When he reached eighth or ninth grade, Ty Benedetto started casting an eye toward playing Division I lacrosse in his home state, but at that age, it's hard to look so far ahead and say with 100 percent certainty that it's going to happen.
There's only Division I program in the entire state of Florida, and spots are limited to start with. Everything changed for Benedetto, though, when he was visiting another school this fall. He received an email from Jacksonville coach John Galloway, asking to set up a call and a visit.
"I was pretty ecstatic. It was surreal to me, especially when Coach Galloway is telling me how much he wants me to be there," said the Team 91 2020 Florida and Jupiter faceoff midfielder.
It got even crazier for Benedetto after the Dolphins offered him, and it didn't take long for him to accept. He's the third Team 91 Florida 2020 to commit after Devon Rasmus (Jupiter/Towson) and Bryce Kendrigan (The Benjamin School/Towson), all to Division I schools. He'll get to live out his dream of playing college lacrosse in the Sunshine State, and he won't have to go too far to do it.
"It's close to home, which is very important to me," said Benedetto, who intends to study business or computer science. "It's only about three-and-a-half hours away. The coaching staff is insane, and having Coach Galloway is crazy. Him playing pro definitely added to me wanting to go there. He has the experience that I want in a coach. The campus is pretty cool and it's on the water, and the classes are small. You're not just a number like at some of the big schools. The classes are very individualized, which is nice. It seemed like a really great fit for me."
There's an added element of being an in-state recruit for Galloway. Benedetto knows that Florida's reputation as a lacrosse state isn't quite where it will eventually be one day, and because of that, there's always a little extra motivation when going up against traditional powerhouse areas at tournaments.
"I think that Florida lacrosse is definitely looked down upon, but playing teams from all over at tournaments helps a lot," Benedetto said. "I definitely have a lot of pride in being from Florida and going to Jacksonville. We need to start growing lacrosse in Florida, and Jacksonville wants to keep the good athletes in Florida."
Benedetto was a part of the Jupiter team this spring that became the first public school to win a Florida state championship, and while he wasn't a starter, the experience helped him grow as a player, which he parlayed into a strong summer on the club circuit.
"I don't even know how to explain how (the state title) felt," Benedetto said. "I just think that as a team, we bonded really well, and we used it to make it all happen."
A big body at 6-1, 195 pounds, Benedetto has the frame and strength to scrap with and overpower opponents at the faceoff X. He also does well off the fast break and is getting more and more comfortable with the ball in his stick. His development is a credit to him, but also O'Hara and coaches Danny Loftus and Stan Ross. This summer, he enjoyed a breakout summer, capped off by a strong performance at the National Lacrosse Federation national championships, where he tested himself against a handful of the nation's elite faceoff men and came out stronger as a result.
"There were (more than 170) college coaches there, and I was nervous, but definitely excited," Benedetto said. "I thought I played really well against some good faceoff guys."
Team 91 Florida director Nick O'Hara has seen Benedetto's development up close and personal as both his club and high school coach. There's little doubt in his mind that Benedetto has the skillset and work ethic to not only thrive for the Warriors, but eventually for the Dolphins.
"Ty is a terrific person and player that has worked tirelessly over the past several years to become one of the best faceoff specialists in the 2020 class," O'Hara said. "Coach Galloway has the JU program trending in the right direction and Ty will play an important role in the future of the program."