By Shay Johnston

Assistant Coach of the women’s lacrosse team, Marissa Higgins, has been named the 2016 NCAA Division II Assistant Coach of the Year by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA). Higgins graduated from Florida Southern in 2011. She is a full-time physical therapist in Tampa who uses her one day off per week, Mondays, to drive over an hour to Florida Southern.

Higgins is an unpaid volunteer who dedicates all of her vacation and personal time to the goalies. She has been dedicating her time since last fall.

Higgins has said that her favorite thing about coaching is the interaction with the players. She believes that it is amazing to see their progress throughout the season, and that it is exciting to see them achieve their goals.

Fortunately for Higgins, the players seem to feel the same way about her.

“I think they wish that she was around more,” head coach Kara Reber said. “I wish she was around more. She’s got a great personality, and she’s just really fun. Everybody loves having her.”

With the help of Higgins, the Women’s Lacrosse Team was able to compete in the 2015 Division II National Championship. Backup keeper Paige Brodbeck finished the year with an individual record of 6-1.

Senior Taylor Gillis is one of the team’s goalies. Higgins was able to help Gillis succeed last season, and she was finished the year ranked eighth nationally in goals-against average. Gillis was among the top 75 in the country in three other categories, as well.

“Honestly, last year I completely changed the way I play in the goal. I didn’t think it was going to work,” Gillis said. “But she saw something in me that I couldn’t even see. She is probably one of the nicest people you will ever meet.”

It’s clear that Higgins is extraordinarily deserving of her award. She spends endless hours befriending and helping not only the goalies, but every member of the team. They were the first to congratulate her.

“Honestly, I was in shock. I was so confused. All of the girls on the team started handing me balloons that said congratulations and I just kept saying thank you,” Higgins said. “But I had no idea why they were congratulating me. There are so many incredible coaches and I was just in shock because I didn’t even know I was in the running. I am so lucky and incredibly grateful for the nomination.”

The team continues to push forward, and are hopeful for the results of this season. With Marissa Higgins by their side, they likely don’t have much to worry about.

“I can’t think of a better coach to receive such an honor,” Gillis said. “She is one of the best goalie coaches I have ever had in my lacrosse career.”

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