Skip to main content
Ronan Jacoby on the Utah Archers.

'House Money': Ronan Jacoby Turns Championship Series Chance into PLL Contract

March 22, 2024
Phil Shore
Premier Lacrosse League

Ronan Jacoby’s last game came in the Final Four of the 2022 NCAA tournament. He started at attack for Rutgers in the team’s first trip to the semifinals in program history, and he even scored a goal.

Two summers passed. He didn’t get a single phone call even to ask about his interest in playing in the Premier Lacrosse League.

But one big break getting to play in the 2024 PLL Championship Series changed everything.

“My phone has been blowing up more than it ever has,” Jacoby said. “The overwhelming support from everyone, from people I went to school with, people I grew up with, coaches, parents of friends I grew up with reaching out. It’s been kind of crazy.”

Jacoby isn’t a stranger to being underestimated or undervalued. He’s fought against doubters his entire playing career.

At Glastonbury (Conn.) High School, Jacoby earned two all-conference honors and was second-team All-State.

John Raba, the head lacrosse coach at Wesleyan College, was Jacoby’s club coach in sixth grade and got to know him well. He called Jacoby a “Division I talent” and a “hidden gem,” noting that no one really knew about him.

Jacoby called himself a late bloomer, but he also felt it was strange that, early in his high school career, he was seeing the rumors of players committing to colleges when he couldn’t even get an email response.

Raba called Division I coaches on Jacoby’s behalf, and by the time the end of his junior year came without any more interest, Raba told Jacoby they’d love to have him at Wesleyan. Jacoby wanted the opportunity to play college lacrosse at an extremely competitive level. He wanted a highly respected academic institution. Wesleyan fit the bill on both accounts, and he had no shame about playing Division III lacrosse.

“Wanting it so badly and not having anything for a long, long time was difficult,” he said. “It made me continue to work hard. I’d like to think I still have some of that mentality of people doubting me.

“There are, ultimately, kids that play lacrosse at Division I schools that never truly have the chance to compete for a national championship. Some people are OK with that. That just wasn’t me. I wanted to go and win games. I didn’t care what level that was at.”

That promise of competing for a championship was fulfilled immediately. The season before Jacoby’s debut, Wesleyan won a program-best 20 games and reached the NCAA tournament semifinals.

I wanted to go and win games. I didn’t care what level that was at.

Ronan Jacoby

The next year in the NCAA tournament, the Cardinals defeated second-ranked Tufts in the quarterfinals, avenged the prior season’s elimination loss to top-seeded RIT in the semifinals and beat third-ranked Salisbury in the championship game. Jacoby didn’t score, but he led the team with 66 goals. 

“My freshman year, I was put into an offense with a lot of really good players,” he said. “No matter what the situation was, I was going to be the sixth option. I was the kid defenses didn’t pay attention to because they had to pay attention to the other five. I took advantage of that.” 

Despite playing in only nine games as a junior and senior in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacoby still graduated ranked third in Wesleyan career goals (150) and ninth in Wesleyan career points (178).

Jacoby knew he wasn’t the fastest or strongest on the field, but what he did do was put in the work off the field.

“He was really serious about getting better, every day,” Raba said. “One of the hardest working players on the team, as an individual, he wanted to be great. He always did extra work on his shooting. People questioned his footspeed when he was young, and he just found ways to get his hands free. He was really deceptive with his stick.

“He’s also a guy that’s going to make you accountable as a leader. He’ll call people out. If you’re not working as hard as he is, he’s not shy to call you out on that.”

Despite not getting any looks to play Division I out of high school, Division I lacrosse became a reality because of his extra eligibility. Wesleyan didn’t have the master’s in finance program he wanted, but he wanted to keep playing lacrosse as well. 

He joined Rutgers. He started all 19 games in 2022, finishing third on the team in goals (37) and points (48). He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors as well as USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American honorable mention.

Jacoby said he fit the team’s need for a lefty midfielder that could shoot. Coupled with the “NASCAR” offense the team ran, Jacoby felt like all the stars aligned, and he could be effective.

“I always try to, I know it’s cliché, but let the game come to you, don’t force it,” he said. “I have just been used to letting the game come to me. If I’m in the right places, opportunities are going to present themselves.”

Once again, Jacoby wasn’t ready for his lacrosse career to end. He thought his success at Rutgers would earn him a look in the PLL, but he was wrong. When he watched PLL games over the summer, he couldn’t help but feel like he was missing out. 

Despite not signing with anybody or getting to go to training camp, Jacoby said it was key that he never had the mentality that he was hanging up the cleats. Still, he couldn’t see a path to the pros.

That was until he got a call from Utah Archers head coach Chris Bates asking him to play with the Archers in the 2024 Championship Series. Jacoby’s dad, Seth, played football at Dartmouth at the same time Bates was there, and the two were friendly. Jacoby isn’t 100 percent sure, but he also thinks Archers midfielder Ryan Aughavin floated his name to Bates; the two play for the same men’s league team, the Rad Dads.

Ronan Jacoby at Wesleyan.
Ronan Jacoby graduated third in Wesleyan career goals (150) and ninth in Wesleyan career points (178).
Wesleyan Athletics

Jacoby didn’t feel any pressure going into the Championship Series. His focus wasn’t on playing well enough to earn a contract going into the 2024 summer. He just wanted to prepare for the Championship Series — to relish in the opportunity to play lacrosse for a week straight — and whatever would come of it would come of it.

He remembered something Wesleyan assistant coach Rick McCarthy always said: “You’re playing with house money.”

Jacoby led the Archers in points (20) and was eighth overall in the league. He finished with more points than Rob Pannell, a future Hall of Famer and childhood icon of his whom he tried to (unsuccessfully, according to Jacoby) replicate his patented question-mark dodge.

When the Archers’ run in the Championship Series ended in the semifinals, Bates was asked about the likelihood of Jacoby getting another opportunity.

“He’ll get a hard look,” he said.

It was Mike Pressler and the New York Atlas that came calling for Jacoby during free agency, signing him to a one-year contact. An exciting moment, for sure, but he does have to keep telling his co-workers at his banking job that he did not sign “a Patrick Mahomes-size contract.”

It’s not just people at work that are excited for him. Raba can’t wait to see Jacoby show everyone in the PLL how good he is.

“Everyone knew he was going to show well [in the Championship Series],” he said. “I’m not surprised at all. I don’t think anybody in New England that’s seen him play is surprised at all. He’s built for that level. I’m excited for him to play in the summer because people are going to really see what this kid is about. His best is yet to come.”

While Jacoby is excited for the opportunity, he also said his work wasn’t done.

“On a personal level, I’ve got to make the gameday roster. I want to play,” he said. “I think that is an attainable goal. On a personal level, it’s work as hard as I can to obtain that opportunity.”

As someone that’s had to scratch and claw to get to every level, as someone who feels like he has benefitted from playing alongside and off talented players at every level, Jacoby once again is confident he can succeed.