Vol. LXII, No. 17
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)
RED LETTER DAY: Princeton University men’s lacrosse junior star Tommy Davis rushes up the field in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, Davis scored three goals and chipped in an assist as Princeton topped visiting Cornell in a key Ivy Leaguer showdown. The win over the fourth-ranked Big Red improved Princeton to 7-4 overall and 4-0 in Ivy League play, leaving it in a first-place tie with Brown (10-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy). The Tigers play at Dartmouth on April 26.
Pete Striebel had some pretty big shoes to fill when he joined the Princeton University men’s lacrosse program in 2004.
Striebel’s older brother, Matt, was a legendary player for the Tigers, ending up eighth in program history with 74 assists on his way to All-American honors and helping Princeton to national titles in 1998 and 2001.
The younger Striebel, though, was a benchwarmer in his first three seasons at Princeton. He struggled to get playing time, scoring a total of three goals and three assists in those three years, a good week for his older brother.
This season, senior midfielder Striebel has emerged as a productive player for the Tigers, piling up 10 points on a goal and nine assists coming into No. 14 Princeton’s clash last Saturday with No. 4 Cornell on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.
As Princeton’s seniors were introduced one by one before the last regular season game, Striebel reflected on his rocky road at Princeton.
“I always thought I could play but when you play in a program like this there are always going to be setbacks,” said Striebel. “I’m just grateful that I have a chance to get in, it’s better now than never.”
Once the game started, Striebel took advantage of his opportunities, scoring two goals and adding an assist as Princeton whipped Cornell 11-7 before a sunsplashed crowd of 4,053.
The win improved Princeton to 7-4 overall and 4-0 in Ivy League play, leaving it in a first-place tie with Brown (10-2 overall, 4-0 Ivy).
With Princeton having lost four straight to the Big Red, the triumph Saturday had special significance for Striebel and his classmates.
“This was really a big one for us for the season and for us as a senior class here on senior day,” said Striebel.
“It all kind of worked out; it meant a lot to us. We’re staying focused on this season and what it means this season. Right now, we are in the driver’s seat in the Ivy League.”
For Striebel, it has meant a lot to finally get a chance to be a key contributor for the Tigers. “You come to college and everyone is talented,” explained Striebel. “It’s really about confidence and playing time. It’s the time I’m seeing on the field, getting more comfortable, knowing what I can and can’t do.”
The 6’2, 205-pound native of Gill, Mass. was happy to show Saturday that he can score goals.
“The shots were falling,” said Striebel with a grin. “Last week I had two pipes; they haven’t been falling this year. Today they were pulling me a bit so I was a little bit more off ball so that helped me in getting opportunities to get shots.”
The soft-spoken Striebel acknowledged that he felt some pressure in trying to fill the shoes of his brother, who has gone on to star in Major League Lacrosse and play for Team USA in the lacrosse world championships.
“It’s never easy following in the footsteps of someone like that,” said Striebel.
“He’s been tremendously supportive; he’s more nervous coming to the games and watching me. It’s been great having a brother like that; having ties to this program through him and what he did here. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Princeton head coach Bill Tierney wouldn’t trade much for the way his team performed against Cornell.
“I can’t remember the last time we beat a ranked team like this in a big game like this,” said a smiling Tierney.
“I told the kids after the game that it was as big a regular season win as we’ve ever had. Our backs were to the wall and they still are but to beat a great team like that and with the way the kids played today, it’s hard to imagine it could go any better.”
In the early going, it didn’t look like things were going to go so well for Princeton as Cornell jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
“I thought oh boy, here we go,” recalled Tierney. “We have been on the other side of that the last few years but the kids hung tough. When Bob Schneider scored our first goal, I felt a little better. I felt like OK we’re going to get some shots and we are going to be at least hopefully in it but never in my imagination did I think we’d be up 7-2 at half.”
The Princeton defense certainly hung tough as it held Cornell scoreless for 31:26 after the Big Red’s second goal.
“Cornell is a great shooting team,” said Tierney. “We said don’t let them bop the ball around because when they start throwing it around, that’s when they are really dangerous. Al [goalie Alex Hewit] played well and made the saves he had to make today.”
Tierney thought that Striebel did what he had to do. “Striebel is great,” said Tierney. “He’s banged up, he’s one of those guys, every time he goes out there, even in practice, he looks like he is carrying a 100-pound weight on him. He gets a big goal today and plays a lot of good minutes for us.”
Princeton is getting some very good minutes from senior co-captain Schneider, who scored three goals in the win over Cornell after tallying a career-high four in Princeton’s 9-8 overtime win over Harvard on April 12.
“If you have been around our program for a long time, whenever we have been really good, we have had seniors who would step up and come out of nowhere,” said Tierney, who also got three goals from Tommy Davis with Jack McBride adding two and Alex Haynie chipping in one.
“Not that Bob has come out of nowhere but he has certainly been doing the things we thought he was capable of doing but he hasn’t done until this point. He had three of our first four goals. He was just fabulous, he’s just been a warrior for us.”
Tierney knows that his team has to keep battling if it is going to earn the Ivy title.
“We can take this thing and over enjoy it,” said Tierney, whose team plays at Dartmouth on April 26 and at Brown on May 3.
“We just throw it out the window if we lose to Dartmouth or Brown. We have to go up to Dartmouth first and they are a high scoring team. Brown has one of the best goalies in the country [Jordan Burke]; Penn outshot them 56-20 and lost. They play on grass which nobody else plays on.”
In Striebel’s view, Princeton’s rally in the Harvard win which saw the Tigers rally from a late 7-3 deficit has given the team the confidence to fight through the adversity it will face.
“I don’t think we had come back in the fourth quarter before this year,” said Striebel. “Doing that, we really gained a lot of confidence. The senior class has lost a lot of tight games; we won an overtime game, that was big for us.”
And it has been big for the Tigers to be getting a solid contribution from the increasingly confident Striebel.
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