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Brendon Ratigan was in 10th-grade when he came to a realization. He wanted to play Division I lacrosse.

That brought about another realization. If he was going to progress to compete at the highest level, he was likely going to have to transfer from Calvert High School to a place where the competition was ratcheted up.

Ratigan transferred to The Calverton School, played on the Cougars varsity squad for three years and contributed on three Maryland Independent Lacrosse League-champion teams. And recently, the midfielder fulfilled the lacrosse end of his decision when he signed his letter of intent to play college lacrosse at Jacksonville University, joining Calverton teammate Zack Kuderski on the only Division I men’s lacrosse team in Florida.

“I absolutely loved it,” Ratigan said of his visit to Jacksonville. “The campus was mellow and laid-back. The weather was awesome. The coaches were all really nice and had a good direction for the program. The players, it was like one big family. Everyone was one group and I really liked the atmosphere.”

Jacksonville just completed its fourth season this past spring and won a program-record eight games. Getting in with a young program where he can really make an impact was a huge draw for Ratigan.

“That was one of the main keys for why I went there,” Ratigan said. “When I was on my way home from my first visit, Jacksonville was playing Navy on TV. My dad and I talked about it and I said, ‘This is an up-and-coming program.’”

Transferring to Calverton from Calvert was a tough decision for the then-high school sophomore to make. But after working through situations life had already thrown at him, choosing an academic and athletic path really was ultimately not too difficult.

“Honestly, my mother had passed away about six months before I transferred,” Ratigan said. “That situation showed me that life is short and if you want something, do it. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do it. It was hard for me to leave my friends, but with my mom, it showed me that I had to do something to set myself up for the future.”

Ratigan went from being a student in a senior class with hundreds of students to being one in a class of about 30. But the recent Calverton graduate found that switching schools made a tremendous impact in the classroom as well as on the lacrosse field.

“It was a weird transition, but I knew in the long run it was beneficial,” Ratigan said. “It benefitted me so much, not just lacrosse, but academically. It helped me gain light years.”

There is no denying that change in competition allowed Ratigan to grow into a player that is now headed to play Division I lacrosse.

“It’s the reason why I’m going to Jacksonville,” he said. “At the time [of the transfer], coach [Jonathan] Montes was the coach. I credit coach Montes and coach [Mike] Bellotte with all my talent and where I am today. You only get better playing with better kids. In 10th-grade, I was playing with All-Americans every day in practice. I just went with it and did what I could. Inevitably, if you play with the best kids you start to get better.”

Bellotte, who was an assistant in charge of defense on Montes’ staff when Ratigan came over, talked in different terms of the competitive difference between the schedule Calverton plays versus what public schools play.

“No matter how good you are, you cannot consistently go into the batting cage and hit slowpitch softballs and then expect to be able to hit 90-mph fastballs,” Bellotte said. “Brendan’s family made the commitment and brought him over and it paid off.

“I’m proud of him. He worked hard. He made a difficult decision to come over to a brand-new school, a much smaller school that didn’t have a lot of the things big schools have.’

Bellotte figures that Ratigan will be able to make an impact on the defensive side of the field early on in his college career.

“The one thing he has is he’s an old-school type middie,” Bellotte said. “He can go both ways, offense or defense. He’s very strong, does a lot of work in the weight room. He’s a solid, solid athlete.”

Ratigan hopes to be amongst a group of players that builds the young program into a national power for years to come.

“I think I’ll bring a drive and be ready and willing and able to do anything they ask me to,” he said. “The goal is to win a national championship.”