A Center Valley native, faceoff specialist Mike Sisselberger is determined to make a strong return to the lacrosse field after taking a redshirt year last season.
Now a sophomore, Sisselberger was Lehigh’s first incoming freshman to play in the Under Armour All-America Game since Eddie Bouhall, ‘19, in 2015. Sisselberger was also ranked No. 13 in Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 of incoming freshmen. Inside Lacrosse ranked the Lehigh Valley native as No. 1 among faceoff specialists before his arrival at Lehigh.
Although Sisselberger didn’t see the field last season, he is expected to make an immediate impact this upcoming spring. He and his coaches decided that taking a redshirt year was in his best interest, and Sisselberger said it’s almost like a fresh start this season.
Sisselberger appeared in both of Lehigh’s games through Sunday, going 6 for 12 on faceoffs including 4 for 8 against No. 2 Virginia.
Associate head coach Will Scudder said he’s excited to see Sisselberger compete this year. Scudder said he thinks Sisselberger’s redshirt year has taught him a lot about himself and helped him become a stronger person from it.
Scudder said he hopes this growth will translate to the field this season.
“He has a contagious energy to him that is infectious,” he said. “He isn’t afraid to step outside his skin and put himself in uncomfortable situations.”
Sisselberger said the team’s goal is to win the Patriot League. His personal goals for the season are to go over 65 percent for faceoffs, get a pair of goals and assists, and make a run in the NCAA tournament.
The Mountain Hawks last appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2012.
“I’m feeling pretty nervous because it’s my first time hitting the field, but at the same time, I feel prepared because I’ve been playing with these guys for a long time,” Sisselberger said. “It’s definitely nerve-wracking seeing another team’s jersey on the field, but I think I’m feeling an overall mixture of nervousness and excitement.”
The team made the Patriot League Championship game last year, but Sisselberger hopes to win the ball off the faceoff for his team as much as he can. Lehigh sometimes gets into a lull during the fourth quarter, so he wants to offer some energy to his teammates to keep them amped, Sisselberger said.
Junior midfielder Liam Lynch, Sisselberger’s roommate, said Sisselberger is one of the most passionate players on the team, which is portrayed through his competitiveness on the field and in the weight room.
This season, Sisselberger said he’s looking forward to getting revenge against the teams they lost to last spring. The team has No. 1 Penn State University on the schedule and already faced No. 2 Virginia.
Sisselberger said he is looking forward to the Penn State game because he feels that the Nittany Lions are such a talented and competitive program.
“I’m most excited for the opportunity to compete,” Sisselberger said. “We have such a great group of guys who are crazy talented, so it’s going to be a lot of fun playing with them this season.”
While Sisselberger competes with senior Conor Gaffney at the face-off spot, he said Gaffney has helped him acclimate to college faceoffs and the transition from his redshirt year.
It’s beneficial for the team to have two strong faceoff specialists, because it allows them to change up styles against opponents, Sisselberger said.
Gaffney said, more often than not, going against Sisselberger in practice is harder than the matchup he has that weekend in the game, so it helps him prepare for all the toughest matchups on their schedule.
“It’s been great having him to go against every day in practice,” Gaffney said. “It’s always a good battle, and it’s made both of us a lot better over the last year and a half. It’s like an ‘iron sharpens iron’ type of thing, where we are always pushing each other to be stronger, faster and more technically sound.”
Next year, Gaffney said, Sisselberger will be ready to take the reins at the faceoff spot and will make a big impact in that position.
Sisselberger and the rest of the Mountain Hawks will look to rebound from their loss against No. 2 Virginia when they host Virginia Military Institute at 5 p.m. on Feb. 20 at Ulrich Sports Complex.