By Steve Guglielmo | 7/27/12 3:00 PM
Matt Striebel has had a career that most players can only dream about. He has won NCAA National Championships, Steinfeld Trophies, MVPs and Gold Medals. After last week’s game against the Charlotte Hounds, he can add a league record to that list.
Playing in his 133rd career game, Striebel passed Long Island Lizards great Tim Goettelmann for first on the all-time games played list. It is a record that has been 12 years in the making, as Striebel is the only player to play every year since the league’s inception in 2001.
“I honestly had no I idea that I was even close to the record until the first game of the season,” says Striebel. “It’s just such a cool honor. I’m proud of the fact that I have been able to play at a high level for as long as I have. I love playing this game, and this record just means that I have gotten to go out there and play this sport that I love 133 times.”
Striebel broke the record in style, scoring two goals and adding two assists en route to being named the Bud Light Player of the Game in Rochester’s 14-5 rout of the Hounds. “That was the best part about the game,” Striebel says. “We needed a win to keep us in the playoff picture and we were able to get it. I’m happy that I was able to play well, but mostly I’m just happy that we won. It would be great to get back to Championship Weekend this year. It’s been a while since I’ve been there.”
While Striebel’s longevity has been impressive, he has not merely been showing up week in and week out. He has been excelling. This year he was named to his fifth all-star game and so far this season has scored 23 points for the surprising Rattlers.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” says Striebel. “There has been a lot of luck involved. I’ve been fortunate to avoid injuries in my career. The first game of this season was actually the first time I have ever pulled a muscle in my entire life.”
Though luck may account for avoiding a fluky injury in such a physical game, the fact that he has stayed healthy has been no accident.
“I’m really committed to staying in shape and keeping a stick in my hand as much as possible. The guys who commit themselves to staying in shape are the ones who succeed,” he says. “I work out with a trainer three times per week and he has done a terrific job of keeping me in shape and injury-free. We work on very lacrosse-specific circuits. High intensity and lots of core exercises that mimic a shift in a lacrosse game. Core exercises are key because lacrosse is such a rotational sport with the shooting and dodging that we do. It’s so valuable to success.”
That drive to constantly improve is one that is born from Striebel’s extreme competitiveness. “To be successful you have to win at everything. You have to win the small details of a practice. Be the first guy to the field and the last guy to leave. I think of a lacrosse game as 60 small games. If you can win 31 of them, you are going to win the game,” he says. “People always talk about how you have to hate to lose. I do hate losing, but I love winning more than I hate losing. You have to love to win.”
Anybody that has been to a Rattlers game has seen this first-hand. Striebel is always the first on the field shooting. And the younger Rattlers have taken notice. Roy Lang and Jordan Macintosh, two of Rochester’s exciting young players, have started joining Striebel on the field hours before game-time to prepare. “I think that the idea of veteran leadership is overblown,” Striebel says. “But if I can leave a legacy of hard work for these young guys, that is something that I will be proud of.”
Another key to Striebel’s success has been his ability to change his style year in and year out. “Anybody can have one good year when there is no scouting on you,” he says. “But the next year those team’s will be ready for you. So for me, in my 12th season, the book is out on me. Every year I try to bring something new to the table. As I’ve gotten older I’ve started focusing more on my outside shot as opposed to running to the cage and getting slashed. In the last year I’ve had nine or ten 2-point goals and in the first ten years of my career I had probably two. It’s an element that I’ve worked on improving.”
While Striebel now stands alone at the top of the mountain, he doesn’t anticipate leaving the game any time soon. “Sometimes after a long trip or a bad loss I think to myself ‘What am I doing?,’” he says. “But that is part of sports. I texted my teammate Brian Doughtery the other day asking how much longer I could keep doing this and he texted me back, ‘As long as you can.’ That is the way I am going to approach things. I love playing; I love being a part of the Rattlers. If I weren’t in the MLL I would be playing lacrosse in a beer league somewhere against competition a lot worse than what I am seeing week in and week out. It wouldn’t be as much fun. So I am going to play until it’s clear to me that I can’t contribute to a lacrosse team anymore.”
MLL fans should enjoy the experience while they can.
MLL will host its 2012 Championship Weekend presented by Warrior on August 25 and 26 at Harvard Stadium in Boston, Mass. It will be a battle of the top four teams and will include two semi-final games on Saturday followed by the championship game on Sunday. Tickets are available now via Ticketmaster.com. To learn more about the 2012 MLL Championship Weekend presented by Warrior click here. The games will be televised live on ESPN2.