NEW LONDON, Conn.— Ray LaForte, an assistant football and track coach at the Coast Guard Academy for the past 14 years, has been named the Associate Head Coach and head-coach-in-waiting of the men’s lacrosse team that will become a varsity sport in the Spring of 2015.
Current men’s lacrosse 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) before he steps down. LaForte will take over as the head coach after the 2015 season.
“The plan that we have put together with Gary Weller and Ray LaForte guarantees a successful future for the men’s lacrosse program at CGA,” said Tim Fitzpatrick, Director of Athletics at the Coast Guard Academy. “ Gary did a remarkable job last season in his first year as head coach, and I am very grateful that he has agreed to stay on board for the next two years to guide the lacrosse team’s transition to varsity sport status. He is an enthusiastic, skilled, seasoned coach who gets the most out of his cadet-athletes, and cares deeply about them.”
The men’s club team which has continued to grow stronger each and every year, is coming off the best season in school history under Weller, who was named conference Coach of the Year. The Bears were ranked as high as sixth nationally, earned a trip to the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) national tournament for the first time ever and won a first round game against Sam Houston State 19-8 before losing to eventual champion, University of St. Thomas 18-8. The team finished the season with a 12-3 record having won the PCLL division regular season title and having six players earn All-conference honors while three cadet-athletes earned Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) All-America honors.
“Everyone associated with our lacrosse program knew our success, talent level, winning tradition, number of participating cadets and national prominence would be acknowledged and rewarded . They were thrilled with the announcement that the program will soon be elevated to varsity status,” said Weller. “The present talent and skill level of our players is great. The skill level and academic prerequisites of our pool of high school lacrosse recruits has increased dramatically.”
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.”
LaForte, will remain the offensive coordinator for the football team as well as coaching lacrosse. As an assistant track coach, LaForte worked with both the men’s and women’s hurdlers. Every school-record in the hurdles was set by an athlete coached by LaForte over the past 14 years.
Under LaForte, the football team has tied or set 28 school offensive records since 2006 with the fast paced, no huddle style offensive approach. This past season, the Bears set a school-record with 3,661 yards of total offense, 2,694 passing yards and 24 touchdown passes and the team was second in the nation with just two fumbles lost. In 2007, the Bears set a NEFC record with 684 yards of total offense in a single game.
“Being named a head coach of a Coast Guard Academy team is a both a privilege and an honor,” said LaForte. “It extends me the opportunity to further shape the future leaders of the United States Coast Guard. That is a role that I take seriously and commit to with passion. My experience as an assistant to Jeff Long at Ithaca and working with National Championship coach Rich Barnes have me primed to make major contributions to Coast Guard lacrosse. I am eager to help Coach Weller make a splash in New England lacrosse in 2014.”
Prior to arriving at Coast Guard in 1999, LaForte was an assistant football and lacrosse coach at Ithaca College for five seasons. He served as the head coach of the junior varsity team for one season before being named an assistant coach for the varsity team for four seasons.
“The pace and style of the game play into my personality as a coach,” said LaForte. “I just love the transitions and adjustments that coaching this great game present to me. Just like my style of offense in football, I like it frantic. Ground balls are the key to lacrosse and they are about GRIT, the Coast Guard cadet is all about GRIT.”
The Coast Guard men’s lacrosse club was started by John Senyard (USCGA, Class of 1983), and competed for the first time in the spring of 1984. In 1989, having risen to the rank of Lieutenant, Senyard died tragically in an aircraft accident in Ihithi, Kenya.
“Gary and I have hit off our relationship with many exciting ideas about the path of the program and I rapidly expect lacrosse to become a strong member of the Coast Guard varsity offerings,” said LaForte. “Gary and I have strong ties to Long Island and its rich lacrosse traditions and I am excited to become a part of the ground breaking opportunity of transitioning Coast Guard lacrosse to varsity status.”
“Ray LaForte’s significant lacrosse background which he achieved during his tenure at Ithaca College as an assistant coach will prove to be a tremendous asset to the program immediately. Having been at CGA for several years, working with both our football and track programs, Ray has great knowledge of the academy – its intricacies, processes and the type of young person it takes to succeed here,” said Fitzpatrick. “ As a coach, Ray is very talented – an innovative strategist and teacher on the field, as well as a relentless recruiter. It has been very refreshing to me to see Gary and Ray interact already, and I know they will make a great team. Both of these men are wonderful representatives of the CGA, and we are fortunate to have them.”