Prep school pays off for former Knoch lacrosse star
Last spring, as his friends and former classmates proceeded through Knoch's graduation ceremony, Ben Tackett sat in the audience and watched.
Up until that experience, Tackett, a standout in football and lacrosse, sensed he hadn't missed much as a result of his transfer from Knoch to Kiski School, a preparatory academy in Saltsburg. That moment stung.
A year later, as his graduation from Kiski School approaches, Tackett stands by his decision to leave Knoch in the middle of his then-senior year for the prep school. He's fairly confident that without the change, he wouldn't have earned the opportunity to secure a spot on the roster at Rochester Institute of Technology, the No. 1 lacrosse team in Division III.
“I missed making a couple memories last spring with the fellow seniors (at Knoch),” said Tackett, who committed to RIT as a midfielder in March. “But I think in the long run, graduating one year later is not going to matter at all, and it's going to help me so much with maturing.
“Without this, who knows where I would've ended up. Now I know where I'm going and what I want to do, and I'm playing lacrosse at a much higher level.”
Though he starred as a member of Knoch's fledgling lacrosse team, Tackett worried no major colleges would seriously consider him as a recruit. He transferred to Kiski School in the winter of 2012-13 and shined for the Cougars on the lacrosse field that spring, finishing with 41 goals and 23 assists in 24 games.
Division I teams like Lafayette and Hartford began to pursue him. The recruiting interest, which continued into the summer, confirmed Tackett's belief that Kiski School would create previously unthinkable opportunities.
By the arrival of fall, however; Tackett no longer placed such great importance on Division I destinations. Aside from Hartford, his other top choices were Division III powers RIT, Salisbury and Ithaca.
“It was a constant struggle,” Tackett said. “I came in, as a lot of kids do, with stars in my eyes and dreams of playing a Division I sport. Then you quickly realize how far ahead some kids are, and how they're playing at such a high caliber at the top tier of Division I.
“But then you also realize how high caliber the top of Division III is. It's not quite as glamorous, but the fact that you're in the hunt to win a national championship every year … it's a big pull.”
RIT, which had recruited a teammate of Tackett's in 2013, didn't show much interest in Tackett this past fall. That changed after Tackett, with help from Kiski School coach Chris Spahn, sent a highlight reel and then attended a prospect camp at RIT in November.
In the same way Tackett went from Knoch's middling lacrosse team to mighty Kiski School and succeeded, he hopes to leave the Cougars and make a splash with RIT.
“It is a little intimidating to think how good of these kids are,” Tackett said. “But I just remember that each of these kids were also in my shoes. They had the same choice. And I was at times recruited by Division I programs, so I know that I could play at that level, and I'm also willing to work. It's also a challenge for me to reach my full potential and just make more friends along the way.”