Last spring, Tom Schreiber became the first freshman to lead the Princeton University men’ lacrosse team in both goals and assists.
But while Schreiber earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors for his production as he scored 29 points on 16 goals and 13 assists, he didn’t get a lot of help as the Tigers stumbled to a 4-8 record.
Last Saturday in the 2012 season opener against visiting Hofstra, Schreiber again triggered the Tiger offense, scoring a career-high seven points on three goals and four assists.
But this time, the 6’0, 190-pound sophomore got plenty of help as the Tigers pulled away to a 12-6 victory over the Pride as Princeton christened its new Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium before a crowd of 1,222.
Schreiber certainly noticed a difference from last year. “We flowed a lot better; everybody was in the right spots,” said Schreiber, who was later named the Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance.
“Guys were breaking off ground balls. We were getting transition goals. It was a team effort and things went our way finally. We had a lot of assisted goals today. Everyone was moving out there and everyone is moving the ball. It doesn’t matter who is putting it in the net; we are just happy to put 12 goals on the board.”
Schreiber helped get things flowing for the Tigers as he saw time at attack and in the midfield.
“Like any other player, you love being out there, “ said Schreiber, reflecting on his dual role.
“I did that a little bit in high school; I didn‘t come off the field much. If I can keep in good enough shape, hopefully I can continue to do it and get a lot of looks.”
Over the offseason, Schreiber worked hard to refine the game he showed during his freshman campaign.
“Shooting is one thing I worked on a lot; I struggled with that a little bit today,” said Schreiber. “And just like anybody else, I worked on getting stronger and faster.”
Freshman attacker Mike MacDonald credited Schreiber with being a catalyst of Princeton’s strong effort in the opener.
“Tom Schreiber stepped up and put some in the net,” said MacDonald, who scored three goals in his college debut and was named the Ivy League Co-Rookie of the Week along with Brown’s Nick Piroli. “He kept us calm and kept us going.”
In MacDonald’s view, the offensive effort Saturday is a harbinger of things to come.
“It is still early but I think our offense is going to click,” said MacDonald, a native of Georgetown, Ontario, who starred at Trinity Pawling.
“We have a new system under coach Bates [Princeton head coach Chris Bates] here. We are all working hard everyday with it in practice and I think it is going to go really well.”
MacDonald admitted that it took a while for him to get his game going in his first taste of college action.
“I was a little bit nervous going in there; I threw a couple of balls away at the start,” said MacDonald.
“There were a couple of guys who helped me through it and calmed me down. Coach Bates trusted me and left me out there even when I threw balls away. I think when the nerves calmed down a little bit, it went my way.”
Princeton head coach Bates trusted his offense to fire away. “We talk a lot about generating shots,” said Bates, whose team outshot the Pride 39-20 on the day.
“At halftime we have 17 or 19 shots. We are like OK because that is how an offense gets a rhythm. We backed up the cage and shot it relatively well.”
With Princeton coming off a rough season and having played unevenly in preseason scrimmages this year, Bates was looking to see some fire in his players.
“I saw the emotion; it started with face-offs and ground ball stats,” said Bates, whose squad won 13-of-22 face-offs and had a 28-19 edge in ground balls.
“If we are going to shoot the ball 39 times and out-face-off and out- ground ball teams, we are going to be very good. Defensively I thought we were OK, that will be a work in progress. I think we learned that when the lights go on, we have got some guys who can play.”
There is no question that Schreiber has emerged as a prime-time player for the Tigers.
“Tom is going to make plays but he is going to make other people around him better,” said Bates.
“He is a kid who wants the ball on his stick. At attack, when Michael Grossman had played down there with Jeff Froccaro and Mike MacDonald, you don’t have a real quarterback. With Tom back there a little bit, he is going to get the ball in transition and settle everybody down.”
In Bates’s view, the win should have a settling effect on a program that had its confidence shaken in 2011.
“It is huge; it is relief in some ways,” said Bates, whose team is ranked No. 11 in this week’s Inside Lacrosse media poll and will face No. 2 Johns Hopkins on March 2.
“It is the first one so you just don’t know. You watch us play last week and you think we are OK. You just aren’t sure what you are going to get when the curtain comes up. I thought the energy was really good. We played through mistakes. It was a good way for us to start; it gives them some validation for hard work. It has been a lot in the off season and for them to just come and get off on the right foot is a nice relief.”
Schreiber, for his part, believes Princeton is headed in the right direction.
“The coaches just keep pushing us; we did a lot of shooting,” said Schreiber. “We finally got the offense going, we got our confidence up. Once we start scoring early, we got a little momentum.”