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The Summer of Schreiber

November 28, 2023
Matt DaSilva
Premier Lacrosse League

How a late teammate's strength inspired Tom Schreiber's PLL MVP season.

TOM SCHREIBER HAD NOT PREPARED A SPEECH FOR THE OCCASION.

He knew what he might say if he were to become the first player to win MVP honors in both Major League Lacrosse and the Premier Lacrosse League.

He’d deflect credit to his teammates and especially his coach, Chris Bates, for whom he played at Princeton and with whom he reunited four years ago at the advent of the PLL.

He’d thank his wife, Kathleen, a former U.S. Olympic field hockey player, for the sacrifices she has made to allow him to chase the professional lacrosse dream while raising their 1-year-old daughter, Lillian.

In typical Schreiber fashion, he’d make it about everyone but himself.

But as soon as he took the stage Sept. 2 at the PLL Awards in Boston, Schreiber could think only of his late friend and high school classmate, Colin Clive.

“This has been kind of a strange season for me,” Schreiber said, his voice quivering as he considered all that had transpired in the previous three months.

It started with a hit to the head that knocked him out of the National Lacrosse League playoffs, then another that sidelined him for most of the World Lacrosse Men’s Championship. He cleared concussion protocols both times to return, but for the first time in his nine-year career he questioned this lifestyle — one that kept him away from his family for all but two days between the Toronto Rock’s season-ending loss to Buffalo in game two of the NLL East finals May 13 and the U.S. team’s win over Canada in the gold medal game July 1.

Two days later, Clive died of brain cancer. He was 31.

“I was at the peak of my pity party,” Schreiber continued. “Before his passing, I got to spend some time with him. It was a stark reminder of how lucky we are to be able to do this. In thinking about Colin’s impact on me, it wasn’t his death, but it was the way he lived. That struck a chord with me. I gained a new appreciation for playing this game — one that I lost sight of for a long time — and I started enjoying playing again.”

Clutching the sleek, obsidian Jim Brown Most Valuable Player trophy, the first three-time MVP in pro field lacrosse history nodded to his Archers teammates in the room. “This will forever be a reminder of a great group of guys that I got to play with,” he said, “and a damn good friend that I’ll never forget.”

AS GAME-WINNING GOALS GO, Schreiber’s shot clock buzzer-beater with 1:37 remaining in the PLL championship game Sept. 24 in Philadelphia might not outrank the Miracle on the Mediterranean five years ago in Israel.

“I read an article, ‘Is this a legacy game for Tom Schreiber?’” Waterdogs coach Andy Copelan said. “Tom Schreiber’s legacy was cemented long before this game.”

Schreiber’s mental Rolodex, however, almost always spins back to May 8, 2010.

The New York Catholic league final between St. Anthony’s and Chaminade — halted with 6:02 left in the fourth quarter the previous day due to lightning — went to overtime. Schreiber threaded a backdoor pass to Clive and threw his arms up when the lanky lefty put the ball in the back of the net to clinch a 9-8 victory for St. Anthony’s.

“I remember it to a T,” Schreiber said. “He popped his helmet off, and the look of joy on his face is imprinted in my memory.” Streaks of black grease paint dripped down Clive’s cheeks beneath his widened eyes.

“That really ignited Colin,” said Kenny Carpenter, the St. Anthony’s goalie who played four more years with Clive at Siena. “Colin brought the same energy from that day into college. He was just on fire from that day moving forward.”

Clive’s lacrosse exploits included a pair of MAAC titles at Siena and a world championship appearance with England in 2014. He carried that confidence into his career as an underwriter for Arch Insurance Group in New York.

Attending a Harlem Lacrosse benefit in October 2018, Clive suddenly felt unwell. He experienced headaches, delusion, memory loss and dizziness. He had a seizure the next week and was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a fast-growing and aggressive brain tumor.

An only child, Clive’s illness drew widespread attention when his parents died five days apart in January 2021. His mother, Barbara, died of complications from pneumonia. His father, Dave, never made it to the viewing. He died of a heart attack the day of the wake.

Schreiber’s next-most vivid memory of Clive was at the family’s house in Massapequa, New York, bussing plates and refilling water glasses for visitors diverted from the funeral home.

Even in the face of an unfathomable tragedy, Clive felt compelled to tend to others’ needs.

“That moment encapsulated who he was in a lot of ways,” Schreiber said.

A real estate investor in Manhattan, Carpenter mobilized the lacrosse community to help raise money for Clive’s medical and living expenses, including experimental cancer treatments. An article by People Magazine amplified the cause, resulting in more than $800,000 in donations.

Massapequa native and former Johns Hopkins goalie Eric Schneider stayed close to Clive. His mother, Roni, coordinated Clive’s care.

After two years in remission, the cancer returned. Doctors ceased immunotherapy in April. Two months later, Schreiber and Schneider were together in San Diego competing for the U.S. and Israel, respectively, in the world championship, when Clive entered hospice. They were all at his house just a couple weeks earlier, watching movies and eating snacks together.

THE FUNERAL DREW A CROWD befitting a reunion or wedding. Thirty-somethings with their whole lives ahead of them. Inside the casket lay Clive with his No. 14 Siena jersey.

Schreiber went directly from the cemetery to the airport for a flight to Minnesota, where the PLL season was set to resume following a three-week hiatus during the world championship.

The all-star break afforded Schreiber two uninterrupted weeks at home with his family to get healthy and process Clive’s death. What followed was his best three-week stretch of the season. He had 16 points in three games, all wins, as the Archers raced to an 8-2 finish and the top seed in the PLL playoffs.

Then came the speech.

“Take off the helmet, gloves and jersey, and he’s a normal guy that’s going through things outside of lacrosse,” Carpenter said. “For him to admit that he was struggling and to say Colin’s struggle gave him that boost and put life in perspective, that part resonated with me.”

Schreiber's positivity — put to the test again this week when the Rock put him on injured reserve less than a week before NLL Face-Off Weekend with an undisclosed injury — proved infectious. The Archers torched the Redwoods 14-6 in the PLL semifinals. Two weeks later, Schreiber picked up a grounder, evaded a swarming Waterdogs defense and scored the go-ahead goal, willing the Archers to a 15-14 win, delivering them from their perennial playoff purgatory and securing his reputation as one of the most clutch players in lacrosse history.