all-tournament team for the NCAAs and thrice been selected as an All-ACC honoree. And he’s even been named to the All-ACC academic team in each of the previous three seasons.

In short, the senior midfielder has taken advantage of all the opportunities being a four-year starter at Notre Dame has offered him.

Then again, he always knew that would be the case; in fact, that’s exactly the reason Perkovic choose Notre Dame in the first place.

“Once I got recruited by Notre Dame and looked at it — I mean, I knew it was an awesome school and a lot of people from my area in Michigan had gone, the combination of academics and athletics and how they were a very solid lacrosse team at the time and, obviously, a very good school academically and it wasn’t too far from home — I guess all of that combined, I knew Notre Dame would offer me just a ton of opportunities and would be an amazing school,” Perkovic said. “So I always kind of liked Notre Dame and when I knew I had a chance to come here to play lacrosse, I knew I kind of wanted to take that right away.”

But that doesn’t mean Notre Dame lacrosse was the only opportunity he had; not only was Perkovic a two-time high school All-American in lacrosse at Brother Rice in Michigan, he was also an All-State football player as well. With his two-sport success came a choice: He could play lacrosse at Notre Dame or play football at one of the several Big Ten schools — including Northwestern, Michigan State and Iowa — that had offered him.

“At the end, I decided I liked lacrosse a little more and I really liked Notre Dame more than the other schools that recruited me for football, even though they were good schools,” Perkovic said. “ … In the back of my mind, I always wanted to come to Notre Dame, and I kind of wanted to play lacrosse more than football.”

And soon after stepping on campus, Perkovic got to work. Early on, he said wasn’t sure what exactly his role would be and how competitive he would be given he was coming from a state in which the game was still in its growing stages. But as soon as he stepped on the field for that first practice, he realized he could make an immediate impact and set out to do just that.

“The first practice we had, I was obviously super excited … once I was scrimmaging with the guys and saw I could do a lot, even though I was a freshman on the field, and do some things that other guys couldn’t, I really wanted to contribute and knew that I could,” Perkovic said.

His contributions were perhaps even greater than he expected; Perkovic scored 28 goals in his first season, the most ever scored by a freshman midfielder in program history. Five of those goals came on the game’s biggest stage: the national championship. Although that Irish team lost to Duke, 11-9, his performance signaled his coming-out party to the rest of the nation.

“The Final Four is obviously the biggest stage in the sport of lacrosse, so when I was able to do what I did against Duke, I guess you could call it a breakthrough performance,” Perkovic said. “It gave me a little notoriety in the sport of lacrosse and kind of showed people that [I] was a pretty good player.”

Over the next two seasons, Perkovic would continue to play a prominent role in a program reaching its greatest heights; he scored a team-high 34 goals his sophomore season — another program record at the midfield position — and added another 26 his junior season, a mark good for third on the team. Alongside some of the other most decorated players to don the blue and gold in program history, Perkovic has helped to take Notre Dame lacrosse to a level it had previously never reached, he said.

“It was awesome playing with guys like [Matt Kavanagh] and Matt Landis who were so accomplished and were getting so much notoriety because Notre Dame was a big lacrosse school before this, but Matt Kavanagh and Matt Landis and guys like that took this program and took the name of Notre Dame lacrosse to a different level and people kind of respected us more,” Perkovic said. “We just became a lacrosse team to emulate, and a lot of kids looked up to us, so it was cool just being around for those guys and seeing how they performed each and every single game day, and it made me want to follow in their footsteps.”

And serving as a senior captain this season, he has done just that; learning from their example, he has both led by the example he always has set and also taken more responsibility in helping to bring the younger players in the program along this season.

“Just the way guys like Matt Kavanagh would talk to players about certain little things on and off the field and the confidence he would instill in people was one thing I tried to take with me … because that’s how you play the best [as a team],” Perkovic said. “Matt Kavanagh did a good job of that, and I’ve tried to do the same thing.

“ … I’ve tried not to change too much just because I’m a captain and everything like that. But also in the back of my mind, I do understand that the younger kids are really looking up to guys like me and other senior leaders on the team. You just kind of have to be wary of that and know that you can have like a big impact on those younger guys — how you influence them, what you say to them and things like that.”

Although his accomplished career at Notre Dame nears its close, Perkovic still plans to play lacrosse after graduation. The Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, native was invited to try out for the U.S. national team in July ahead of the next summer’s international tournament. And while that is going on, he will also be working in New York for Credit Suisse. All in all, Perkovic said he is thankful for both the opportunities he has received, and he owes much of to the opportunities opened to him by Notre Dame.

“It’s pretty crazy that four years goes by fast and I’m almost done here,” Perkovic said. “I really have just looked back and I’m extremely thankful for all the opportunities that this University has given me, both in the classroom and athletically. I really feel like I couldn’t have the same experience at any other school, so I’m really happy I chose Notre Dame.”

And although he’s already started to reflect on his time at the University, Perkovic also realizes his work isn’t done quite yet. After a 15-9 win over Marquette last weekend in the first round, the Irish will play its quarterfinals match of the NCAA tournament against Denver on Saturday at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead, New York. The senior understands his team has to take the tournament one game at a time, but he also recognizes the Irish are only three more wins away from closing out his career with the last accolade that has eluded him thus far: a national championship.

“I’m really excited for this team and for the tournament,” Perkovic said. “I honestly don’t think there are any limits to what we can do. … We just take it one game at a time. Really, just all you have to do is win four games and you win a national championship, so we understand that, but we [also] understand it’s just one game at a time.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

As The Observer's Editor-in-Chief, Ben is a senior in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) who is pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics as well. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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