What Makes Ryan Ambler Tom Schreiber’s Favorite Teammate
It’s the fourth week of the 2023 PLL season and the Archers are locked in an early offensive shootout with the Whipsnakes. The Archers have the ball with Ryan Ambler and Tom Schreiber are paired on the crease as Connor Fields dodges on the lefty wing. As the shot clock hits four seconds remaining, Fields rolls to his right, then back to his left, and, with a solitary second left before the buzzer sounds, he dishes the ball to a suddenly wide open Schreiber for a 10-yard, hands-free step-down.
Schreiber matter-of-factly cans the shot and ties the game at three goals apiece late in the first quarter. At first glance, Schreiber appeared to materialize in the middle of the offense without a defender within five yards of him. But upon closer inspection, it was a nifty screen from Ambler on Schreiber’s defender that pulled both of their defenders away and generated the scoring opportunity.
“I didn’t even know that Ryan opened that all up until I watched the film,” says Schreiber. “That’s the stuff he does all over the field. That’s the perfect example.”
The two-time MVP continues, detailing how Ambler is the perfect teammate to play alongside on offense. “He has no ego. If he’s going to be the guy to score four goals for us and we need that, he can. If he’s going to finish the game with no goals and no assists, I can guarantee he had some positive impact on the game despite it not showing up on the score sheet.”
“Everybody is loaded, everybody has a great team, everybody has great individuals,” Schreiber adds. “But you need to play as a team to be a successful offense. He’s a big part of that and that play is just one example of what he brings for us.”
Why Ryan Ambler is so important for the Archers' offensive success
Ambler has thrived as a critical but underrated piece of the Archers offense for five seasons now. He’s among the best pickers in the professional game and he boasts an incredibly versatile skill set which allows him to play a multitude of roles in the Archers offense.
“He’s just a total glue guy who brings value in so many ways,” notes Archers LC Head Coach and General Manager Chris Bates. Bates, who coached Ryan at Princeton, loves how he can rely on the seven year pro to contribute in a variety of ways.
“On-ball, he’s dangerous,” says Bates. “He’s going 90 miles per hour and making you defend him, and he can score. Then you watch him with some of his feeds, his ability to distribute the ball is really good. His off-ball cutting does a ton to open up space for other guys. What’s really unseen is his ability to set picks. His ability to do a little bit of everything means that guys really enjoy playing with him.”
The diversity of Ambler’s strengths on the field have been apparent through five games this season. In the club’s 10-3 win over Redwoods, he registered a goal and an assist on a pair of nearly identical plays, emphasizing how he can make plays with the ball in his stick.
In the play below, Ambler swept to his left across the Redwoods defense and utilized the Challen Rogers screen to free up his hands. While his momentum carried him left, he recognized that Garrett Epple had edged too far up field, so he threw a no-look dart to Mac O’Keefe on the backside. With a catch and a pair of fakes, O’Keefe buried the ball past Jack Kelly.
Ambler capitalized on the ‘Woods defense’s adjustment just minutes later. Epple hesitated to slide to the lefty sweep on the possession below, so Ambler created separation in his matchup, turned the corner, and extended the Archers’ lead to six.
“Whatever the circumstance needs, Ryan fills that need,” says Bates. That perfectly sums up the role that Ambler plays in the Archers offense. He threatens defenses as a dodger and a passer, but he also makes all of his teammates' lives easier.
The space he opened up for Schreiber against the Whipsnakes exemplified how effective Ambler is as an off-ball cutter and picker. But he also brings an impressive understanding of on-ball picking to the table, which he credits to his time playing basketball as a kid and to his dad, Bob Ambler — who is Drexel lacrosse’s all-time leading scorer and who played basketball for the Dragons.
“He taught me how to read lanes and spacing,” says Ambler. “Going into college, working with Coach Bates, that became even more refined when we were in a hybrid pairs offense.”
The Archers’ first goal against Whipsnakes also came as a result of an Ambler pick. Ambler initiated a big-little two-man game with Matt Moore behind the goal. After passing the ball to Moore, he sets a back-screen or a “bee-sting” pick to force Moore’s defender to slip underneath and allow Moore to get a step going up-field.
It’s the nuance and the detail of Ambler setting his feet when and where he did that produced Moore the space needed to generate a good shot.
Ever-humble, Ambler comments that “coming into the PLL, I’ve found my role by working in those two-man games because everyone is so talented. All that happened [in the two-man game with Moore] was I caught a little piece of his defender which allowed Matt to get his hands free and score an unbelievable shot. That’s all it takes; just a little bit of space, a little bit of diversion, a guy turns his hips the wrong way, loses a quarter of a step.”
He adds that “I quite enjoy it. I think it’s a really fun piece of the game that gets our best players in good spots. I don’t really need to score a goal or an assist.”
How Ambler has become a staple in the Archers locker room
It’s that mentality that has endeared Ambler to his teammates. “He’s the guy that everybody wants as a teammate,” says Schreiber. “He keeps things light, works really hard, does the invisible stuff on the field, and doesn’t mind playing that role. He’s probably the most popular guy on our team. Everybody loves him.”
Schreiber and Ambler have been friends and teammates for over a decade. They played together for Bates for two years at Princeton, were both on the Ohio Machine in 2018, and have been a part of the Archers since the league’s inception in 2019. When Ambler arrived at Princeton in 2012, Bates even told him to follow Schreiber around to try to replicate what he did so well.
“There’s definitely limitations to that because he’s an athletic super freak,” Ambler says with a laugh. “We’ve gotten closer over the years. We’ve been rooming on the road for five years, trained together, and played on three teams together. He’s been an incredible friend and a good mentor to boot.”
With the Archers in need of new leaders after five legends left the team in the offseason, Schreiber’s appreciative of how Ambler has stepped up as a veteran presence. “Ryan and I have been close for a long time,” he says. “He definitely brings that light-hearted presence and definitely adds that to our team. But his under-the-radar leadership has gone a long way for us too. He’s a guy who expects no credit or recognition for that sort of thing, but he brings a lot of that to our team as well.”
In a league of superstars and players who dominate the ball and the spotlight, Ambler has found a niche as a critical component of the league’s best team. He’s a selfless player and teammate who executes at a high level with the ball in his stick and out of it, on the field and off of it. And that’s what makes him Tom Schreiber’s – and the rest of the club’s – favorite teammate.