Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 28
 
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
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(Photo Courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

NATIONAL HERO: Matt Striebel, center, greets some young fans after the U.S. men’s national lacrosse team played a recent scrimmage at Lehigh in preparation for the upcoming 2010 FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) World Championships in Manchester, England. Striebel, a former Princeton University men’s lacrosse star, is playing in his third world championship tournament for the national team.

With PU Alum Striebel Providing Fire in Midfield, US Men’s Lax on Mission to Regain World Title

Bill Alden

It didn’t take long for the soul-searching to begin after the U.S. men’s national lacrosse team lost 15-10 to Canada in the title game at the 2006 World Championships.

“I think we got a week off and then the U.S. lacrosse people were calling us to see what the issues were,” said former Princeton University standout Matt Striebel, a midfielder on the national team whose loss was the first since 1978 in the world competition. “There were going to be changes.”

One thing that hasn’t changed as the U.S. heads to Manchester, England this week to play in the 2010 FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) World Championships is the presence of Striebel on the squad.

For Striebel, making his third national team certainly wasn’t a breeze. “During the tryout process, I told a lot of people that it was the most grueling and emotional process I had ever gone through in lacrosse,” said the 6’1, 190-pound Striebel.

“It meant so much for me to make the team. In a vacuum, it means a lot just to be on the national team. There is personal satisfaction in that. It is doubly meaningful since we lost in 2006. We are on a mission.”

The U.S. has modified its battle plan as it looks to regain the title after Canada snapped its streak of six straight world crowns.

“It’s been all about Manchester,” said Striebel, who helped the U.S. to the 2002 world crown, scoring two goals in the championship game win over Canada. “There were changes from the way the equipment was handled to the way the team was chosen. Following the Coach K model with U.S. Basketball and the Olympics, we are putting together a team of all-stars who know their roles and can play together.”

Striebel is looking to hold the U.S. midfield together. “We have some incredibly talented midfielders,” said Striebel, 31, a 2001 PU grad who earned All-Ivy League honors in both soccer and lacrosse, helping the Tiger men’s lax team to national titles in 1998 and 2001.

“I am calling on my experience to let them know that the tournament is two weeks long and that they need to pace themselves and get better as the tournament goes on.”

Striebel has gotten better and better as his pro lax career has gone on, blossoming into one of the top midfielders in the game. Striebel helped the Philadelphia Barrage win Major League Lacrosse (MLL) titles in 2004, 2006, and 2007 and scored 129 goals in his first six pro seasons.

His emergence as one of the most lethal midfielders in the world came after he turned his athletic focus entirely to lacrosse.

“I grew up playing soccer and lacrosse; I played both sports at Princeton,” said Striebel, who is currently playing with the Chicago Machine of the MLL and serving as a staff director for Trilogy Lacrosse, a company that runs lacrosse clinics and camps nationwide.

“I have no regrets; it is one of the things about my college career that I am most proud of. I played semi-pro soccer after graduation for four years in addition to playing pro lacrosse. When I went to grad school at Iowa, I had to drop soccer. I am someone who has always worked hard. I tell kids at camps that very few people are so athletically gifted that they don’t have to put in the hard work. I was always someone who knew that I had to work harder than the other guy to beat them.”

The U.S. got the chance to put in some hard work last week as it held a training camp in Bryant, R.I. before heading to England. The team conducted two-a-day practice sessions and did a final tune-up scrimmage, posting a 13-12 win over the MLL All-Stars last Thursday

“The guys have bought into the plan; the camp created a situation where we all can get on same page,” said Striebel. “There has been a lot of lacrosse; it’s a good way to create structure.”

In Striebel’s view, the U.S. will have to keep its structure to prevail in Manchester.

“A key is how do we handle the indoor/outdoor hybrid style with a lot of picks that is in vogue,” said Striebel.

“The last time the philosophy was that we had the best lacrosse players. While that might have been true, Canada played the best lacrosse and they won. We have to play the best lacrosse.”

With a determined and experienced Striebel back again for the U.S., it can count on some soul in the midfield.

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