After Helping U.S. Win Gold at 2018 Men’s Lax Worlds, PU Alum Schreiber Taking Lead Role in Return Trip to Event
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Tom Schreiber heads upfield for the Archers in Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) action. This week, former Princeton University men’s lax standout Schreiber ’14 will be competing for Team USA in the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in San Diego, Calif., which starts on June 21 and ends on July 1 with gold medal final. Star midfielder Schreiber, who scored the winning goal for Team USA in a 9-8 defeat of Canada in the gold medal game at the 2018 Worlds, has been named as one of three captains for the U.S. squad. (Photo by the PLL, provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)
By Bill Alden
Tom Schreiber produced a highlight for the ages in 2018 when he scored the winning goal for Team USA in a 9-8 defeat of Canada in the gold medal game at the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in Israel.
But for Princeton men’s lax alum Schreiber ’14, that moment isn’t what stands out the most when he reflects on the competition.
“When you look at it, it is a dream moment to score the winner as time is winding down,” said Schreiber. “That part of it is not something I think about very often. It is more the hanging out at that kibbutz, traveling to and from the game and being around the guys. That is the part that comes up a lot when I think about the last time around.”
This week, Schreiber will get another chance to hang around with those guys as he will be competing for the USA in the 2023 World Lacrosse Men’s Championship in San Diego, Calif., which starts on June 21 and culminate on July 1 with the gold medal final.
Looking ahead to the competition, Schreiber is excited to make some more indelible memories on and off the field.
“There are going to be these incredible moments on the field in these games,” said Schreiber. “More likely or not, whether it swings our way or their way, it is going to be a one-goal game. There is probably going to be some heroics from somebody out there. But the thing that I am looking forward to is being around everybody, representing the USA and becoming a team and hopefully competing for a championship all in the matter of 10 days. It happens very quickly.”
As one of the older members of the squad, Schreiber is savoring what could be his last opportunity to play for the U.S.
“I am quietly getting up there in my career. All of sudden, I am 31,” said Schreiber, a 5’11, 205-pound midfielder who tallied 200 points in his Princeton career and currently stars for the Archers in the Premier Lacrosse League. “It is 10 years since my Princeton days, which is crazy. It still means a lot. It is not something that is lost on me. It is very special to me. My dad [Doug] was a part of this 50 years ago and my wife (Kat Sharkey, a Princeton alumna who played for the U.S. field hockey national team and competed in the Olympics) was a Team USA player. It is cool for the family, it is cool for me. I am honored to be a part of it.”
Making the 23-man U.S. squad was not easy for Schreiber even with his glittering resume.
“It was a few years, it was three-year process, it started with close to 100 guys,” said Schreiber. “The way coach [John] Danowski and the staff have always approached it is they said consistently, ‘you guys are the team right now.’ It is their job to have to whittle it down, it is not a job I would want. I think they have been keenly aware of putting together the best team versus the best group of players.”
Schreiber is primed to be joined on the team by another Tiger standout, Michael Sowers ’20, who is making his debut at the men’s Worlds.
“It is one of the things that I am most excited about,” said Schreiber. “I would say that Michael and I have a pretty unique relationship. I haven’t spent a ton of time personally with him, I have never played a game with him. I spoke with him every couple of weeks while he was at school. I think mentor is probably too strong of a word, but I kind of just kept in touch with him and tried to help him where I could. As dominant as he was on the field, I was impressed with him. I am excited at being teammates with him. I am excited to be out there on the field with him — he makes everybody’s lives a little bit easier.”
In Schreiber’s view, the U.S. team boasts a good balance of experience and talent as it looks to win its 11th world title and become the first team to repeat as champions since 2002 when the Americans won their sixth straight crown.
“Everybody is there for a reason. They were pretty strategic in how they built the team in teams of skill sets and things like age and experience,” said Schreiber. “We have six guys from the last team. For two guys, it is their third time around and then everybody else it is their first. This is the staff’s second time around, which is the first time they have ever done that. It usually changes. So to have that consistency will benefit us. They have definitely leaned on the guys who have been around a little bit to talk guys through what it will be like.”
Schreiber, who has been named as one of three captains for the team along with former Princeton defensive coordinator Jesse Bernhardt and Michael Ehrhardt, will be talking a lot on the field.
“On the offensive end, me and Rob Pannell are the only returners, for everybody else it is their first time,” said Schreiber. “He and I have been the louder voices on the offensive end. We are both excited to take on that role. I am naturally in that role on all of the teams I am on. I am the oldest guy on the Archers in the PLL. It is just taking on that role. I am embracing it, I am excited about it. It is part of why I am there.”
Playing in the 2018 Worlds should help Schreiber thrive in that leadership role.
“I think it is knowing what to expect, knowing the mental toll, knowing the recovery time for your body and knowing the rules,” said Schreiber. “This is such a different game — you have to be prepared for that. Having gone through it is a good thing.”
It should also be a good thing to be playing on U.S. soil with the competition being held at San Diego State University.
“It will be really different, last time playing in Israel, we were kind of off on our own,” said Schreiber. “We actually stayed on a kibbutz out in Israel. There was a lot of time together with very, very little distraction. So going from there to San Diego, we will be in the dorms amongst the other teams, so that will be very different experience. We will be the home nation in a beautiful place like San Diego, families will be around. We are looking forward to that part.”
While the U.S. likes to play a run-and-gun game, patience will be key in the competition.
“The challenge is that the rules are very different from PLL to international play,” said Schreiber. “At times in the PLL, we will have a 32-second shot clock, 2- point shots, and a smaller field. The international game puts a huge, huge emphasis on possession. There is no shot clock, it is a much slower game. It is a running clock 15-minute quarters so technically it is longer than a PLL game, but it will be shorter just because the clock continues to run and the pace of play his much slower. It is a very, very different game. That is part of the challenge as well, adapting to those rules.”
The U.S. squad made progress in adapting to those challenges, taking part in a camp at Duke University earlier this month
“We went down to Duke and we were there from Saturday to Tuesday night,” said Schreiber. “It was great; it was the first time we were together as the 23-man team with a couple of alternates. A lot of it was mental, a lot of it was strategy, and just building our team, getting to know one another. The way this thing is structured we play Canada in six days. It is our first game so we jump right into it.”
With only Canada and the U.S. being the only countries to ever win the world lax title, Schreiber believes that unselfish play will be key in an expected title showdown with the rivals to the north, who have a Princeton alum, Zach Currier ’17, on their roster.
“I think discipline comes into play; with the rules, possession is so important,” said Schreiber. “It is also buying into being a team. You have seen plenty of examples in sports over the years of more talented teams not necessarily getting it done because they can’t figure out the team aspect of it. A lot of our focus has been on that. We don’t really care who scores the goals, we don’t care who is on the all-tournament team or the MVP or anything like that. We just want to win. If we can commit to that and be disciplined, be smart with the ball on our stick, and do a nice job covering a really talented Canada team, then hopefully we will be successful. I think that is what it comes down to at the end of the day.”