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(Photo by Bill Allen/NJ SportAction)

WINNING SMILES: Former Princeton University lacrosse stars, Matt Striebel, left, and B.J. Prager are all smiles after they helped lead the Philadelphia Barrage to a win over the New Jersey Pride in Major League Lacrosse (MLL) action earlier this summer. Last Sunday, Striebel and Prager each scored goals to help the Barrage beat Boston 13-11 to win the MLL title. Striebel had 30 points (17 goals, 13 assists) in the regular season and playoffs while Prager added 21 (20 goals, one assist) as Philadelphia won their last seven games after starting 2-5. In 2003, the Barrage had posted a league-worst 1-11 mark.
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Former Princeton Star Striebel Enjoys Ride As Barrage Goes from Cellar to MLL Crown

By Bill Alden

After enduring a 1-11 season last year with the Bridgeport Barrage of the Major Lacrosse League (MLL), former Princeton star Matt Striebel was hoping things would turn around when the franchise moved to Philadelphia this spring.

Midway through the 2004 season, however, it looked like business as usual as the Barrage stumbled to a 2-5 start and seemed headed to the league cellar once again.

Nevertheless, Striebel, who had been with the franchise since its inception in 2001, sensed that the team was on the verge of a turnaround.

"Even when we were down, there was a sense that we had good players and that we were just missing a few pieces," said Striebel, a 2001 graduate of Princeton who was a key performer for both the Tigers' lacrosse and soccer teams. "The addition of Greg Cattrano in goal and then [former Princeton star] Ryan Boyle made a big difference."

Bolstered by Cattrano and Boyle, the Barrage caught fire, winning their last five games of the regular season to qualify for the MLL semifinals last weekend in Boston.

The sizzling club culminated its improbable run by edging the Rochester Rattlers 18-17 in the league semifinals and then toppling the host Boston Cannons 13-11 in the championship game before a crowd of 8,269 at Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University.

For Striebel, the triumph was a particularly sweet moment in his athletic career. "Anytime you win a championship game, it's a great, great thing," said midfielder Striebel, who scored Philadelphia's final goal in the title game and was joined in the scoring column Sunday by Boyle and fellow Princeton alum B.J. Prager.

"It's particularly exciting, given that we were 1-11 last season and 2-5 at one point this season. When you go from worst to first, there is some vindication. That's pretty great."

Scoring the crucial goal late in Sunday's game that gave the Barrage a 13-10 edge was a great feeling for Striebel. "I had other opportunities earlier in the game when I got a glimpse of the goal but I didn't take the shot," said Striebel, who ended up with 17 goals and 13 assists this season.

"In that situation late in the game, I got a step on the defender and it seemed like the right time to take the shot. It was important because it gave us a cushion."

The addition of Boyle, who was obtained in a draft-day trade with Rochester in June, was a vitally important factor in the Barrage's title drive.

"Anytime you add someone like Ryan Boyle, it's a turning point," said Striebel of the Tiger great who led Princeton to the NCAA Final Four this spring and went on to be named the MLL Rookie of the Year after finishing second in the league with 28 assists in the regular season despite missing one-third of the season.

"He's such a great player, he's a coach on the field. His talent is to make the right decisions on the field, the MLL is a fast league and we needed a player behind the goal like Ryan."

In Striebel's view, Boyle's pass-first approach became contagious. "I think one of the things that happened was that we realized the benefits of being unselfish," explained Striebel, who has worked for Warrior Lacrosse the last two years when he hasn't been in action for the Barrage. "The bottom line is that this is a team game. Ryan really helped with that and a lot of guys bought into that."

During his Princeton career, Striebel got used to that kind of winning approach on both the lacrosse and soccer fields. "It was a great experience to play for Bill Tierney (in lacrosse) and Jim Barlow (in soccer)," added the 6'1, 190-pound Striebel. who played on two NCAA title teams in lacrosse and an Ivy League title winner in soccer.

"They have different personalities but the thing that came through about both is that they care so much for the players and the team. There is such a passion and commitment."

Utilizing that type of passion and commitment helped Striebel and his Barrage teammates put together their memorable title run.

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