September 30, 2020

Making Impact On and Off the Field for PLL, PU Alum Schreiber Helps League Thrive in Bubble

STRAIGHT ARROW: Tom Schreiber prepares to unload the ball in action for the Archers Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Former Princeton University men’s lacrosse star midfielder Schreiber ’14 helped the Archers LC reach the semis of the PLL Championship series this summer. Tallying 16 points on 12 goals and four assists in the competition, Schreiber was named as Gait Brothers Award as the league’s top midfielder. He also contributes to the PLL off the field, working as an analyst for the league. (Photo provided courtesy of the PLL)

By Bill Alden

Tom Schreiber has made a big impact on and off the field in helping the fledgling Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) get off the ground.

As the PLL started in 2019 with 14-week tour-based schedule taking place in 12 major-market cities, former Princeton University star midfielder Schreiber ’14 started working as an analyst for the league, focusing on player relations. On the field, Schreiber sparked the offense for the Archers Lacrosse Club squad, tallying 39 points on 15 one-point goals, a pair of two-point goals, and 20 assists.

This summer, Schreiber and the PLL thrived through the COVID-19 pandemic as the league conducted its season in a bubble, holding in a PLL Championship Series in Herriman, Utah, from July 25-August 9.

“We were there for three weeks, which is a long time,” said Schreiber, a 5’11, 205-pound native of East Meadow, N.Y.

“On the back of a pandemic where you are really not socializing with anyone and for us, part of the pre-travel process for COVID was that you had to self-quarantine for 14 days. I know that everybody took that pretty seriously so we were just starving for some social interaction. It was actually fun.”

The Archers LC players had fun out in Utah, reconnecting with each other and welcoming some fresh faces to the squad.

“There was good bond and it was cool bringing in the new guys too,” said Schreiber.

“Starting something from scratch, you do have a sense of pride in establishing what that organization and team is going to be all about. Of the seven teams, I think we had the most returners and the fewest amount of new guys. It was definitely cool bringing those new guys back up to speed and to continue to build off of what we started last year.”

Over the years, Schreiber has developed a deep bond with Archers LC head coach Chris Bates, who was the Princeton coach from 2010-16 and now guides the boys’ lax program at the Episcopal Academy (Pa.).

“The relationship between a college coach and his players and a professional coach and his players is different,” said Schreiber.

“One is not better than the other, it is just different. It has been very cool to experience both. With coach Bates moving on from Princeton and having that ability to reconnect after something like that happening has been great. The Episcopal thing especially with this, seems like a pretty good fit overall. He seems super happy.”

Adding to Schreiber’s comfort level with the club is the connection he has with former Princeton teammate and fellow Archers LC midfielder Ryan Ambler ’16.

“He has elevated himself to the top tier of players in the league, which has been really cool to see,” said Schreiber.

“What I think a lot of people don’t see is the sacrifices Ryan has made in the background. He lives in New York City and took a different role at his company that would allow him to train a little bit more for the PLL. He has taken the train out and is shooting with me on Long Island after work. He made a lot of sacrifices that not a lot of people would and it shows. I don’t think you will find a single player in that whole league where the team would be as happy for him as we are. He is very popular around our team and guys couldn’t be happier for him.”

Over group play at the PLL Championship Series, the Archers LC proved to be a team to reckon with, posting a 3-1 record and earning the third seed for the elimination round.

“Any time you step on the field, you want to win,” said Schreiber. “We wanted to win games and we made decisions to win games but more importantly in the kind of environment that we were in Utah was to peak at the right time and to keep getting better. We had the most familiarity out of all the teams but bringing in Grant Ament (Penn State’s all-time scoring leader) changes our offense and bringing in Eli Gobrecht (a former Ithaca College standout) on the defensive side of the ball changes our defense a fair amount too. We had to adjust, all for the better because those guys are awesome players. It was about getting those guys acclimated and getting acclimated to them and just trying to get better every time.”

Producing one of their better efforts, the Archers LC defeated the Atlas 11-9 in the opening round of knockout competition to advance to the semifinals.

“We knew what that team was capable of, we are never going to be guilty of overlooking anyone,” said Schreiber, who tallied three goals and two assists in the victory.

“We played a tough game against them and we did some good things and we were able to get a win. There are no easy wins in this league, especially in a format like that where you are playing one game after another. The guys are gassed, it was definitely tough. It was probably a degree more physical than last year probably just because of the competitiveness.”

The Archers suffered a tough loss in the semis, falling 11-9 to the Chaos on August 6.

“It really comes down to we started slow, we were down 8-3 at one point and we battled back,” recalled Schreiber, who notched two goals and an assist in a losing cause.

“We ended up winning the second half, but it just wasn’t enough to come back. There were some opportunities probably left on the table. We put our defense in bad positions, giving them transition looks and leaving them a little vulnerable. It is one of those things, it was tough to turn the tide and the momentum.”

While Schreiber was disappointed to bow out in the semis, he believed the league gained momentum through the Championship Series as the games were broadcast by NBC, NBCSN, and NBC Sports Gold and drew a strong social media following.

“It is tough to bifurcate the two,” said Schreiber.  “As a player, we didn’t win the championship. From a league perspective, I have a unique view into things, working for the league as well. It was really positive. More anecdotally, I have never had more people reach out and be in tune with what was happening, mentioning things that specially happened in the games. It was really cool to be part of that and live that life for a while, quite literally in a bubble.”

That positive response has Schreiber believing that the PLL’s model of touring teams can work in the long term.

“Behind the scenes there was a lot of research about what drives affinity in team sports and there is a lot of data that points to people following their favorite players,” said Schreiber.

“There is always going to be a strong sense of community and there will always be regional fan bases. The general thought is that it wasn’t sustainable on the field in the lacrosse world just yet. The tour can create a lot of buzz and create that interest combined with a strong social media effort and building up individual players from that social media standpoint. The goal was to get fans involved and what we have seen is that lacrosse fans gravitate towards certain teams despite not having a tie to the specific geographic area.”

Schreiber, for his part, solidified his status as one of the PLL’s marquee players, winning the Gait Brothers Award as the league’s top midfielder for a second straight year.

“It is always an honor to do that and have those sort of things; it doesn’t mean the world to me,” said Schreiber, totaling 16 points on 12 goals and four assists in his six games this summer.

“The level of play in that league is off the charts and the other guys in that league up for that award were excellent. I think there were a few guys who weren’t finalists who were also really, really good so I am happy to be in their company. I want to continue to elevate what I am doing personally on the field. I try to get better and better every year and every time I am out there. That is really the goal at the end of day.”

Looking ahead to playing indoor (box) lacrosse this winter for the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League (NLL), Schreiber plans to use the fall to elevate his conditioning.

“I never have an off season and now I have a couple of months and I have the ability to really train versus just rehabbing and getting ready to play,” said Schreiber, who is also a stalwart for the U.S. national team, having scored the game-winning goal just before the buzzer in a 9-8 victory over Canada in the gold medal game at the 2018 World Lacrosse Championship. 

“I have had two injuries in the past three years, I have spent my offseason either on crutches or in a sling and then I have gotten cleared for game one in box. I haven’t had a training camp in two years so I am looking forward to being able to fully train and not just come back from some injury and then get to training camp and be ready to play in the NLL. That season is in a bit of jeopardy as to when it will start. There will also be a lot of training in terms of what we will be doing in the PLL, planning for whatever happens with COVID and if we have another bubble or whether we will go back to the tour.”