Face-offs are bigger than lacrosse for Saint Leo’s Flores

Senior 'FOGO' man finding ways to use his skills off the field

Lacrosse player standing in front of stadium
Saint Leo University face-off man Michael Flores standing in front of his home field. The senior is a key component of the Lions' hot start this year. (Photo: Erick Cruikshank) 

ST. LEO, Fla. – For Michael Flores, winning face-offs with Saint Leo’s lacrosse hasn’t just helped his team succeed, it’s helped him find ways to succeed in life.

As he continues his fourth season with the program, the senior has gained a new appreciation for the mental strength needed to excel in his role as face-off man (called a FOGO, or Face Off Go Off). 

“You gotta have the brain of a goldfish,” Flores said, at Saint Leo’s home field ahead of practice on Friday. “After every face-off, you have to reset.” 

While lacrosse is a team sport, Flores’ position requires him to endure many one-on-one clashes with opposing players at the centre of the field. Face-off men are only on the field for about 15-30 seconds after each engagement, leaving a lot of time between opportunities to help their team retain possession. 

One of the biggest lessons that Flores has learned at his position is that you can’t get caught up in the highs and lows of each battle.

“It doesn’t matter if you’ve won the last 10 or if you’ve lost the last 10, you gotta go in there and stay (in the) present.” Flores said.

His mentality in the face-off circle has transcended the game of lacrosse.

“It’s really rewarding getting each one, one step at a time.” Flores said. “It’s helped a lot with other stuff in life, I’ve really learned to just take everything one step at a time.”

Flores was named to the Sunshine State Conference (SSC) All-First team last season as one of the best defensive players in the league, and his impressive play has carried over into 2024.

The Apopka, Florida, native has been named as the SSC Men’s Lacrosse Specialist of the Week twice this season, leading the conference in ground balls, ground balls per-game, and he sits second in face-off percentage and face-offs won.

Despite being one of the longest tenured players on the roster, Flores wasn’t named as one of the Lions’ captains this season. Although, that hasn’t stopped him from using his experience to be a vocal presence on the team.

“I’m a big believer in the idea that leadership isn’t a rank.” Flores said. “I don’t think you need to be a captain to lead a team, or you don’t need to be an upper-classman to hold other people accountable.”

The Lions lost their opening game of the season against Limestone University 24-15, but have gone undefeated since, bringing their record to 5-1. Flores credits the Lions’ team identity to their recent success.

“We want to be a team that you don’t want to play.” Flores said. “Whether it’s a top 10 team in the nation or an unranked team, I want people to come into this stadium and wish they were playing someone else.”

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Posted: Mar 14 2024 2:31 pm
Filed under: College Lacrosse NCAA Sports