March 14, 2011

Higgins, Trinity Find Important First Win

by Jac Coyne | | Twitter

Sophomore Jeff Hebert had three goals -- including two during the Bantams' decisive second-half run -- along with an assist to lift Trinity to the convincing, 14-9 victory over No. 10 Connecticut College on Saturday.

© Jonathan Lester Photo

If there was one game of opening weekend in NESCAC men's lacrosse that was considered a slam dunk, it was No. 10 Connecticut College beating Trinity. Not only were the Camels coming off a magical season that included a trip to the NCAA tournament's second round, but they were playing at home.

Conventional wisdom said that alone would probably be enough against most teams. That Trinity was coming off a 2-7 season in the conference, failed to qualify for the NESCAC tournament last year, and was breaking in Mike Higgins, who had never been a collegiate head coach before, was almost inconsequential. This game was over before it started.

Bantams 1, Conventional Wisdom 0.

Using a balanced attack that featured eight different players with at least a goal, a decent defense, and a steady goalie, Trinity pulled the biggest upset of the weekend with a 14-9 victory.

It was a satisfying win for Higgins. But more importantly, it gave a once-moribund program a reason for optimism.

"With a new coach and a new staff in place, it was real important to get off to a good start," Higgins said. "We had two very good days of practice leading up to the game. Confidence was high and the energy was high, and that carried us forward. Did we play a perfect game? Absolutely not. [Connecticut College] is a very good opponent and we knew we were in for a battle, and that's what we got. We were able to make a few more plays than they were and things bounced our way."

The game featured series of runs, including one by the Camels that trimmed the Bantams' lead to one with 9:25 left in the third quarter. Connecticut College scored consecutive extra-man goals to make it 8-7, and Trinity was on the cusp of crumbling in the face of a top-10 team's onslaught.

The Bantams' response was decisive.

Over a 12-minute span bridging the third and fourth quarters, Trinity netted five unanswered goals to seize a 13-7 lead, knock the Camels out of their defensive zone and effectively end the game.

"What I try to do is keep them in the flow of the game," Higgins said. "Rarely do you play a perfect 60 minutes. You know at some point in the game, things will go your way, but the tide turns quickly in lacrosse. We just try to focus on limiting those minutes that are going in our opponent's favor. We talk about fighting back and fighting back."

Trinity's multiple options on offense included Rob Nogueras and Jeff Hebert, who each had a hat trick. The offensive production was an answer to a question the Trinity coaching staff was pondering in the preseason.

"I didn't know what to think," Higgins said. "Things will change, but right now we don't have that one guy we need to get the ball to every time down the field. It's offense by committee, you could say."

Higgins will take it. Although there are even more challenging games on the horizon, Trinity is 1-0.

"A couple of parents said to me after the game, 'Hey, great win!' I told them there hasn't been a bad win yet," said Higgins. "We'll take every one of them when we can get them."

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