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Feb. 29, 2016 — Stick-Gait

Yesterday, the second half of the women’s lacrosse game between Northwestern and Syracuse was delayed several minutes as the three on-field umpires and the table official were huddled at midfield with a stack of printouts and a rulebook.

And in the middle, two lacrosse sticks were under scrutiny.

Before the season began, a number of regulations regarding the women’s and girls’ lacrosse sticks were instituted. The regulations were written directly into the rulebook as part of Appendix B — Manufacturers Specifications.

Amongst the rules which were rewritten were the following:

Section 1: A crosse may be deemed illegal if its design is a clear attempt to circumvent the rules.

Section 2: Recessed screws must be used to attach the head of a plastic/molded crosse to the handle.

Section 2: US Lacrosse approved heads may not be altered. Prohibited alterations to heads include, but are not limited to, baking, drilling additional holes, breaking and/or reconstructing with adhesive material, stretching, pinching and shaving.

Section 8: Each attachment to the sidewall shall be no more than 1.5 inches from its adjacent attachment when measured in a straight line from hole to hole.

Section 20: The pockets of all field crosses shall be strung with four or five longitudinal leather and/or synthetic thongs. Mesh pockets are not allowed. Longitudinal leather or synthetic thongs and/or other second material shall be 0.3 cm to 1.0 cm wide. Each thong must be made of one material (leather, synthetic leather or nylon cord) and run the full length of the head. Thongs must nominally be the same width along their full length. Thongs must be attached to the head through holes in the scoop and at the ball stop. A second material may be used to allow attachment to the scoop and the ball stop of each thong to the head. However, this second material may not be more than .5 inches from the scoop and no more than 1.5 inches from the ball stop. The thongs at the ball stop must extend 5.1 cm beyond the ball stop. Thongs must not be bunched along the width of the head (top to bottom) and may not be more than 1.5 inches apart as measured from the inside of adjacent thongs, regardless of the material. The loose ends of the thongs may not be woven back up through the pocket or the sidewall of the crosse. The loose ends of the thongs must remain below the ball stop. Any additional strings used for attachment of the pocket to the head of the crosse may not be tied behind the pocket above the ball stop. Additional strings not directly required for attachment of the pocket to the head of the crosse are not allowed.

Section 22: Cross-lacing in a premanufactured detachable pocket is defined as 8 to 12 evenly spaced pocket nylon laces that are sewn, traditionally woven, glued or otherwise safely affixed between properly spaced longitudinal thongs.

Section 23: The nominal diameter of the shooting/throw string (hereinafter “shooting string”) nylon cord and sidewall nylon cord shall be 0.3 cm maximum. The nominal diameter of pocket nylon must be less than 0.3 cm.

Section 25: Any shooting string must be directly attached to both sidewalls in the upper third of the head, or, the top shooting string must be directly attached to both sidewalls in the upper third of the head and the bottom shooting string may be an inverted “U” in shape and must be directly attached to both sidewalls in the upper two-thirds of the head, as measured from the top outside edge of the scoop (Diagram 15). Shooting strings may not be crossed. Shootings strings may not touch from outside the outermost thongs to the sidewall.

Stick Certification Procedures: Approved crosse heads and/or pockets may not be sold as US Lacrosse approved if the head, the pocket, or how the pocket is attached to the head, is altered in any way from its original lab approval. The testing lab will send the approval documents for heads and pockets to the US Lacrosse Women’s Game Senior Manager and the Rules Committee Chair. All documents will include photos of the side and the front of the head with an attached pocket. Pre-sewn/synthetic pockets may only be certified by the lab when attached to a head. The attachment must meet all stringing specifications. The US Lacrosse Rules Committee has the final authority to either approve or deny stick stringing and/or designs independent of lab approval.

(Friends, how many of you knew that U.S. Lacrosse has resorted to using a laboratory in order to help determine whether a stick design is legal or illegal?)

The rules changes listed above are just the latest salvo in a game of cat and mouse between game officials and lacrosse players looking for any kind of advantage. Stick heads have been baked, reshaped, and redrilled. Strings have been recolored, repositioned, and lacquered.

Hence, lacrosse sticks have been inspected by umpiring crews to a mindbending degree over the last three or four years — before the game, after goals, before the start of play for a quarter or half.

Syracuse head coach Gary Gait and his brother Paul have been at the forefront of the technological revolution — first by introducing yellow sticks with yellow strings at Maryland in 1995, then by introducing the offset stick in 2000.

Kelly Amonte-Hiller, the Northwestern coach, has her own stick model. The original design was by Brine, and this YouTube video shows how she strung it. She now backs the Regime model manufactured by Under Armour.

So, back to yesterday. According to the Daily Northwestern, the question regarding the sticks used by center Kayla Treanor and teammate Devon Parker was whether the sticks were strung in accordance with the regulations as listed in Appendix B.

“The way it was strung on the back of the stick created a lip or a cupping, which was an advantage for (them),” Amonte Hiller tells The Daily Northwestern. “That’s a clear attempt to circumvent the rules.”

After consulting the stacks of printouts (presumably the specifications of a number of popular lacrosse sticks) and the rules, crew chief Jason Brightful made a statement to the public-address announcer, who relayed it to the Carrier Dome crowd. The two sticks were found to be afoul of the rules, which meant that Syracuse would have to start the second half playing 7-on-5 for two minutes. The concurrent penalties were non-releaseable.

Northwestern did manage to tie the game (albeit just after the expiration of the penalities), but Syracuse managed to keep winning draws — presumably with legal sticks. Syracuse won the draw count 20-10 on the day.

But you wonder whether convoluted committee meetings are going to become a permanent part of the game of lacrosse going forward.

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