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Jackson Bonitz figured he had two competing plans when 2020 began. He was a member of the incoming plebe class at the Naval Academy, and he was part of the U.S. U19 men’s team set to participate in the world championship in Ireland.

“Everyone I talked to and people that had been to the Naval Academy said, ‘There was probably no way they’re going to let you out of plebe summer for anything,’” Bonitz said.

Only he was informed by Midshipmen coach Joe Amplo he would be permitted to slip out of Annapolis for two weeks. At least until the COVID-19 pandemic ruined those plans.

Instead, Bonitz will get both experiences, for better or worse. The pandemic altered the dynamics of the traditionally demanding plebe summer, but it still wasn’t fun. All midshipmen were required to undergo a two-week quarantine upon arriving at school. Bonitz’s initial roommate tested positive for the virus two days after arriving, meaning Bonitz had to spend two weeks in isolation as part of contact tracing.

But at least that world championship trip was simply pushed back a year in hopes it could be played next summer.

“I was pretty bummed about [the initial cancellation],” Bonitz said. “I couldn’t believe it because I had been waiting for a while for it, and I was so excited. Then a couple weeks later, coach [Nick] Myers said they’d moved it to 2021 and it would be the U20 championships, which was pretty relieving.” [Note: World Lacrosse has since pushed the event back to 2022.]

Like for so many others, this year has been a series of ups and downs for the defenseman, who impressed his new coaches and teammates during Navy’s fall workouts. And he’s also finding his footing in dealing with the academy’s rigors.

Bonitz originally committed to Penn State during the first half of his high school career at McDonogh (Md.), but he was intrigued about the benefits of attending a service academy and ful­filling a military commitment after graduation.

Then came a coaching change, which for many high-pro­file recruits might mean a time to look for a new school. Not Bonitz, who to the delight of Amplo, remained steadfast in his plans to come to Navy.

“It certainly didn’t hurt that when I took the job, he was committed,” said Amplo, also an assistant coach for the U.S. senior team. “It was kind like a signing bonus. Here, you can have this job, and by the way, here’s one of the best players in the country.”

Much of what drives Bonitz is long-term thinking. The academy provides some job security for after his college career is over, but it’s also an opportunity to be around people who are equally driven about making a difference with their lives. Bonitz was struck by the number and diversity of impressive people he met during his first month on campus — not to mention the academic and military demands.

“Plebe is completely different than the other years,” he said. “All eyes are on you.”

Amplo said Bonitz started asserting himself within the first couple weeks of fall practices. He possesses good stick skills and understands team defense, and while not flashy, he mixes a quiet aggression with an ability to easily fit in with the rest of the roster.

Navy managed to have several weeks of practices, something not everyone in the country enjoyed this fall. Credit for that goes in part to the academy’s controlled environment.

“I didn’t realize how lucky we were,” Bonitz said. “Especially on [a recent] call with Team USA, a lot of those guys aren’t even allowed to be on campus. I have all my classes in person except for one. It’s almost back to normal.”

A better test of normal will be actually getting in a full season in 2021. Eventually, he could wind up wearing two uniforms representing the country.

“He’s going serve our country four years from now and he’s representing Team USA on the lacrosse ­field,” Amplo said. “There’s more added value.”