PHOTO BY JAMES CIRRONE/PRETTY INSTANT

Michael Ehrhardt had a big-time game as the U.S. rallied for a 17-9 victory over the Iroquois Nationals to open the 2018 FIL World Championship.

Team USA's Michael Ehrhardt Seizing Opportunity in Spotlight


Michael Ehrhardt's calling card has been his versatility — a strong defender with impressive offensive skills. The Team USA longstick midfielder is becoming a breakout player in Major League Lacrosse, garnering extra attention this season with eight goals, including three three-pointers, and five assists in just 10 games for Charlotte. His 16 points is nearly double the next closest defender in the league, Atlanta's Scott Ratliff with nine points.

For anyone that hadn't noticed his ascension, they learned his name last night when he had one of the viral moments of the game — a takeaway check that sent Lyle Thompson's stick spinning — in the United States 17-9 tournament-opening victory over the Iroquois Nationals in the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse Men's World Championship.

That was just one highlight in a night that featured strong defense and important contributions on the wing that helped the U.S. post a 22-9 advantage in faceoffs.

"Mike Ehrhardt was particularly really good off the ground and his handle was impressive," said U.S. team head coach John Danowski.

Ehrhardt's versatility isn't unnoticed by the U.S. coaching staff.

"It's a large reason why he made the team," said assistant coach Joe Amplo. "He can play up top and down low. That was our thinking in choosing these guys is that we wanted guys to be interchangeable. I think he allows that. He allows us as coaches to be able to change the lineup based on who's playing their best and matchups and any other intangible that comes up."


"It's just awesome being around everyone. You don't really get this anymore after you graduate college. Being on a team like this reminds you of college - being around guys 24/7."


Jim Stagnitta, his MLL coach with Charlotte, calls his star defender underrated.

"He's a threat as a defender, he's a threat as an offensive player," Stagnitta said. "He's so multi-faceted, it's amazing."

Part of that comes from an athletic background.

His dad, Tom, was a record-setting All-American college quarterback that received Heisman Trophy consideration in 1985 despite playing for small school Rhode Island.

"He taught me about life lessons and what it was going to take to be a great athlete," Ehrhardt said. "I can't thank him enough for what he did for me growing up, and allowing me to play any different sport. I think that's what contributed a lot of my growth and my success — being able to play soccer, baseball, basketball, football."

HIs cousins, Bobby and Kevin Ehrhardt, introduced him to lacrosse in the fourth grade and he played midfield until his freshman year at Long Island high school power Chaminade.

"Coach Moran at Chaminade decided to stick a long pole in my hand and the rest was history," Ehrhardt said.








A pretty good high school football player himself — he was named All-Long Island by Newsday after catching 64 passes for 852 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior to draw I-AA recruiting interest — lacrosse was where his heart was leading him.

"That was back when you were getting letters September 1," Ehrhardt said. "It was like Christmas opening up all those letters."

He chose the University of Maryland and its head coach, Dave Cottle, but Cottle was let go months before Ehrhardt headed to College Park. The transition to John Tillman was eased by the fact that Tillman had been heavily recruiting him to his previous school, Harvard.

Ehrhardt went on to earn All-America honors twice at Maryland, including first team recognition in 2014. He loved his time in College Park and that collegiate feel is one of the things he's enjoying most during his Team USA experience.

"Even [Tuesday] night we finished practice, we're waiting for food and it's midnight and everyone just wants to get to bed. Everyone's laughing and having a good time," Ehrhardt said. "It's just awesome being around everyone. You don't really get this anymore after you graduate college. Being on a team like this reminds you of college - being around guys 24/7."

Ehrhardt was officially named to the team this January, but that's when the work really began.




PHOTO BY PAUL BOSKOVICH/PRETTY INSTANT

Michael Ehrhardt has 16 points in his first 10 MLL games for Charlotte, nearly double the points total for the next closest defender in the league.


"I'm really impressed with what he's done from the time he made the team in January to now, physically," said Amplo of the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Ehrhardt. "He transformed his body into peak, peak shape. There's a difference in his physique and I think you've seen that over the first couple of months of the MLL season."

"I changed my diet, I worked out a lot harder and focused on getting my body right knowing that hopefully we'll play seven games in 10 days," said Ehrhardt, who has lost 20 pounds since the end of January.

The U.S. team will start of span of four games in four days on Saturday when it plays Australia at 2:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. Eastern) on ESPNU.

U.S teammate Jordan Wolf was one of his workout partners until he moved from New York back down to Durham, N.C. in the spring, and 2014 U.S. team member Mitch Belisle led a lot of the workouts.

"Just being able to put the jersey on and represent the USA — that's what drives you," Ehrhardt said. "It's a dream from when you're a little kid. Just to be able to have this opportunity to represent your country, you don't want pass that up and be disappointed and look back and have any regrets. You want to put the work in and make sure you're ready, and at the end of the day you're going to look back and say 'Hey, I gave it all I had.'"

"The first week of the (MLL) season I remember hearing from three or four different people in random kind of spots in the lacrosse world that Michael Ehrhardt looks and is playing terrific," Amplo said. "I do believe that him committing to his body and putting in the time necessary to say what's the best version of myself as an athlete — he's reaping the benefits."

The improvement he's made has come while working full-time in the corporate world as a vice president at First Nationwide Title Agency in the New York City area. But making sacrifices is what this U.S. team is about.

"This is the pinnacle of the sport," Ehrhardt said. "At this point now, anyone would pretty much do anything for anyone on the team to make sure that they're successful. If they asked anyone to fill water bottles, I think anyone would. It's just that type of mentality that everyone has. It's awesome."