Editor’s Note: The United States Coast Guard Academy, located in New London, CT, will be transitioning from MCLA D2 to NCAA D3 in 2015. The USCGA lacrosse program has a long history of success, but this current group is taking things to the next level, both on the field and off of it. Commander Sean Cross has been helping the team with promotion over the last couple of MCLA seasons, and he has provided us with a great look into the program’s pending transition to the D3 level.
The USCGA is the smallest US service academy, and we’re thrilled to have them playing D3 lacrosse next year!
A New Challenge
Typically, when a school transitions a club sport into a varsity program, there are significant struggles. However, thanks to the hard work of players, coaches, and administrators during the Coast Guard Academy Men’s Lacrosse program’s final club season, Head Coach Gary Weller believes the transition will be smooth.
On May 13, 2013, the news was announced that both men’s and women’s lacrosse would be added as varsity sports at the United States Coast Guard Academy.
“This is a very significant stride for the Coast Guard Academy athletics program,” said Director of Athletics Tim Fitzpatrick. “It’s a great thing to be able to accommodate the interests and talents of so many cadets by bringing two very strong club programs to the varsity level. The popularity and growth of lacrosse both regionally and nationally in the recent past is very well documented. We look forward to the addition of the two lacrosse programs helping us attract more of our nation’s best and brightest student-athletes to the academy.”
Leadership Plan in Place for the Future
The search for a new leader of the varsity men’s lacrosse program was a fairly easy one. In July of 2012, Head Coach Brian Krautler, an active duty Lieutenant Commander, received unexpected orders to command the Coast Guard cutter Hickory in Homer, Alaska. Without hesitation, Associate Head Coach Gary Weller stepped up and volunteered to take the reins of the program.
Following his promotion, Coach Weller led the team to a historic season, advancing to the MCLA National Collegiate Lacrosse Championship for the first time in the program’s 30 year history. The Bears won their opening round game against Sam Houston State before losing in the Elite 8 to eventual National Champion University of St. Thomas. Coast Guard finished the season 12-3 and ranked number 7 in the final MCLA D2 Poll.
This season the Bears are 11-4, coming off a three win run in the PCLL Tournament that ended with a 15-6 victory over archrival Briarcliffe, the 2014 PCLL Championship, and an automatic bid to the 2014 MCLA National Tournament in Southern California. Coast Guard will take on the University of Dayton Flyers on Monday, May 12th at 4:45 pm EDT on the campus of the University of California-Irvine in their first-round matchup.
In July of 2013, Ray LaForte, a former lacrosse coach at Ithaca College and an assistant football and track coach at the Coast Guard Academy for the past 14 years, was named the Associate Head Coach and head-coach-in-waiting of the men’s lacrosse team. Head coach Gary Weller will remain in his current role for the next two seasons, guiding the program’s transition from club to varsity status, where they will compete in the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC). LaForte will take over as the head coach after the 2015 season.
“Gary provides the right mix of experiences in collegiate lacrosse and the enthusiasm for building a program here at Coast Guard,” Fitzpatrick said. “Ray has worked hard to develop as a coach and recruiter, and his connections in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions will serve us well. We are excited to have him join our staff in our pursuit of championship lacrosse.”
Weller added, “In the short period I’ve known Ray, I can tell he has the attributes of a very good coach. He’s organized, recruits extremely well, motivated and has the understanding of what it takes to be a successful head coach. The five years of experience he’s gained, as an assistant lacrosse coach at Ithaca College, will have an immediate impact on the defensive end of the field. He understands players and what is needed to coach a tough, smart and skilled defense. I have the confidence that Ray will not only be an asset to our program but can lead the team to the next level.”
Weller and Laforte soon set out on the recruiting trail, looking for ‘leaders of character’ and the very best student-athletes for the now varsity Coast Guard Academy Men’s Lacrosse program. Recent recruiting success has led to 11 MCLA D2 All-American selections since 2000 and eight MCLA D2 Academic All-American/Scholar-Athlete selections since the awards inception in 2010.
Their recruiting interest areas have included well-known hotbeds of lacrosse, such as New York and Maryland. However, they continue to search for promising prospects in emerging talent areas such as California, Texas and Florida. The Coast Guard Academy roster has always included players from across the Nation and this year’s roster is no different boasting 38 players from 17 states (seven from New York, four each from Maryland, Massachusetts and Virginia).
Looking Forward – Higher Standards & Expectations
Coach Laforte emphasized that every player needs to be ready to work from day one.
“You’re not playing a part-time sport where you’re practicing a couple times a week,” Laforte stated. “You’re practicing six days a week, you’re lifting, and you’re watching film. You can’t do a lot of the extracurricular activities that you were doing before. I think it’s going to be getting those guys used to the routine.” He continued, “It’s college lacrosse; it’s not club; it’s not high school. The season is longer. It’s going to be physically demanding.”
“We are ‘all in’ as a program as far as NCAA D3 success. We’ve upgraded our staff significantly from last season – we now have Trainers, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Goalie Coach, Close Defensemen Coach and Defensive Middie Coach, all under tutelage of Ray LaForte,” said Powers, an Assistant Coach. In Power’s opinion, the talent pool is also deeper now than compared to past years. “I can remember having guys in our regular rotation, who had never played lacrosse before coming to the Academy. Now Ray LaForte is recruiting the premier talent across the nation.”
The competitiveness of the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) will not make things easier on Weller, Laforte and their squad. The conference will consist of eight squads for the 2015 season: Babson College, Clark University, Emerson College, MIT, Springfield College, Wheaton College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the Coast Guard Academy. The NEWMAC Men’s Lacrosse Champion will retain automatic qualifier status for the NCAA Division III Championship for 2014 and beyond.
“We’re looking for a few good men – leaders of character – to be Plankowners, with a capital P, as our program elevates to the varsity status. A Plankowner is a term of endearment in naval history – a crewmember that was around when a ship was being built and commissioned, and therefore has bragging rights to the “ownership” of one of the planks in the main deck. We’re challenging folks to join us and take “ownership” of this new Service Academy lacrosse program and take it to new levels,” said Coach Weller.
Our Value Proposition to the Student-Athlete and their Parents
Come to the Coast Guard Academy, graduate and MAKE A DIFFERENCE every day…save lives, serve your Country, get a top-notch education and play lacrosse at a high-level…
For those of you not familiar, the United States Coast Guard Academy, founded in 1876, is the smallest of the five federal Service Academies with about 900 cadets. The Coast Guard Academy graduates young men and women to serve as Commissioned Officers in the U.S. Coast Guard. Founded by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, the Coast Guard lays claim to being the United States’ oldest continuous seagoing service. While the Coast Guard is notable as the oldest life-saving service in the world, its roles include more than just Maritime Safety and Security. The Coast Guard is also called upon for critical service in protection of natural resources, maritime mobility (management of maritime traffic, commerce and navigation) and national defense.
Situated on a beautiful campus on the Thames River in New London, Connecticut, the Coast Guard Academy provides a rigorous four-year Bachelor of Science degree program with a full scholarship (the only NCAA D3 lacrosse school with this incentive) for each individual. The Coast Guard Academy offers the elite higher education (see U.S. News and World Report College Rankings), rigorous professional development, and honor and tradition of a military academy but with a more personalized approach. Also unique is the ability for multi-sport athletes to continue to compete in any of 12 men’s and three co-ed varsity sports at the NCAA D3 level. The Academy also features an impressive student-faculty ratio (8:1 and over 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students) and picturesque waterfront campus that instills a traditional small college feel. Unlike the other Service Academies, admission to the Coast Guard Academy is based purely on merit—a congressional nomination is not required.
Another distinctive aspect of a Coast Guard Officer career is the opportunity for significant increases in responsibility (based on requisite performance) early on. Within 24 months of graduation, recent lacrosse alumni have assumed Command of 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boats (10 person crew), served as Executive and/or Operations Officer aboard Patrol Boats (20 person crew) in Patrol Forces Southwest Asia in the Persian Gulf, and earned Aircraft Commander (Pilot-In-Command) designations in Coast Guard aircraft.
A Respected Job and No Debt When You Graduate
Each year, approximately 200 Ensigns are commissioned during graduation exercises in May. In just a few short weeks, the 1/c cadets (seniors) on the Coast Guard Academy Men’s Lacrosse
Team will report for duty aboard cutters, at Naval Flight Training in Pensacola, FL and at Sector offices in ports nationwide. Graduates of the academy are obligated to serve five years in the Coast Guard, though many choose to stay and make a rewarding, life-long career of their multi-mission, maritime military service. This year’s graduating 1/c cadets and their initial assignments include:
1/c Treston Taylor Naval Flight Training Pensacola FL
1/c Jake Mueller USCGC VIGOROUS Little Creek, VA
1/c Paul Delli’sola USCGC CYPRESS Pensacola, FL
1/c Matt Miller USCGC TAHOMA Portsmouth, NH
1/c Rob Scaduto USCGC BOUTWELL San Diego, CA
1/c E.J. Schmid USCGC BOUTWELL San Diego CA
1/c Stuart Carley USCGC FORWARD Portsmouth VA
1/c Nicholas Fredericksen USCGC SENECA Boston, MA
USCGC = United State Coast Guard Cutter
After the season ends, the typical college lacrosse players spend summer vacation at home, utilizing free time to lounge by the pool or at the beach, earning some much-needed cash at an internship or full-time job and playing lacrosse in the local summer league. For Coast Guard Academy lacrosse players the summer training period always proves to be anything but typical. As soon as the season is over – the rest of the underclass cadets will head out for their summer training program where cadets learn about leadership through immersion in the ultimate setting – the operational Coast Guard. They learn about the roles of officers and the enlisted as they see the United States and the world as members of a Coast Guard crew. Cadets in summer training find themselves in thrilling experiences that include: sailing aboard the tall ship Eagle to various ports of call, flying in Coast Guard aircraft as a part of the Cadet Aviation Training Program and participating in Internships for Engineering, Government, Science or Operations at centers of excellence through the country.
A recent Forbes magazine article stated that two-thirds, that’s right, two-thirds of students graduating from American colleges and universities are graduating with some level of debt. How much? According to The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) Project on Student Debt, the average borrower will graduate $26,600 in the red. Coast Guard Academy cadets actually receive pay totaling approximately $12,000 per year. Cadet pay is furnished by the government for uniforms, military equipment, academic supplies including textbooks, and personal expenses. These funds should cover all official expenses incurred over the four years and are directly deposited on a bi-weekly basis into a personal checking account managed by the cadet.
We will be back with Part 2 next week, and we truly look forward to following the USCGA lacrosse program for years to come. Help us welcome the smallest US service academy to D3 lacrosse!