Friday, July 16, 2010

Another Face-Off For Striebel And Boyle

TigerBlog has a black long-sleeve dri-fit shirt that says "England Lacrosse" on it.

While the shirt itself was merely icing on the cake, it has made TB a huge fan of the English national men's lacrosse team.

The shirt was a gift for keeping stats during Princeton's three games against England during its tour of Spain and Ireland in 2008, during which the Tigers beat the English full national team 8-7 and 9-7 and the English U-19 team 15-4. It was given to TB by Ravi Sitlani, one of the coaches of the English team.

TigerBlog was stunned by how well England played the game. The athleticism of the English wasn't too surprising; instead, it was the their comprehension of how to play that was amazing. TB figured they'd be a bunch of ex-soccer guys who had just recently picked up sticks, but that was hardly the case.

Baggie, as he is known to all, is also one of the key organizers for the 2010 World Lacrosse Championships in Manchester, England, which started last night with England's 12-3 win over Germany.

As an aside, England lost to Germany 4-1 in the soccer World Cup round of 16; TB is pretty sure that the men's lacrosse win didn't erase that sting for the average English sports fan. As a further aside, England will finish way better in lacrosse than it did in soccer.

Meanwhile, back at the World Championships, Baggie and the rest of the organizers have been dealing with the fallout of an issue that was not their fault at all. The Iroquois Nationals, a team consisting of players from six Iroquois nations, has been trying to travel to England for the event on their native passports, but the British denied them visas to enter the country based on new anti-terrorism travel rules that were implemented.

The Iroquois, who feature some great former and current college players (and who nobody suspects are terrorists), were supposed to be in England almost a week ago, and it was supposed to be England-Iroquois to open the tournament. Instead, the team was forced into a holding pattern in New York City, where it stayed and practiced while trying to solve the problem.

Along the way, some (but not as much as TB thought) national media coverage came out of their situation, almost all of it sympathetic to the Iroquois. And while TigerBlog feels for them, it's not like the World Championships just sprung up on them. The rules are quite clear, and with as much money and effort as the Nationals had tied up in the trip, TB figures that they would have had it straightened out well in advance.

Anyway, with the situation still uncertain, the organizers of the tournament had to drop the Iroquois down one group in the tournament and bump Germany up to the top group.

The way it works in the 30-nation event is that the top group of six teams (the U.S., Canada, England, Japan, Australia and now the Germans) are playing for the championship, while six other groups are playing for places 7-30. The top group will play a round-robin and then use the standings to set up semifinals and ultimately the final.

The first game for the U.S. is this afternoon (Eastern time) against Australia, followed by games against Canada, Germany, England and Japan on consecutive days. It will take something miraculous for the final next Saturday (11:30 Eastern time on ESPNU) not to match the U.S. and Canada.

Here, by the way, is today's schedule:
Time Matchup (Group)
8.30am Slovakia v Switzerland (Orange)
9.00am Bermuda v Poland (Yellow)
9.30am Argentina v Austria (Grey)
11.30am Netherlands v Wales (Grey)
12.00pm Iroquois v Spain (Plum)
12.30pm Italy v Czech Republic (Red)
2.30pm Hong Kong v Norway (Plum)
3.00pm Sweden v Mexico (Red)
3.30pm New Zealand v France (Turquoise)
4:30pm Canada v Japan (Blue)
5.30pm Scotland v Latvia (Turquoise)
6.00pm Ireland v South Korea (Orange)
6.30pm Finland v Denmark (Yellow)
7.30pm USA v Australia (Blue)

The U.S. team features two Princeton players, Ryan Boyle and Matt Striebel.

When TB thinks of Princeton men's lacrosse players who are totally linked together, his first thought is the record-setting, three NCAA championship-winning attack group of Jesse Hubbard, Chris Massey and Jon Hess. After that, there is Alex Hewit and Dan Cocoziello, who played together from middle school through Princeton (where both were first-team All-Americas). Same with Joe Rosenbaum, Owen Daly and Brad Dumont.

Or there are those who seemed to be extensions of each other as players here. Kurt Lunkenheimer and John Harrington, defensemen from the Class of 1999, for example.

Really, though, the clear winners are Striebel and Boyle, which is somewhat amazing considering how they came to be teammates in the first place.

Striebel, of the Class of 2001, was an attackman from Gill, Mass., who also played soccer at Princeton (not many players play in the NCAA tournament in two sports, like Striebel did). When Boyle arrived three years later playing the same position, the then-senior Striebel was moved to midfield.

Rather than let it be a negative, Striebel turned in an All-America senior year, while Boyle also earned All-America honors while also assisting on B.J. Prager's overtime goal to beat Syracuse in the NCAA final. Boyle went on to three more All-America seasons, and he stands second all-time at Princeton in points and assists.

The two reunited on the 2002 U.S. team that won the World Championship in Perth, Australia, and they also played together on the 2006 team that lost to Canada in the final in London, Ontario. They've also been teammates on three Major League Lacrosse championship teams with the Barrage.

In other words, Striebel and Boyle has been teammates for 10 years and won five major championships, taking the top prize in the college, professional and international ranks.

TB was going to look up how many other players have won all three as teammates, but he couldn't find all the rosters he needed. There was no MLL prior to 2001, so that limits it to players from Princeton, Syracuse, Virginia and Hopkins who might have pulled it off, though TB can't think of any off the top of his head (and is pretty sure that no two Powell brothers won an NCAA or MLL championship together).

Boyle and Striebel also work together with Trilogy Lacrosse, a youth lacrosse organization.

They have evolved from two college kids playing the same position into among the very best attackmen and midfielders in the world. They have long been two of the biggest stars in the sport, and they are mobbed by kids at every opportunity.

They are great ambassadors for the sport, with Boyle a cerebral rock-star type who speaks softly and seriously and Striebel a big kid who talks and laughs loudly all of the time.

It's unlikely that they could have envisioned just how connected their futures - lacrosse and otherwise - would be when they first met a decade ago.

Still, there they are in England, getting ready to try to win a sixth major championship together.

There aren't too many partnerships that have been quite this successful.


Anonymous said...


Here's Bob Ford's column on the Iroquois Nationals predicament. While the tournament didn't sneak up on them, their predicament exceeds even that which even excessive procrastination could have foreseen.

FYI--I see no reason to publish, but it's up to you.
Merc Morris

Princeton OAC said...

TB published the comment, in the interest of getting the whole story.