by Chris Hunt
C’mon, you know you want to knock down Mike Hart.
The speedy Hough midfielder has been asking for it all match long. It’s quite annoying how he fearlessly darts back and forth in front of the crease, threatening to score on your goal. After all, Hart’s only 5 foot 9 and 157 pounds.
But here’s a warning to those who can’t resist the temptation to hammer Hough’s leading scorer. When you finally get a good lick on him, he won’t have the ball. It will be long gone by the time of impact. By then, it’ll probably be in your team’s net. And, when you look back at Hart, he’ll be grinning, shrugging off your dismal attempt at intimidation.
After all, Hart’s been hit much harder than that.
“Teams try to hit me to send a message,” said Hart. “I like getting hit. It gives me a good reason to score. If I take a good hit, I’m going to be loud and I’m going to score.”
Hart backed up his words with 51 goals this season. While he’s smaller than most his teammates, his toughness, along with his quickness and stick skills, made him the Conference 10 Player of the Year and the Herald Weekly’s 2011 Boys Lacrosse Player of the Year.
Taking on bone-crunching hits is nothing new to Hart. No one has ever hit him harder than his 6-foot-5, 260-pound brother Kevin, now a freshman center on the Coastal Carolina University football team. Even though the Hart brothers were teammates on Hopewell’s lacrosse team in 2010, that didn’t mean the elder Hart wouldn’t drop a vicious shoulder on his smaller sibling.
“The hardest I’ve ever been hit was by my brother,” laughed Hart. “Last year he rocked me a couple of times in practice. He would stand over me and say, ‘What’s up?’”
The Hart school of hard knocks not only honed the younger siblings’ mental toughness; it also improved his quick release. This season, Hough coach Anthony Puma relied heavily on Hart’s nose for the net to carry the first-year program. Hart’s relentless attack earned a first team selection to the N.C. All-West Region team and second team honors on the all-state squad.
Next season, however, Hart hopes to improve on another total – his 16 assists this spring. Puma said with improved field vision – by keeping Hart’s head up in traffic – and another season for the inexperienced Huskies to work on their stick skills, Hart’s number of assists could match next season’s goal total.
With that in mind, Hart said he’s working on a new message for next year’s opponents.
“The more you hit me, the more I’ll pass the ball to my teammates who are open in front of the crease,” said Hart.
Sounds like a good strategy, unless you’re the opposition.