Tom Schreiber scored six points for the Princeton University men’s lacrosse team last Friday against North Carolina but those offensive heroics aren’t what will stick in his mind when he looks back on the contest.
“I don’t think I will ever forget throwing the ball away on our last possession,” said senior All-American midfielder Schreiber, ever the perfectionist, as he reflected on Princeton’s 13-11 loss to the Tar Heels.
While Schreiber was bitterly disappointed by the result, he acknowledged that No. 16 Princeton made strides even as it fell to 2-2.
“Coach [Chris Bates] said we got better today but we are not where we want to be yet,” said Schreiber. “It is progress; it stings that it is a loss. We’ll keep building from there.”
Princeton fought an uphill battle as No. 5 North Carolina built a 4-1 lead midway through the first quarter.
“We have tended to do that at the start of this year and a little bit last year,” said Schreiber, referring to the Tigers’ penchant for slow starts.
“A lot of times the sidelines are saying it is a game of runs and they’ll get a couple, we’ll get a couple. We knew how talented they were and how they like to push the pace. I think that is exactly what we expected and our defense did a great job of covering a really talented offensive team.”
Princeton, though, displayed its offensive talent as it outscored UNC 9-6 from there to make it a 10-10 game going into the fourth quarter.
“There is no quit in this team, that is one thing I can say for sure,” said Schreiber.
“I wasn’t worried at any point. We felt good on our end offensively. I think Justin Murphy and the face-off team did a nice job in the second half getting us the ball. I think we did a nice job coming back and fell a little short. The beauty of our offense is that if you keep doing it and keep doing it correctly things will open up and I think that happened a little bit.”
For the two-time All-American, the night marked another offensive milestone in his glittering career as his first assist on the evening helped him become just the third player in program history to accumulate at least 80 goals and 80 assists in a career, joining Jon Hess ’98 (82 goals, 133 assists) and Dave Heubeck ’80 (83 goals, 99 assists) in the 80-80 club.
“It is cool to see it,” said Schreiber, who now has 168 points on 86 goals and 82 assists and is the top scoring midfielder in program history.
“It’s an honor to be considered with those guys. I am just trying to win games at this point. We got a little better so we want to get to the point where we are pulling out wins. I think we’ll peak at the right time.”
Princeton head coach Chris Bates saw plenty of positives even though he was disappointed by the outcome.
I thought there was a ton to build on but we gave away too many plays and we’ve got to find a way to win and minimize those mistakes,” said Bates.
“Defensively we grew up here a little bit. We showed some character, we showed some grit and that’s got to carry over.”
Sophomore goalie Matt O’Connor showed some growth, making 12 saves as he played a whole contest for the first time this year after splitting time with senior Brian Kavanagh in Princeton’s first three games.
“Matt gave us some life,” asserted Bates. “Early on, he was a little shaky. He just gave us some energy plays and he settled in a little bit. I am happy for Matt, he stood tall and he had a pretty good game. He’s a competitor and he’s fought through. He hasn’t played well but at the end of the day, he keeps coming.”
The team’s young defensive unit of freshmen Bear Goldstein and Will Reynolds along with sophomore Mark Strabo came on as well.
“Bear Goldstein shut down Joey Sankey today, Bear showed that he is a primetime kid,” said Bates. “Will Reynolds gets a lot of hype and he is a very good player. Both of those guys, Will and Bear, grew up today, and Mark as well.”
A quartet of veterans provided a steadying presence in the defensive midfield.
“Derick Raabe, Jack Strabo, Fern [Nick Fernandez], and Hunter deButts do the hard work, it goes a little bit unnoticed,” said Bates. “Derick picked up some huge ground balls. Fern, Jack, and Hunter were really stout. That gives us confidence going forward.”
While Princeton’s defenders held their own against the run-and-gun Tar Heels, Bates acknowledged that the Tigers offense needed to be a little sharper.
“We proved to ourselves that we can defend a team like that, we need those other plays to keep them to a few more goals less,” said Bates, whose team opens its Ivy League campaign on March 15 when it hosts No. 11 Penn (3-1). “We need to cash in a few opportunities. Mikey [MacDonald] has one I am sure he wants back. Tom wants the last turnover back, that is the nature of it.”
In Bates’ view, Schreiber’s competitive nature drives the Tigers. “Tom is a playmaker and you can just tell that when the game is on the line, his blood pressure is sky high in a good way,” said Bates.
“He helped get us back in the game. There are times where I look at him and say wow, I didn’t coach that. Tom wants to win games like this; he wants a couple of plays back because that is the type of competitor he is and that is what makes him a special player.”
Schreiber, for his part, is looking to write a special final chapter to his Princeton career.
“I am blessed to be here at Princeton to begin with let alone being on the lacrosse team,” said Schreiber.
“I am trying to continue to enjoy myself here. Whether we are winning or losing, I am going to be smiling. I am going to try to get some more Ws.”