Mike Sisselberger Establishes Himself as the Archers’ Missing Piece
Four separate times in the second half of the Archers Lacrosse Club’s season opener the Cannons Lacrosse Club cut the margin to two goals. But, after each and every one of those scores, rookie faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger won the ball at the stripe and generated a goal-scoring possession to stem the tide of the Cannons’ comeback.
“There were big faceoffs at big moments and that was a huge difference,” said Archers Head Coach Chris Bates of Sisselberger’s clutch play. “I was happy to see his ability to, in those moments, give us the ball and settle us down. I thought it was a difference for us today for sure.”
In his career debut, Sisselberger finished 24/30 (80%) at the faceoff stripe and added a goal, an assist, and 14 ground balls. He dominated his matchup against the Cannons’ Stephen Kelly from start to finish and hardly ever looked under duress while doing so.
“He wasn’t picked whatever he was picked (fifth overall) for nothing,” commented Cannons Head Coach Brian Holman. “We wanted to see what he could do [with the ball in his stick],” Holman said, mentioning the dilemma regarding “who are you sliding off of? Grant [Ament], Connor [Fields], or Mac O’Keefe?” and emphasizing that Sisselberger “did a good job and that really helped them a lot.”
Holman’s note on Sisselberger’s play after the faceoff itself is meaningful. His talent at the stripe has never been in question, but his ability following the draw was the one possible knock on the Lehigh product’s game coming out of school.
While it’s only been one game, any concerns about his adjustment to the pro game or the impact he can have after the draw look silly. Throughout Saturday’s contest, Sisselberger found ways to contribute to the team’s offense and negated the ramifications of the new 32-second shot clock after the faceoff.
One win late in the third quarter stood out when he carried the ball down the right sideline while being hounded by multiple defenders, charged towards the middle of the defense, and then fed Ament for a snipe after drawing nearly the entire Cannons defense to him.
Just minutes later Sisselberger added to his point total with his first career goal. After a faceoff win with just over 10:30 left in the fourth led to a Tre Leclaire goal off an alley dodge, Sisselberger cleanly won the next draw forward, turned on the burners to get separation, and hit the back of the net on a diving shot towards the cage.
Sisselberger also only had one turnover on the 24 wins and 14 ground balls he picked up. After he averaged 1.2 turnovers per game in college on 22.8 faceoffs taken per game, only coughing the ball up once on 30 attempted draws and avoiding any traffic after he secured the possession against the Cannons is a sign of a player who is still expanding his game.
“I love to push in transition and I know we have the guys to do it,” said the rookie on Saturday. “As long as I can stay on the field and stay conditioned, I think there’s a couple there to be scored in that transition 32 seconds.”
For Sisselberger’s teammates, his presence as a specialist who can dominate at the stripe and flip the possession battle completely in the Archers’ favor is significant, particularly after the club won a league-low 38% last season. “Siss, he’s a beast,” said attackman Connor Fields after the game. He continued, saying that “it’s make it take it if we score,” and that Sisselberger’s proficiency “allows you to play looser. It definitely is a boost of confidence for us.”
The charismatic rookie was quick to give credit to his wing play, specifying how every faceoff is “a three v. three battle at the X. So, even if I don’t do my job, I know I have guys like Jared Conners or Treezy [Latrell Harris] on my wing that are there and ready to go.”
The key for Sisselberger moving beyond week one will be consistency. The week in, week out grind of the faceoff position at the PLL level is a challenge for even the best in the world and he’s well aware of the trials ahead.
“I think the biggest adjustment is the mental battle,” he commented. “I think physically I’m right there with those guys. But having that next play mentality; Coach Bates talks about it a lot. Whether you lose or win, you can’t really hold your hat on that. You can smoke them out the front on one of them and then get smoked out the front on the next.”
With all due respect to the Cannons’ Stephen “Bones” Kelly who is a career 50% faceoff specialist, stiffer opponents await Sisselberger in the coming weeks with Chrome Lacrosse Club’s Connor Farrell the matchup this Friday at 6:00 PM EST on ESPN+. “I’m really looking forward to that,” said Sisselberger, adding that “the biggest thing for me is going against the best guys in the world. That’s what drives me.”
After the faceoff position has been the undisputed achilles heel for the Archers over recent seasons, Sisselberger’s emergence in the first game of his professional career fundamentally alters the club’s potential this season and into the future. Whether he’s dominating at the stripe, creating offense for his team, or even just going punch for punch with the best in the world, Sisselberger is shaping up to be the Archers Lacrosse Club’s missing piece for a championship run.