Hornets’ Sisson adds to record books

By Jeff Nations

WINCHESTER — Samantha Sisson has plenty of time to set the bar high, goal by goal, assist by assist, for those who will follow her as Shenandoah University women’s lacrosse players.

Sisson, a senior midfielder for the Hornets, took down two more career marks in Wednesday’s 14-9 home victory over Frostburg State. With a game-high seven goals and three assists in the win, Sisson became Shenandoah’s all-time leader in goals and points scored for the program.

“I wasn’t thinking much about it at all,” Sisson said. “Everybody else was talking about it. We have other goals in mind, though. That was just kind of one of my personal ones.”

Sisson broke the career points record at 28:46 in the second half as she tallied a goal off a Liz Bereit assist to put the Hornets up 8-2.

Bereit set up her teammate again for the record-breaking goal just more than 11 minutes later, notching the assist on Sisson’s fifth goal of the game. Sisson added two more before it was over as the Hornets picked up their first win in four matches this season.

Sisson ended the day with 180 goals and 67 assists for a total of 247 points. Kelly Matagiese, who graduated in 2007, previously held both marks.

A four-year starter from Keuka Park, N.Y., Sisson made an immediate impression on her new teammates when she arrived in Winchester. Assistant coach Sydney Anderson, who played alongside Sisson for three years and now serves as an assistant coach for the Hornets, could tell right away that the player affectionately known as “Rookie” would have a real impact.

“Fall ball her freshman year, first practice,” Anderson said. “I think her stick skills were very strong for a freshman. And just her IQ as a freshman — the college game is so different from the high school game, so her IQ was above and beyond what a lot of freshman have as far as lacrosse knowledge.”

In her first game for Shenandoah, Sisson scored seven goals and had an assist against Division II opponent Shepherd. That performance netted Sisson the USA South Conference Rookie of the Week honor, not to mention the first hint of a new nickname.

Sisson finished her freshman year as Shenandoah’s leading goal scorer (55) and also paced the Hornets in groundballs (51), draw controls (70) and caused turnovers (25) as she helped SU improve from 7-8 the previous year to 12-5 during her freshman season. The postseason accolades came fast and furious — first-team All-USA South honors, the league’s Rookie of the Year award, an All-USA South Tournament spot, plus honors from USA College Lacrosse (Rookie All-America team) and Synapse Sports (All-Rookie).

It was more of the same during Sisson’s sophomore year, as she led the team in goals (63) and points (79), earning another full slate of USA South honors plus second-team all-region by the IWLCA, first-team all-state (Virginia Sports Information Directors) and an academic all-state nod.

Sisson helped the Hornets make a smooth transition into the Old Dominion Athletic Conference last season, tallying 52 goals and 26 assists to rank among the ODAC’s leaders and earn first-team all-conference accolades.

This season, Sisson has 14 goals and seven assists already, and is within eight assists of passing former teammate Jennie Ott for the school’s all-time lead in that category.

“That’s attainable, and I’d rather have more assists than goals, personally,” Sisson said. “I feel like goals are selfish. If I can keep the assists going up, that’ll help, too.”

Despite that gaudy goal total, Sisson is anything but selfish.

“Beyond scoring, she also sets up the opportunities for other players with her knowledge,” Hornets assistant coach Lauren Bezman said. “Yeah, she scored the seven goals but she also had assists in the game [Wednesday], which brings her points total up.”

Sisson, who played for a strong lacrosse program in high school at Penn Yan Academy, said she was seeking out the small-school environment that Shenandoah offered when she made her visit. It was Sisson’s only out-of-state visit, and she was sold on the program by coach Lindsey Lutz.

“I really wanted to focus on school,” Sisson said. “I didn’t want to make lacrosse a career. Like D1 — I mean, I didn’t even know if my level would be at a D1 level — but I liked the smallness of the school. I’ve actually switched majors three times, and I don’t think I’d be able to do that at any other school.”

It’s true — Sisson has been a Pre-Med, Psychology, Occupational Therapy and now Pre-Athletic Training major at SU. While the specific academic studies may have changed over the years, Sisson’s production on the field has remained rock-steady.

“It’s not just her attacking, her offensive ability,” Anderson said. “It’s her defensive IQ that comes in as well that creates the opportunities for her that she makes on offense as well.”

Sisson takes pride in her ability to win draws — she is Shenandoah’s career leader in that category, too.

“That’s my specialty,” Sisson said. “Get the draw, get it down there.

“I’m more accuracy and placement. I like getting in close, faking people out for the shot. We know that draw is very important. If you don’t get the draw, it’s always going to be on the defensive end.”

Sisson might not have been counting down the goals personally, but she still got regular updates — from her boyfriend, from phone calls from her mom, from her teammates, even an email from Lutz who missed the record-breaker while out on maternity leave.

“I’m sure it was on everyone’s mind, but I know as a coach that wasn’t her main thought,” Bezman said. “Her main thought was focusing on the game and coming out with a win. That just happened to be an extra bonus to the game.”

Now that she has a couple more career marks, Sisson can get busy making them that much harder to break for the next generation of Hornets.

“I don’t really have a goal in mind,” Sisson said. “If I can get it up … 300 would be the max that I’d try to get it at. It’s a personal goal, but it’s not up there. One person can’t take over a team. It has to be the team. We’ve gone to the championship every year, and that’s really our main goal. I’m not really focused on individual things.”

Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or jnations@nvdaily.com>