Kjellman Retires: "It's A Good Time To Go Out"
Kristen Kjellman, the first lacrosse player to win two straight Tewaaraton Awards, has decided to retire from Team USA. She's looking to stay active athletically, but now more for fun. "It will be nice not to have to find a little patch of grass in New York City to do a 300-yard shuttle," she said.
© Scott McCall
The 2011-12 U.S. women's senior team was named Sunday, and close observers may have noticed the absence of a player that would have typically been a lock to make the team, had she decided to try out.
But Kristen Kjellman did not try out. Kjellman, 26, has decided to retire from international competition as a player, she confirmed with Lacrosse Magazine Tuesday.
The former Northwestern star and first lacrosse player, male or female, to win two straight Tewaaraton Awards, said it was a tough decision, but that she's looking forward to staying active athletically for fun. She wants a break from the grind of constantly preparing and competing at the highest levels possible. She was a five-time member of the U.S. team, and a key player on the 2009 World Cup winning squad.
"I had such an amazing time the last five years playing with the U.S. team, highlighted by the Prague trip [in 2009]. After this past year, this spring I gave it a lot of thought. It was pretty difficult, but I felt mentally and physically that it was time for me to turn that chapter, and start a new one. I just felt like it's a good time to go out. It felt like the right time for me," Kjellman said.
Kjellman, often the player credited for kick starting the Northwestern women's lacrosse dynasty, left open the possibility of trying out next year for the U.S. team that will compete at the 2013 World Cup. But for now said she's looking forward to playing in outdoor soccer and volleyball leagues, and playing pick-up basketball. She will also continue to play lacrosse with the New York Athletic Club in New York City, where she's lived for about 18 months. Kjellman works a lacrosse sales rep for Nike.
"I love to be active and train for fun," she said. "It will be nice not to have to find a little patch of grass in New York City to do a 300-yard shuttle."
Kjellman notified U.S. head coach Ricky Fried of her decision about three weeks before last weekend's tryouts at UMBC, although she said she was weighing the possibility since last spring. Fried accepted the decision, but said he'd quickly welcome her back into the fold if she changes her mind.
"My impression is she won't be back, but we've been surprised before with that," said Fried, also the current Georgetown head coach and an assistant on the 2009 World Cup team. "The door is always open to anybody that's been part of the program. Philosophically, I don't think you want to shut the door on anybody that can help your team. She made a personal decision that was best for her at this time. Frankly, we're very thankful for all that she's done for the U.S. program. We wish her the best, and if she decides to have a change of heart, we'd welcome her back to try out with open arms."
Kjellman said she isn't sure how she'll feel in a year from now.
"We'll see how it goes this year, and see how my body is feeling and mentally, where I am," she said. "You never know. Maybe."
If she is indeed finished playing, it's been an amazing career. Kjellman is often looked at as the catalyst for the development of the Northwestern dynasty. The Massachusetts native led the Wildcats to a 77-5 record in her college career, and three national championships from 2005 to 2007. She was a three-time first-team All-American and three-time ALC Player of the Year. She ended her career as Northwestern's all-time leader in points (349), goals (250) and draw controls (268), the latter two records she still holds. She started 81 of 82 games in four years.
In the 2009 World Cup final against Australia, Kjellman had a goal, an assist and three draw controls in an 8-7 win. In seven games of international completion, she was first on Team USA in draw controls (20) and tied for second in goals (17), with former Northwestern teammate Lindsay Munday.
"All I can really say it's been an incredible run and I wouldn't have changed anything," Kjellman said Tuesday. "I'm still good friends with a lot of the current team and hopefully I'll be able to come back and scrimmage with them with them when I can."