Team USA's Hartzell Eyes Missing Ring

PHOTO BY MIKEY WALLIN

Kyle Hartzell during Team USA's training camp at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. The U.S. team plays the MLL All-Stars on Thursday at Harvard in preparation for next month's FIL World Championship in Israel.


FOXBORO, Mass. — Kyle Hartzell's road to the top of the sport wasn't the same as most of his U.S. teammates, but it's a road that has seen success at every step.

He won a junior college national championship with CCBC-Essex in 2004. Three years later he won a NCAA Division III championship at Salisbury in 2007. He won two professional championships in 2010 - one with the Washington Stealth in the National Lacrosse League and one with the Chesapeake Bayhawks in Major League Lacrosse when he was the championship MVP. He added a second MLL title in 2015 with the New York Lizards.

But his eyes are clearly focused on the one title he hasn't won - gold with Team USA.

"This would mean the world to me," Hartzell said on Tuesday afternoon in between practices during the Team USA training camp at Gillette Stadium. "This is the only thing I haven't won. I've won an NLL championship, I've won an MLL championship, I've won a college championship. I haven't won an international championship. I've won a silver medal. I won a bronze medal in indoor back in Prague."

Hartzell is one of eight players from the 2014 U.S. team back for another shot at the gold medal after they fell to Canada 8-5 in the championship game in Denver four years ago. On Thursday, the U.S. team plays the MLL All-Stars at Harvard in its final event before leaving for Israel on July 8 for the FIL Men's World Championship.

"I've really been training my ass off and really working hard for this moment," Hartzell said. "I know this is the last one for me probably and it's all I'm focusing on now pretty much."

The memories from 2014 provide fuel, and they also help nurture a team-first attitude.

"I don't care how many reps I get," Hartzell said. "I'm focused on the team winning. Whatever my role is, that's what I'm doing."

"That's the fun thing," said assistant coach Joe Amplo. "To see the best players, and he's one example of it — this is really important to them, winning is important. I get the sense he'll do whatever we ask, whether it's play the wing, play close, play pole, play short stick. I wouldn't be surprised if we asked him to jump in the goal if he wouldn't jump in there. He's got that buy-in and that's what we're looking for."

"That's authentic to who he is, but he's also a world-class competitor," said Team USA midfielder Paul Rabil, one of Hartzell's longtime teammates. "He'll find his way into his natural position, but I think we have a lot of guys that would happily acquiesce to what's best for the team."







Hartzell was a midfielder his first year of junior college and switched to longstick midfield by the end of his second. He spent his junior year of college at Salisbury playing longstick behind one of the best players in the country, Chase Caruso, a two-time longstick midfielder of the year in Division III. He moved to close defense his senior year and thrived, earning third-team All-America honors. He parlayed his opportunities into a decade-long professional career.

Hartzell credits legendary Salisbury coach Jim Berkman with helping take his game to a new level.

"He instilled my work ethic," Hartzell said. "I worked hard, but when I met Coach Berkman, he motivates you."

U.S. team strength and conditioning coach Jay Dyer has been a major influence as well. Hartzell moved back to Baltimore from Dallas for the summer to train with Dyer leading up to the world championship.

PHOTO BY MIKEY WALLIN

U.S. team assistant coach Joe Amplo says that Kyle Hartzell has a "captivating spirit" and that the other guys on the team "love playing with him."

That's one way he's shown his commitment to the team with his actions, but he also makes his presence known with his words. If the team's GroupMe chat goes silent, you can count on Hartzell to start the conversation back up.

"He's got a tremendous personality," Amplo said. "He's fun to be around, he's got that captivating spirit that all teams need. Just talking to the other guys, they love playing with him."

"He cares a lot about the game, he cares a lot about the relationships that he builds within the game," Rabil said. "He's the consummate ambassador for the sport and often referred to as a great teammate. You know you're going to get great work ethic and work product out of him, and he's always going to be one of the leaders on the team."

Hartzell hopes that leadership helps transfer into a world championship next month. It would be another triumph in an unlikely career.

"I've had a long road, going from junior college, not being recruited," Hartzell said. "I did not take the traditional route to where I've gotten. It's a crazy journey coming from the bottom of the totem pole, working your way all the way up."

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