PU Alum Schreiber Makes Lifetime Memory, Scoring Goal to Give U.S. World Lax Crown
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Tom Schreiber handling the ball for Team USA last month at the FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) World Championships in Netanya, Israel. Star midfielder Schreiber, a 2014 Princeton alum who scored 200 points in his Tiger career, scored a goal with one second to play to give the United States a 9-8 win over Canada in the gold medal game at the competition. Finishing the seven-game tournament with 13 goals and eight assists, Schreiber was named to the All-World Team and as the Outstanding Midfielder of the tourney.(Photo by Adam Scott/US Lacrosse)
By Bill Alden
It appeared that Tom Schreiber squandered a golden opportunity to be the hero as the U.S. men’s national team battled Canada in the final at the FIL (Federation of International Lacrosse) World Lacrosse Championship last month.
With the rivals locked in an 8-8 deadlock and five seconds remaining in regulation of the July 21 contest in Netanya, Israel, former Princeton University star midfielder Schreiber misfired on a good look in the crease, missing a point blank shot.
“I was shocked with how much room I had and shocked with how much time I had when I caught it,” said Schreiber.
“I probably rushed it a little bit. So from there my mind was, ooh, I just blew that one, I better get the ball and at least give ourselves a chance.”
Schreiber got one more chance just before the final horn and this time he buried it with a second remaining to give the U.S. a dramatic 9-8 win and the world title.
“Rob Pannell was taking the ball and we locked eyes for a second; I saw a path and Ned Crotty set a pick in the crease,” recalled Schreiber.
“It all happened in slow motion. I was wide open, I saw the ball and it was hopefully catch it and I was going to bury it. It was strange because we didn’t know if time had expired. It didn’t set in for a long time but it was a forever play. I just ended up in the right spot.”
While the U.S. ended up with the gold, there some bumps in the road to the title as the team overcame deficits along the way.
In its opening game of group play, the U.S. found itself trailing the Iroquois Nationals 3-0 and 7-5 before pulling away to a 17-9 victory.
“It was a good experience, being down a few goals and having to keep our composure and battle back,” said the 6’0, 190-pound Schreiber, a native of East Meadow, N.Y. who scored 200 points in his Princeton career before going on to the Ohio Machine of Major League Lacrosse (MLL) and the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL).
“They are just really talented and skilled; we were able to tighten some things up. Sure enough, nine days later we were dealing with the same thing on the same field so it was good.”
In what turned out to be a preview of the final, the U.S. edged Canada 11-10 in a group matchup, trailing 10-9 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.
“We knew this going in that Canada was a really, really good team and that it is a going to be a battle,” said Schreiber.
“It is not going to be where one team beats the other by five or six goals, you know it is going to come down to one or two. It was really chippy as was the final. They were both exciting finishes and both really physical games. It is a just a bunch of guys who were really hungry to win against each other.”
While the U.S. cruised to lopsided wins over Scotland (18-2) and England (19-2) to close out pool play, the team maintained its hunger to improve.
“The message all the time from the coaches down to the players was to make sure we are growing and we are advancing forward the entire time,” said Schreiber.
“I think that is one thing we can point to helping us down the stretch. It was the first time after college where you were with your team and coaching staff all day, every day. It is not to say that we are not coached in the pro league, you play the game and you go home. Whereas here we had a full film breakdown, meeting debrief, and a pregame meeting. We are able to make a lot more adjustments than we normally would. I think that was huge for us.”
In a semifinal contest against a plucky Australia team, the U.S. broke open a tight game that saw it leading 5-4 in the first half to post a 14-5 win and earn a date with Canada in the final.
“That is a smart team, they play well together,” said Schreiber of the Australians.
“It was good for us, they played in a similar way that the Canadians did. I think our defense, in particular, did a really nice job of withstanding that. It is a lot of pressure to play against, with teams that possess the ball that well and are that selective about their shots.”
Before the highly-anticipated gold medal showdown against Canada, Schreiber and his teammates got some extra inspiration as they received a pep talk, via conference call, from Duke men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, a West Point grad who has coached USA basketball to three Olympic gold medals.
“It was incredible, we could tell that it was genuine and meaningful and something I won’t soon forget,” said Schreiber. “He had a couple of words of wisdom in there that I know for a fact that we all thought about in that game and will stick with us for a long time.”
The U.S. had to stick together as it trailed Canada 6-4 at halftime.
“We didn’t lose our composure at all; we were losing for the majority of the game,” said Schreiber. “There were a couple of simple but monumental plays made in that game that weren’t flashy, that weren’t going to wow anybody but that were just such great plays. It was mostly defensive stops and just some smart plays by guys on the offensive side.”
In a fourth quarter rally, which saw it overcome deficits of 7-6 and 8-7, the team applied the pregame message.
“Part of Coach K’s wisdom and part of what we heard the whole time was ‘focus on the next play and don’t think about how this game is going to end up’,” said Schreiber, who scored the team’s seventh goal in the win and ended up with three goals in the contest.
“It was just ‘make the next play,’ and I think we had enough guys making those simple plays and focusing on that enough of them snowballed together. It ended up working for us.”
For Schreiber, winning the world title was the product of a lot of hard work.
“It means a ton, beyond playing for the U.S. and wearing the colors and all of that, it was the 23 guys and the staff coming together over those two weeks and being able to accomplish our goal at the end of the day over such a good team,” said Schreiber, whose father, Doug, played for the U.S. team that won gold in the 1974 world tournament.
“It was really meaningful and my family got to go over to Israel. For me, it has been a team effort my whole life in terms of my personal development. To enjoy it with the family and with our team was pretty incredible.”
In Schreiber’s view, the way the U.S. team came together paved the way to gold.
“I think it just comes down to only caring about the team; we knew what we wanted to accomplish,” said Schreiber.
“It is the type of tournament where nobody cares who makes the all star team, no one cares who gets the awards, but it is about winning. We knew we would have a pretty good shot at getting to the gold medal game and I don’t think we looked over anybody I think it is easier said than done but every single guy only focused on that.”
Schreiber’s brilliance, though, led him to receive some of those individual awards as he was named to the All-World Team and as the Outstanding Midfielder of the tourney.
“That stuff is big but it pales in comparison to the gold medal,” said Schreiber, who tallied 3 goals and eight assists in the tourney.
“I am certainly appreciative and I don’t mean to come off in any other way. That gold is what I will remember and what I think about when it comes to the real highlights of my career.”
Looking ahead, Schreiber is hoping make a lot more highlights before ending his lacrosse career.
“I plan on playing for as long as I can and for as long as my body holds up,” said Schreiber, now 26, noting that he was hampered a bit physically due to a knee injury he suffered during the indoor season.
“I hope I haven’t even reached the halfway point of my career. I am in a good place; I enjoy playing and I hope to play as long as I can.”