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June 5, 2015 — 90 seconds equals 180 degrees in the opposite direction

Yesterday, the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee proposed a number of rules changes for the near future. The one that has gotten the most ink thus far is a rule to brighten the pace of the game by imposing a 90-second shot clock.

While the issue of the lacrosse stall has only come to the fore in the last couple of years, the stall has been a time-honored tactic for decades in both the men’s and the women’s game. Running a stall in women’s lacrosse, especially with today’s hard boundaries, is an enormous risk. You not only risk a turnover, but you also risk getting away from what got you a lead in the first place.

I’ll give you two examples. In the 1995 NCAA Division III final, William Smith had a three-goal lead heading into the final nine minutes against Trenton State College. The Herons went into a stall, and the Lions were able to steal the ball three times during the continuous attempts of William Smith to take the air out of the ball, and eventually tied the game. The Lions won the next draw, Melanie Vasofski scored the game-winner, and the team ran a perfect stall to end it.

My next example is the 2007 NCAA Division I semifinal, where Duke had a 13-4 lead over ACC rival Virginia with the clock ticking under 20 minutes remaining. Duke got away from what got them the lead, growing hesitant once star midfielder Carolyn Davis went out of the game with an injury. Virginia scored the next 10 goals to win the semifinal by a 14-13 count.

Oddly enough, the chair of the committee that voted in the 90-second shot clock was Julie Myers, the very coach whose Virginia team benefited from Duke’s misfortune eight years ago.

For me, the criticism of the women’s lacrosse stall, and the teams who use it, is misplaced. Stalls are never an issue until the Final Four, where many more people are watching and where the successful execution of a stall means the end of a season, not just a game.

And the solution for the stall, I think, is not to limit the time of possession, but to make possession more difficult.

I think the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Rules Committee should get rid of the offset lacrosse stick. Making the sidewall of the head have to intersect the edge of the shaft will take about 20 miles an hour off each pass and will put extra arc on the average pass, allowing defenders time to close. That, in conjunction with the hard boundary, will add even more risk to the stall.

There were a number of other rules proposals voted on by the Rules Committee, however. More on those tomorrow.

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