Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Jan. 23, 2016 — The perils of unification

In the spring of 2012, Brooklandville St. Paul’s School for Girls (Md.) hosted two quadrupleheaders involving eight of the best girls’ high school lacrosse programs in the country.

At the same time, there was a monsoon of a rainstorm that threatened to wash out part of the tournament. Levering Field at St. Paul’s is a two-tiered complex of artificial turf pitches, with one lined for field hockey, soccer, and girls’ lacrosse, and the other for football and boys’ lacrosse.

Though part of the conversation surrounding scheduling involved possibly having a game or two on the football field, the lack of permanent field markings would have made the task of temporarily lining the field a fool’s errand.

Undoubtedly, part of the talk at this weekend’s U.S. Lacrosse convention in Baltimore is the decision by the national governing body to design what is being called a “unified field” common to both boys’ lacrosse and girls’ lacrosse at the youth level.

The unified field would allow for one pitch to host both genders of lacrosse so that, especially when it comes to a natural grass surface, you don’t have the center of a men’s lacrosse crease intersecting the 8-meter fan leaving a bare spot. We saw this coming a decade ago when women’s lacrosse mandated a rectangular boundary.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Though this rule is meant for U.S. lacrosse club play at the youth level, this field design is coming to the National Federation and NCAA play within the next couple of years. You get the feeling this rule is going to have schools ordering new artificial turfs with a common set of lacrosse lines rather than having one for boys and one for girls.

Upon examining the unified field, it looks like the major compromise on field dimensions has been made by the women and girls rather than the men and boys. The compromise is the fact that the goals in the game of women’s lacrosse has been moved closer together by up to 20 yards. It’s as if the designer simply slapped an arc/fan construction onto the men’s crease.

This will have a material effect on the game, especially in the final minutes of a close match. A defense looking to trap and gain control of the ball against an opposing stall has the incentive to double and chase behind the goal cage because there are as few as nine meters from the goal line to the end line, and they can use the hard end line as a virtual teammate.

The added yardage takes that extra defender away, but coming into being next year will be the 90-second possession clock. I’ll be interested to see how teams handle a stall defensively.

But I think knocking down the distance between the goal cages will also make it easier to knock down long passes in the midfield for teams looking to run a zonal ride rather than marking up. I think you’re going to see more of the mark-up ride going forward if the unified field is adopted at all levels.

What’s your thought on this change in the game, especially if it flows through to all levels?


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