Former Towson University men's lacrosse player Casey Cittadino will represent Team Israel during the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships in Denver in July 2014.
A Tigers midfielder from 2002-06, who now plays for the Charlotte Hounds of Major League Lacrosse, Cittadino was one of 46 players selected to the first Israeli team competing in the World Championships. Cittadino, a Jewish-American, traveled to Israel in 2008 as part of Taglit-Birthright Israel and said he had loved his visit. The Israel Lacrosse Association contacted him early in 2013, he said, and he immediately saw a great opportunity ahead of him.
"Any way I could truly help grow the game, I want to be a part of," Cittadino said. "Also, when I got invited to Team USA tryouts four years ago, I never went. I was a little mad at myself for not going. I just kind of assumed I wasn't going to make the team, so I didn't even go to the tryouts. Now, I figured this is my opportunity to play in the World Games, so I didn't want to pass it up at all."
Now a dual citizen of the United States and Israel, Cittadino said the process of joining Team Israel had been more than a simple tryout or job interview.
"This has been an ongoing process," Cittadino said, "not just the dual-citizenship process, but also communicating between coaches and players over living in Israel, helping them with some fundraising things."
But through it all, Cittadino remained confident he'd make the cut, which he said had allowed him to focus on helping the organization, as well as his MLL career.
The Israeli team, composed of both Israeli residents and dual citizens, will report to training camp in Vail, Colo., July 2 and train until July 6. At the end of camp, the roster will be trimmed to 23 players.
Cittadino said the evaluation process had not been the same for all players. He wasn't at some tryout events because of scheduling conflicts, and he said the majority of his tryout had seemed to come by on-field evaluations during scrimmages he played in during the summer of 2013.
"From my understanding, our evaluation was more just for our play on the field," Cittadino said. "They didn't have us doing any type of speed or agility drills. There was very limited practice that I was a part of. I know that they had some stuff for other guys, which I just wasn't able to make because I was playing in the MLL all summer."
With the United States and Canada as perennial favorites on the world lacrosse stage, Cittadino said he hoped the inclusion of Israel in the World Championships would help grow the game overseas. The best way to do that, Cittadino said, would be to turn in a headline-worthy performance in Denver in July.
"I want us as Team Israel to go to the World Games and truly turn some heads," Cittadino said. "Obviously, we're going to be a complete underdog, and no one's going to expect us to do anything there, but I want us to turn some heads and prove there are a lot of great Jewish-American lacrosse players, and Team Israel should be respected on that world stage.
"I want us to go there and prove a point. We're not going there just to go there. I want to help create and start something for future generations of Israel lacrosse."