U.S. Sixes Team Adds Schreiber, Heacock to Mix for Birmingham

PHOTO BY MASON PERRICONE

Tom Schreiber has been added to the U.S. Sixes roster as a replacement for Brad Smith, who won't be available for The World Games next month in Birmingham, Ala.


SPARKS, Md. — Captain America has returned to USA Lacrosse headquarters — this time as the newest addition to the U.S. Sixes team training for next month’s debut at The World Games in Birmingham, Alabama.

Tom Schreiber, who in 2018 authored one of the most iconic moments in U.S. men’s national team history, and Colin Heacock have been added to the roster as replacements for Brad Smith (availability) and Michael Sowers (injury), respectively.

While Heacock trained last year in the World Lacrosse Sixes discipline — a fast-paced version of the sport played on a smaller field (70 x 36 meters), with fewer players (6v6), a condensed game length (four 8-minute quarters) and a 30-second shot clock — it’s entirely new to Schreiber.

After the morning training session Tuesday at Tierney Field, Schreiber jokingly called himself Shane Falco, the fictional quarterback played by Keanu Reeves in the 2000 film, “The Replacements.”

“It feels fresh,” said Schreiber, who likened Sixes to basketball with blended elements of box and field lacrosse. “I feel lucky, with what’s coming down the pipeline potentially in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter how I got here. I’m just trying to make the most of the opportunity.”







When training camp opened Monday, Schreiber could be seen strategizing with U.S. coaches Andy Shay (Yale) and Bobby Benson (Providence), as well as his new teammates.

“Tom is a game-changer at every level, in every format of the game that is played,” goalie Adam Ghitelman said. “It changes the whole environment of the locker room and the team when he walks in there. He made that impact right away. You know, it’s Captain America. He’s one of those guys that’s going to up your game just being on the field with you.”

As one of the few American-born players to experience equal amounts of success playing professional indoor and outdoor lacrosse, the 30-year-old Schreiber provides valuable perspective. He was the top scorer for the National Lacrosse League’s Toronto Rock this season (47 goals, 39 assists in 16 games) and currently ranks second in the Premier Lacrosse League with 13 points after three weeks for the 2-1 Archers.

“It’s fun. It’s fast. It’s not box and it’s not field. It’s very much its own thing,” Schreiber said of Sixes. “There’s probably some schematic stuff that you could do that will give you a real advantage. Someone’s going to figure it out. And I’m hopeful that it’s us.”

The U.S. men’s and women’s Sixes teams are training together this week, their final camp together before The World Games. The men’s lacrosse competition will take place from July 8-12 and the women’s competition runs from July 12-16.

“We have to become a team in the next three days,” Schreiber said. “This is important for us. So far, so good.”

BYRNES THE BUILDER

It’s scarcely more than a two-hour drive from Atlanta to Birmingham. In some ways, The World Games are like a home game for Liam Byrnes, the U.S. Sixes team member who coaches varsity lacrosse at Centennial (Ga.) High School and for the Atlanta-based LB3 Thunder.

A Long Island native, Byrnes’ college and professional career have made him a magnet for emerging markets. Not recruited until late in his senior year at West Islip (N.Y.), Byrnes went to Milwaukee to play for the inaugural Marquette team and was the first of three Golden Eagles selected in the 2016 Major League Lacrosse draft. He played for nascent MLL franchises in Florida and Atlanta before jumping to the PLL prior to the 2021 season to play for the expansion Waterdogs.

This year, Byrnes suited up for the Panther City Lacrosse Club, an NLL expansion team in Fort Worth, Texas. The 29-year-old defender led all position players with 137 loose balls and 26 caused turnovers. Besides Schreiber, Byrnes is the most established box lacrosse player on the U.S. Sixes team.

At each stop, Byrnes said, he encountered coaches and teammates who refused to accept the early failures often associated with a startup.

“Coach [Joe] Amplo was just so paranoid about not sucking,” Byrnes said of the current Navy coach and U.S. national team assistant who started the team at Marquette. “You can go into a new team with the mentality it will take us a couple years to get better. You could almost use that as a crutch, whereas Coach Amplo had the mentality that we were going to compete right away.”

“Same thing with Panther City Lacrosse,” he added. “Typically expansion teams struggle for the first three or four years. Coach Tracey Kelusky was like, ‘Why not us?’”

Sixes. The World Games. Alabama. It’s just another new frontier for one of the sport’s most successful journeymen.

BACKYARD LACROSSE

Both Ghitleman and Byrnes said they like Sixes for its free-flowing nature. Play almost never stops — not even after goals. Draws take place only at the beginning of each quarter and there’s no backup rule to maintain possession after errant shots. The team that touches the ball last before it goes out of bounds yields it to the opponent.

“It’s like backyard lacrosse,” Byrnes said. “Guys have a lot of freedom to make their own choices out there.”

For Ghitelman, that included ditching his goalie stick for a shortie at times during training camp. With only 10 true runners on the roster, the 33-year-old anticipates needing to pitch in as a defender on occasion. He also participated in shooting drills.

“It’s a nice reprieve,” Ghitelman said. “You just feel like you’re playing in the backyard.”

During one three-on-three series Tuesday, Ghitelman defended Schreiber, his Archers teammate.

“I see him enough from inside the net. I kind of have a sense of what he does,” Ghitelman said. “But he’s got an infinite amount of moves.”

WHAT’S NEXT

The U.S. Sixes training camp consists of three practice sessions, two scrimmages and a teambuilding event. Camp breaks Wednesday, though many of the men’s players will be back in Baltimore this weekend for PLL games at Homewood Field.

Then it’s onto The World Games, an Olympic-style multi-sport competition that will feature over 3,600 athletes from more than 100 countries competing in 34 sports.

The men’s lacrosse competition will feature Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, the Haudenosaunee, Israel, Japan and the United States.

The women’s lacrosse competition will feature Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Great Britain, the Haudenosaunee, Israel, Japan and the United States.

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