Quietly turning in the best season of his career, Kiel Matisz is currently tied for second on the Swarm in points with 28. Known for his intimidating jumping crease shots, Matisz has five goals so far this season but leads the team in assists with 23. The six-year veteran has moved comfortably into the role of feeder, taking every opportunity he can to make the Swarm better on the floor. With the team taking three of its last four contests after its slow start to the 2017-18 season, Matisz’s silent contributions at the frontend are helping the Swarm climb up the East Division standings, a climb he doesn’t see ending anytime soon.
After the Swarm’s most recent game in Vancouver, Matisz took some extra time afforded by the bye week to enjoy the West Coast and chat about the season so far, how lacrosse is a medicine game for him, his induction into the Robert Morris University Hall of Fame on Feb. 2, and who has the best hair on the team:
First third of the season down, how do you feel about the team’s season so far?
Feeling good. I think we’re starting to hit our stride. We had a little bit of a slow start to start off the season. I don’t want to hit the old cliche and say the championship hangover, but we played some good teams and some good goaltending, especially over the first third of the season. Now that we’re getting used to a couple of new players on our bench that we ranked high and have tested out, we’re starting to head full stride. Not ideal to have a slow start, but nice to be a third of the way through and sitting in a good spot comparatively throughout the league.
How do you feel you’ve been doing for the first six games?
I’ve been feeling like I’ve been a good contributor to the team this year. I’m just trying to do my part in my role on the team in order to show some success. I’m not a guy that’s focused on the statistics of the game. I’m sinking my energies there, shift in and shift out, I’m contributing and setting picks for my teammates and creating lanes for them. I think we’re gelling together as a unit offensively, which is starting to help push us. Feel pretty good about where my game’s at and hoping that the continued success will result in good team results moving forward.
You’re tied for second in team points with 28 and lead the team with 23 assists. What’s contributing to your more feeder role now?
I like to think that maybe I’m not so much a go-to guy as far as scoring prowess, but from a team standpoint a necessity as a piece of the greater puzzle. I like to think that I’m supporting left-handed players, me being a right-handed player. I’m just trying to balance the floor out, be a guy that’s always an option off-ball, and then on-ball, keeping my head up, keeping the vision clear so that when you see teammates cutting through the middle or open on the off-ball side that I have a chance to give them a pass for an opportunity to score. I like to think as a shooter, the vision has really been there for me. As a group, now we’re in the third year for the majority of us playing together, so we’re getting used to where everyone’s at and that helps contribute with playing naturally to each others’ strengths.
You’re being inducted into the Robert Morris University Hall of Fame this Friday. What does that mean to you?
It’s an incredible honor. I’m a Canadian lacrosse player from a small town, not a very traditional hotbed area of lacrosse, who went to a Division I university on a lacrosse scholarship. I like to think that guys my age really paved the way for Canadian lacrosse players to get scholarships down in the United States. From a big picture lacrosse perspective, it’s such a great honor to, we’ll call it “paving the way,” for future Canadian lacrosse players’ success. I think it’s such an incredible honor with so many great players I played with and in that four years, there’s so many people you can attribute that success to. I’m just a recipient, but really the honor should be with everyone that I played with in that time. There really isn’t a better way to kind of cap off one of the more influential moments in my life. University lifetime created me for the man I am today. I truly do believe that. For the University to give me all that and then honor me afterwards is pretty unbelievable.
With the induction into RMU’s Hall and as a Swarm veteran, you’ve been playing lacrosse for a long time. What’s your career’s future?
When I look at my career, I still believe that I have a fair amount of years left. It’s funny, in the last year or two, your mindset changes a little bit for sure. The sport keeps you young. It keeps you playing, it keeps you having fun. Lacrosse is the medicine game. A lot of people have tons of different stresses in their lives. That’s not to say that mine is completely carefree; I feel like I do get stresses in my life. But lacrosse has truly been my medicine as well and truly relieve me from the stresses of everyday life. I like to think that I have a lot of years left and that I’m having as much fun as I did in game one of my career as I am now here in my sixth season with the Swarm. Until that fun goes away from me, I plan on playing as long as I possibly can. I think that’s really what it comes down to, the competitive drive and the ability to have fun doing so. I still have that competitive drive, and I’m still having as much fun as I ever did. I plan on being an impactful contributor with the Georgia Swarm.
What do you see for the remaining 12 games for the Swarm?
I think you’ll see a lot more successes ahead and in the win column for us. We’ll continue to hit our stride and continue to focus on our style. We like to control the controllables. We’re not so focused on results throughout the league. I believe we’re going to continue to have fun and build on our friendships and build on the floor as well. I find that the teams that have the most success have that team camaraderie day in and day out, whether it be a struggle with a flight or travel issues. If they’re turning it into fun and enjoying each other’s company, it’s a great time. We’re a team that does that. I know when we talk through the season, everyone looks forward to our team bonding national trip. That’s only a couple weeks away. The boys will continue to keep rolling and buzzing around in The Hive.
Best movie you’ve seen recently?
American Made. Saw it on the flight on the way here, think it’s based on a real story. That’d be a crazy lifestyle to live.
Worst Christmas gift you got last year?
I got a handful of tea bags. My girlfriend is more of a tea drinker than me, so I would say the worst Christmas gift is a handful of tea bags.
(Laughing) Remember I’m printing that and don’t want her to get pissed off at you.
She’s looking at me right now wide eyed and all upset.
Song you’ve been listening to a lot lately?
I’m a big Sheryl Crow guy, so I like her stuff, but even The New Radicals “You Get What You Give.” There’s a remix of that song. It’s great.
Favorite cheat day treat?
I’ve recently been on cannolis. I’m a big cannoli guy.
Least favorite exercise?
Upper body, push press.
Favorite lacrosse memory?
I don’t know if I have one. It’s the shared moments I have with the team in the locker room and sitting around, just relaxed all together.
Is a hot dog a sandwich?
Who has the best hair on the team?
I’m going to go Chad Tutton. He’s got great facial hair. When he gets that slick hair going, he comes to mind for me. I think most people would probably say the Thompsons, but I’m going to go traditional with the Chad Tutton kind of caveman look.
Favorite sports team to root for?
Toronto Maple Leafs.
Worst butchering of your name?
Oh God. I think the standard, and it always gets butchered, would be the full name, Keel Matis. Seems to be the common way to butcher it, so maybe it’s more common than actually pronouncing my name correctly. Maybe I’m butchering my own name, I don’t know.