Maybe it's just a coincidence that it just so happened to come at the first tournament after the new recruiting rules went into effect, but Kevin Sweeney recognized that his time to be recruited had come pretty quickly when the calendar flipped to November.
Playing against strong competition the Elite Lacrosse Invitational with Team 91's 2020 Crush team and his usual faceoff running mate, Koby Ginder (Brunswick, Conn./Princeton) out with an injury, Sweeney knew that he had a chance to put himself on the map.
"I realized that I could make a name for myself, and I thought I played pretty well," said Sweeney, a junior at Mount Sinai. "When it came to recruiting, Coach (Joe) Spallina always said that our time would come and that the right school would be there."
Sweeney's game continued its upward trajectory throughout the fall and in the early going for Mount Sinai, where he's helped the Mustangs to an unbeaten start. It also made schools take notice of a self-appointed late bloomer, and as he sized up the interest, he knew that he had an opportunity to fulfill a big-time goal of his.
"It was always a dream of mine to play Ivy League lacrosse," Sweeney said. "I went to a lot of prospect days at high-academic schools and looked at different schools, and in the end, I found the perfect spot."
Sweeney made his dream a reality by committing to Brown, becoming the 18th Crush player to commit, all to Division I schools. He's set to join 2019 Orange and Ward Melville defenseman Pat O'Neill as a Bear.
"For me, it was about the great mix of academics and lacrosse," Sweeney said. "Obviously, it's great lacrosse, and you really can't get a better academic school. I loved the coaches, and when I went on the visit, I really loved the players there."
Sweeney is a fast-rising faceoff man whose best days are still ahead of him. He prides himself on his ability to make plays happen with the ball in his stick and not being limited to facing off and getting off the field, a treasured commodity with the new shot clock rules in effect. It took him a little longer to find his collegiate home than it did some of his teammates, but that's not important. What is important is that he showed patience and an understanding that hard work would get him to where he wanted to be.
"It can be tough and confusing when you want to be committed and know where your future lacrosse is going to be played, but Coach Spallina was great about encouraging us to take it slow and make sure that we made the right choice," Sweeney said.
Sweeney is battle-tested, too. Last spring, he found himself getting less and less reps for the Mustangs, and he took that in stride and decided that it wasn't enough to keep him from working toward his goals. He put in extra time with his high school and 91 coaches, as well as Fogo Lax's Tom Kelly, where he trains with Ginder. The bond and training between him and Ginder helped prepare him for the grind, one that paid off with his commitment.
"It was hard to not get a lot of reps last spring, but it was just an obstacle in the road and I had to overcome it," Sweeney said. "It definitely helps playing with Koby. We go to the same trainer and we're pretty close, and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses, or when one of us works best against a different faceoff guy. His brother (91 '18 Extreme alum and Duke freshman) Jordan, also does a great job of helping us at tournaments."
For Spallina, it's particularly rewarding to see Sweeney's ascent culminate into a spot on an Ivy League roster, especially with how hard he worked to get himself into a position to choose an elite academic institution.
"I'm so happy for Kevin. His story is such a great one since he's a kid that has worked and worked to perfect his game and is now on the fast track to becoming elite," Spallina said. "I'm fortunate to watch him play on the club and high school levels, and he's absolutely crushing it. Besides being a stud faceoff athlete, he's also a great role model and leader, and he'll do great things at Brown."