Hartig-Orr a Force on Either End of Lacrosse Field
Written by Tris Wykes and originally published in Valley News
WOODSTOCK, Vt. - For the past couple of years, whenever Emmanuel College (Mass.) men's lacrosse coach Trevor Craven has hosted a prime recruit on campus, it's been Ben Hartig-Orr he's had show the prospect around.
"He can talk to anybody," said the Saints' second-year head coach.
Hartig-Orr, a former three-sport standout at Woodstock High, has plenty to discuss. A switch in academic majors, a hiatus from school and, upon his return, a switch from stopping shots to taking them.
"Ben's is one of the stories that I'm going to enjoy telling for the rest of my career," Craven said. "Guys have a plan in mind, but it doesn't work out if you're not mature enough when you get to campus. Life happens, and you have to pivot."
Hartig-Orr, a Reading, Vt., native, played soccer, ice hockey and lacrosse at Woodstock. He was good enough as a goaltender in the latter sport that Wasps coach Brandon Little pushed for him to join the varsity as an eighth-grader but was rebuffed. Hartig-Orr earned 12 varsity letters and was part of the Vermont Division I boys lacrosse all-state team, finishing his career with 560 saves.
College athletics did not go as smoothly, however. Emmanuel had a pair of senior goaltenders and another freshman, so Hartig-Orr briefly appeared in seven games as the Saints won the 2015 Great Northeast Athletic Conference title at the NCAA Division III level.
Initially an academic design major, Hartig-Orr struggled to maintain focus in school and sat out the 2015-16 academic year, missing a second consecutive conference title.
"I wasn't the greatest student in that major," said Hartig-Orr, whose online profile at Emmanuel listed lacrosse as his favorite class and the gym as his favorite spot on a campus near Fenway Park. "I really struggled getting the work done."
Emmanuel was set in goal by the time Hartig-Orr returned, so he listened when coaches suggested his athleticism might make him a good defensive midfielder. He appeared in 16 games and started once as a sophomore, then posted 13 goals and six assists as a junior.
"Lacrosse was the only reason I went back to school," Hartig-Orr said. "It got me through everything."
This spring, Hartig-Orr exploded with 39 goals and 12 assists, making him the Saints' second-leading scorer during a 3-14 campaign that ended with Emmanuel having only 18 healthy players. Admittedly right-hand dominant, Hartig-Orr used a 190-pound frame bulked up in the weight room to power past defenders when he couldn't dodge them.
"I got a lot of offensive opportunity this year," Hartig-Orr said. "Last year, I was honing in on what I needed to do and figuring out my shooting angles. This year, I caught my stride."
Hartig-Orr found that being a former goaltender allowed him better insight on when to shoot. Picking the twine from sharp angles became something of a specialty, as did using defenders as screens on longer shots from out high.
"Going into this season, we expected to use him for defense first, but once we saw how his skill set had developed, we used him more as an offensive midfielder," Craven said. "He was a very one-handed player, but he was so strong and athletic that he could lean into guys to get separation. He took it upon himself to figure that stuff out."
Hartig-Orr, 23, majored in sociology, minored in criminology and graduated May 11. He's working as a security intern at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library in Dorchester, adjacent to the University of Massachusetts Boston, but he harbors hopes of returning to lacrosse in yet another role.
"I definitely want to end up coaching at some point," Hartig-Orr said.
"The last few years have broadened my understanding of the game."
Tris Wykes can be reached at email@example.com.