Monday morning, an umpire on a field in Evanston, Ill. placed a yellow rubber ball in between two sticks held at shoulder height. The umpire backed away and blew the whistle. With that, the teams from Northwestern and Canisius College began the American domestic women’s lacrosse season.
At either end of the field, however, was a major change in the game, at least as played in NCAA Division I. For it is in this spring, 2017, the 90-second possession clock has come into play after trial runs in fall lacrosse and in the United Women’s Lacrosse League.
It didn’t appear as though the clock played a huge factor in the outcome; both teams had the opportunity, in the final three minutes of both halves, to possess the ball for the full 90 seconds with a turnover of unspecified origin at the end of those possessions. The play-by-play may not have indicated an actual clock violation, but a bad pass or dumpoff into space is just as good as an expired clock in those scenarios.
Now, in the past, teams have have used stall tactics to their advantage — even the United States, who stalled their ways to FIL championships in 1997 (a 3-2 win against Australia), 1993 (a 4-1 win over England), and 1989 (a 6-5 overtime win over England).
Stalls have their use, but there have been some legendary blown stalls which have led to losses to the teams looking to take the air out of the ball. But some teams have thrown stalls for entire halves of a Final Four game, which has led to derisive booing from fans.
I have not been a proponent of the possession clock; the limited area within the 35-yard line, especially with the hard out-of-bounds line, changes the rules of the stall.
But the NCAA heard those boos on the television broadcasts whenever the stall was implemented. And those boos, I believe, led to the decision to institute the clock.
I mean, look at a college basketball game today, then go find video from any game from the 1970s, especially with those involving North Carolina. The pace and rhythm of the game is pretty shocking.
I have a feeling we’ll be saying the same thing years from now upon looking at recent footage.