Author’s Note: Jensen Beach HC Brent Mahieu will also be providing his thoughts and remembrances separately, along with information from Rob’s family about a Foundation being set up in Rob’s memory. Brent and I have talked and we decided that accuracy is more important than time in this case so look for that column in the near future.
My first practice at Syracuse as an incoming freshman was in the Fall of 1996. I walked into the facility known as the Carrier Dome and was blown away by the sheer size of where I would be playing college ball. After staring at the enormous white dome that covered the entire top for quite some time, I then turned my head to the field and saw two players having a catch. #22 and #15 were out on the field early, talking, and throwing the ball. They both were doing things I’d never seen done before with their lacrosse sticks…. Behind the back, through the legs, around their hips… #15 actually caught a pass from #22 behind his head with little effort. I turned to a fellow freshman and asked, “who are those two guys?”.
(Note: Matt actually made the pass to Rob, the announcer had the wrong person)
“That’s Rob Kavovit and Casey Powell; where have you been?” he replied.
At that moment I was thinking of calling home and asking my parents to pick me up because Syracuse must have made a mistake about recruiting me. I couldn’t come close to doing anything like I saw these two legends doing. I came to realize a little later as practice started, that those two were an absolute anomaly to the sport of lacrosse. Rob Kavovit was actually so smooth with his stick, scouting reports didn’t have a dominant hand listed next to #15…. He was dominant with both.
I got to know Rob as the season went on and realized he was not like the other guys on the team. He was quiet, calm, almost relaxed. His leadership was done on the field with his passing and scoring and he never looked for acknowledgement. He was the quarterback of the offense and his talent was hard to ignore. He would be the first person to have a catch with you but tell you like it is while you were doing that. He was a great Captain and even better person. We lost in the national semifinals that year to Maryland by one goal. That Senior class, along with Rob’s career, came to a close. He was a three time All-American attackman and a national champion in his Syracuse Lacrosse tenure…..that was 1996-1997 and little did I know I would see him again…. later in life.
Ironically, 15 years later, I am the head coach at Jensen Beach High School, in the Stuart area, on the Treasure Coast of Florida. We started the program at JBHS just three years earlier and had some momentum as a lacrosse team. I was always looking for guys to coach that knew the game. While coaching my oldest son’s team at the Martin County Rec League one evening, a parent came up to me. “Did you meet the other guy from Syracuse that’s down here? Some guy named Rob Kefvit”, the parent said, mispronouncing Rob’s last name.
How does this guy move to Stuart without me knowing? At that moment I abandoned 15 eight-year-old novice lacrosse players on the field while I frantically texted my old Syracuse teammates for Rob’s number. I finally got it and then proceeded to stop the sword fighting that was going on now behind me between the young rec team members.
I call Rob that night and we caught up….all the while asking myself when the right time was to ask him to help coach. I finally spewed out the question and it was met with some hesitation.
“Matt, my family is first and foremost, and I have to make sure I can do this and want to do it.” Rob said.
Rob and his wife discussed and thankfully Marion let him come try it out. He wasn’t sold on getting into it. The first day he came out I introduced him to the team with great excitement and told them who he was and all the accolades he had back when he was my Captain at Syracuse. Rob would never say anything about how good a lacrosse player he was so I had to do it for him. As I saw Rob talking to the players those first few days and having catches with them, I knew he was in.
“Matt, I’m in.” he said a day later, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
From there on I had the best coaching staff I had ever seen: Joe Couzzo as the Defensive Coordinator (8 NY State Lacrosse Titles as a Coach Ward Melville); Brent Mahieu doing the box (current Jensen Beach Head Coach); John Sullivan as the Goalie Coach (30 years Goalie coaching on Long Island); Tim Teehan as the muscle; Andy Oleski as the motivational speaker (Top Massachusetts High School Head Coach Lincoln-Sudbury); and of course, Rob Kavovit as the Offensive Coordinator (3 time Syracuse Lacrosse All-American). We climbed up the rankings in those three years to a top ten in the state team. Rob was a big part of that and the players bought into him. In 2014 we won our district for the first time in school history and lost 6-2 to a great Benjamin team (state runner-up) that year in Regionals.
Getting together after the games, Rob would put his thoughts in about each game, ask and give advice. His lacrosse mind was at a high level but the best part about it was talking to him about life, the Syracuse days, our jobs and our families. I will always remember those times most of all when I think about Rob. A great lacrosse player and coach, but an even better husband, father, brother, teammate and friend.
RIP #15… you will be missed!!!
Syracuse Lacrosse (1997-2001)
Defensive Coordinator Jupiter High School (Present)
Head Coach Jensen Beach High School (2010-2015)
Defensive Coordinator Florida Launch (MLL) (2015,2016)
Athletic Director & Head Lacrosse Coach The Pine School (2016-2020)