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Waterford's Jacobson forgoes chance at Div. I lacrosse, commits to Coast Guard

Coast Guard Academy men's lacrosse coach Ray LaForte has been impressed with Kyle Jacobson since Jacobson's days playing youth lacrosse in Waterford.

"He may have the best eye-hand coordination that I've seen in 20 years," LaForte was saying this week of Jacobson, a Waterford High School senior. "Like if you put the little Dixie Cups, if you put one of those in the corner of the room 15 feet away, Ryan could throw heavily buttered kernels of popcorn across the room and get 12 in.

"He's very uncanny with the eye-hand, a very smooth touch. He can do some things catch-throw that are really special."

Jacobson, after spending next year at Naval Academy Prep School in Newport, R.I., is set to play for LaForte at Coast Guard, joining LaForte's son Mason, also a Waterford senior who will follow the same trajectory. Former Waterford All-American Caleb Holdridge recently completed his freshman year at the academy.

LaForte was so impressed with Jacobson, he almost didn't get to coach him.

Because it was uncertain as to whether Jacobson would be admitted at the Coast Guard Academy due to its lofty academic standards, LaForte told University of Hartford coach Ryan Martin to look out for Jacobson, too. Jacobson had already committed to Division I Hartford, in fact, when he was offered a Coast Guard prep school spot earlier this spring and accepted.

"He was on the wait list for a while," LaForte said. "I don't know of a kid and family who deserved this shot more than them."

Jacobson, whose father Bret retired as a master chief from the Coast Guard, was also a standout hockey player for the Eastern Connecticut Eagles before sitting out his senior season to make sure he wouldn't injure himself prior to lacrosse season. He played a supporting role for the Lancers boys' basketball team instead.

But Jacobson, a second team Class M all-state selection last year in lacrosse, helping to lead Waterford to the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament title, didn't get a senior lacrosse season due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Jacobson is due to leave for Navy Prep on July 13.

"It should be really fun. It was kind of just within the past three years that I looked into it as an option," Jacobson said. "My dad did it for 30 years, but I never really thought of me doing it. ... Yeah, I mean, I don't think anyone's not nervous (going to a military academy), but I'm also excited. It's a good balance.

"Before I got the notice from the academy, I committed to Hartford for lacrosse, but I gave that up for Coast Guard."

Because Bret Jacobson was an active Coast Guard mechanic, the family moved several times, from Wisconsin to Hawaii and back, then to Sault Ste. Marie on Michigan's Upper Peninsula near the U.S.-Canadian border. Sault Ste. Marie was hockey territory.

Kyle rooted for the hockey teams from the University of Michigan and also from the University of Minnesota, the state Bret is from. Then came a move to Connecticut — Groton and finally Waterford.

Jacobson was a sophomore when the Eastern Connecticut Eagles, a cooperative team made up of players from several local high schools, including Waterford, won the CIAC Division III state championship with a 7-3 victory over Tri-Town. It was the Eagles' first state title in program history.

Jacobson, a 6-foot-1 forward, followed 25 goals and 25 assists as a sophomore with 22 goals and 35 assists for 57 points as a junior.

"I was kind of doing hockey at that point," Jacobson said, "trying to chase the hockey dream. But it's really competitive to get into a good college for hockey. No one goes straight from high school to college hockey; they play a year of juniors. I didn't really want to do that.

"That would be another year of my life I'm not really working. I would rather just get on with my life, serve my country a little bit. I thought 'Hockey's going to be hard. Coast Guard, I enjoy that more.' It was a hard decision."

Jacobson is an offensive midfielder in lacrosse, but stays on the field for defensive sets as well sometimes.

"All the hockey stuff moves over to lacrosse," he said of the similarities between the sports. "I started to like it more."

LaForte, whose team was to be the defending New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference regular-season champion headed into this season, calls the somewhat reserved Jacobson "sneaky funny." LaForte said he develops a good rapport with all his recruits, but tells each one of them to apply to other colleges as a contingency.

"One day (Holdridge) says to me, 'I think I'm interested in Coast Guard,'" LaForte said. "I said, 'Well I want you to visit other colleges.' See what's going on. See what's out there. I told Caleb to commit to (Division I) Manhattan. I told Kyle to commit to Hartford.

"I can't guarantee you anything. I don't control the process (at Coast Guard). You've got to be up front with these guys."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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