Jacob Giacalone played goalie for the first time only three years ago.
"Really? Wow, that's crazy," Sachem North defender Michael Aronow said recently after being told that fun fact about his lacrosse teammate. "I didn't even know that."
Giacalone's quick hands and ability to thwart shots from point-blank range make it hard for anyone to even suspect the position is still something relatively new for him.
In his first season as the Flaming Arrows' starting netminder, Giacalone, a sophomore who verbally committed to Johns Hopkins, has opposing coaches in Suffolk Division I lauding him as one of the league's best.
He racked up 15 saves Tuesday in Sachem North's 12-8 victory over Smithtown East, which has one of the best offensive units on Long Island. Earlier, he recorded 10 saves, including a few from close range late, in a 7-5 win over Sachem East.
"It took a little while," said Giacalone, who appeared in only a few varsity games last season as one of the backups. "After seventh and eighth grade, I thought to myself that if I keep working on it I could hopefully become pretty good. I've always had the mindset that I wanted to be great."
Giacalone, who used to be an attack, said he volunteered to play goalie in seventh grade because he always had an interest in the position. And his father, Artie, was superb in the cage when he played at Sachem.
"I saw the talent right away," Sachem North coach Jay Mauro said. "He wasn't ready to be our guy then, but I knew he'd be with us."
There's been a trend in recent years of high school lacrosse teams having agile, fit goalies, as opposed to simply asking the biggest kid on the team to play between the pipes. At 6-foot, 175 pounds, Giacalone is one of the most athletic players on the field.
"You want a great athlete in the cage," Mauro said. "The scary thing about Jacob, since he's only in his third full season as a goalie, is that his ceiling is very, very high. He's not there at all yet."
He's still improving his clearing ability, but Giacalone's lacrosse knowledge, communication skills and hand-eye coordination are impressive. He also has something essential to the position: a mentality that allows him to quickly forget about the goals that squeak by.
"When I was younger I used to get mad at that," Giacalone said. "But I had to adjust to the speed of the game and realize I wasn't going to get them all."
Besides his ability and instincts, teammates value the young stopper for his fun personality off the field and his leadership on it.
"He's a really good leader," said Aronow, a senior. "He's coming up big for us in a lot of ways. When I was a sophomore I didn't say a word. He's the core of our defense."