Vinnie Sombrotto will never forget the time he first got the call. Well, actually, he didn’t exactly “get” the call.

“I was driving an ice truck for a family friend’s business,” Sombrotto said, recalling a summer afternoon on Long Island in 1981. “I’m in Great Neck at Antonio’s Deli. I had just put ice in the freezer and I’m starting to back out and I look in the mirror and I see the owner running out. I thought my boss must have called to tell me I had another stop, but he just said, ‘You made the team.’”

The “team” was the U.S. team, the pinnacle of the sport. In the era before cell phones, and even pagers, Sombrotto’s mother had gotten the word, called his boss and his boss knew about where he would be on his route. What a way to find out the great news.

Sombrotto would get the call three more times, becoming the first player in history to make four U.S. senior teams in field lacrosse. The distinction has happened just four more times over the years — John DeTommaso, Danielle Gallagher, Cherie Greer Brown and Jess Wilk — are the others in the exclusive club. All five have been inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

“Consider how difficult it is to be selected to play on four U.S. National Teams over a 12-year window of time,” said Skip Lichtfuss, Director of National Teams and High Performance for US Lacrosse. “This requires not only exceptional talent, but also in equal measures dogged determination, a high level of continuous conditioning and an overwhelming commitment to be the best. Perhaps just as important is the good fortune to remain healthy over such an extended period of time. Although there have been several other notable three-time USNT players, which is a remarkable accomplishment itself, these incredible athletes clearly stand out in a class of their own.”

Gallagher, Greer Brown and Wilk share a common bond as the trio played on their teams together — 1993 in Scotland, 1997 in Japan, 2001 in England and 2005 in the United States. It was a remarkable run that included three gold medals and one silver. The allure was simple.

“There’s nothing like hearing the national anthem and holding hands with your teammates and the knowledge of knowing you’re representing the United States,” Gallagher said.

Gallagher, then a star at William & Mary, was initially cut for the 1989 team, fueling her fire.

“I was determined after not making it to work my tail off,” Gallagher said. “I ended up doing that with the ‘93 World Cup team.”

She knew that making the team wasn’t the end and that’s part of the reason she’s in the special group of four-time U.S. team players.

“When you do finally make it at that next level, that’s not a time to relax and cruise,” Gallagher said. “You amplify the intensity to be able to compete and play.”

It’s not hard to look for inspiration. All you need to do is look at the players to your left and your right.

“I was so excited to play with so many other amazing players on those World Cup teams,” Greer Brown said. “They were all committed to being the best. Those were just phenomenal experiences. There’s a tight bound that still continues from those teams.”

Greer, a three-time All-American and two-time national champion at Virginia, set a high bar. She was the MVP of the 1997 and 2001 World Cup championship games, but her humbleness was representative of those teams that played for each other.

“I was so fortunate to be around my teammates and my coaches,” said Wilk, a national champion in field hockey and lacrosse at Maryland. “I think I appreciated it at the time, but I know my appreciation has grown in the subsequent years. People will look at the U.S. team and see how much success they’ve had. They don’t know how much hard work goes into it and the challenges the players face. That’s something that has really helped me a lot in my life and created bonds that are pretty special.”

For DeTommaso, the importance of the team became paramount right away. Fresh off his graduation from Johns Hopkins, he remembers his first experience with the U.S. team as being “bittersweet.”

“It was exciting to make the team, but my Mom got really sick in such a short period of time,” DeTommaso said.

She saw him play an exhibition at Hofstra, but died on Sept. 1, 1986, shortly after the world championship.

“I went to Toronto by myself because by that point my Mom was just so sick,” DeTommaso said.

The veterans on the team, like Sombrotto, took him under his wing. DeTommaso thrived for that team and subsequent U.S. teams. He was named the Outstanding Defender at the 1994 world championship and helped the U.S. to gold medals in 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998.

“Those teams were like moving through my life in every facet of my life,” DeTommaso said. “From engagement, to marriage, to houses and kids.

“In ’98, I had kids old enough to be in the stands and run around on the field. That was the culmination of it all. It was a huge game, a great game. I was a captain of the team, we were playing at Hopkins. That’ll be the single moment I’ll remember.”

Sombrotto actually tried out for that 1998 team that beat Canada in an epic overtime final, hoping to make it five times, but it wasn’t meant to be. That was hardly a blemish on an unbelievable international career for a guy that never made first team All-American at Hofstra.

“I had to kick the door in, so to speak, to prove that I belonged more than the guys that had the bigger reputations,” Sombrotto said. “I always wanted to play against the best guys at the tryouts. If I wanted to make my mark, it had to be against the best guys.”

Sombrotto more than made his mark. He was given the honor of carrying the U.S. flag for the 1982 world championship and ended up making the all-world team.

He was probably at his peak in 1986 and came back from a torn ACL and injuries to make the 1990 team. The chance to keep playing club with his brother, who was 10 years younger, kept his game at a high level. He knew what was at stake before the tryouts for the 1994 team.

“The next thing you know, nobody’s ever made four and I’m going to try,” Sombrotto said. “I didn’t know if they were keeping me around for a good luck charm, my skills and athletic ability had started to diminish, but the mind can make up for a lot of that. I think in last world games, I scored more than the other three. It depends on how you get used.”

How you get used, and accepting those marching orders is a key to the U.S. team success.

“The USA team has to be a team,” Sombrotto said. “You have to put ego to the side and play a role if necessary.”

Another key thing is paying it forward.

DeTommaso, he of the Hall of Fame career, says that the accomplishments he’s most proud of are watching his own kids play and two coaching experiences he’s had.

At Mepham (N.Y.) High School, he inherited a team that was 3-15 the year before he started coaching and built them into a team that competed for a county championship. More recently, he just finished up a run coaching a group of kids with Pat McCabe’s ICON program that he’s had since they were third graders.

“I’ve tried to coach them the right way, having everyone play the same, having the right-aged kids,” DeTommaso said. “I think 12 of them have committed to play at all levels in college. That’s been very, very satisfying.”

Gallagher has been a longtime coach at the high school and club level on Long Island. Before that she was coaching in Colorado while still playing on the U.S. team.

“Kids look at you as a role model and want to be that next national team player,” Gallagher said. “Devon Wills (a three-time U.S. team player), I coached her when she was a little kid. Seeing somebody who had those dreams, it’s cool to see that they’ve accomplished it.”

Following the 2005 World Cup, Wilk helped the U.S. win four more gold medals (2009, 2013 and 2017 at the senior team level and 2007 with the U19 team) as an assistant coach.

“I always felt like the former players, when I was playing, were giving back and helping give us the opportunity to live out our dreams,” said Wilk, currently an assistant athletics director at Virginia. “It was really important to pass it forward and help out in any small way that I could to make it as special as possible.”