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Archive for July 7, 2017

July 7, 2017 — The State of Lacrosse, 2017

In the last year of girls’ and women’s lacrosse in the United States, the one subject that seems to have permeated almost every aspect of the sport are the rules.

Of course, we know that there have been plenty of rules changes in the last 25 years that have made the game all but unrecognizable. But there is one upcoming change that is likely to have one ironic outcome, one which we’ll discuss later.

For it was United Women’s Lacrosse (UWLX) that took out one of the rules that defined the sport and differentiated it from the men’s game since the early 1950s. The UWLX’s dismissal of the “freeze-tag” rule has resulted in a preliminary vote by the NCAA Rules Committee, leading to a final vote later this summer. If U.S. Lacrosse follows up with the same rule change and the National Federation remains in lock step, the rule will be a thing of the past in record time.

Another rule that was first seen widely in UWLX was the 90-second possession clock. There was some teething in the implementation of the rule in NCAA Division I because the possession clock, the penalty clock, and the game clock were meant to be independent of one another. There were also times when the possession clock did not reset after a save, or was reset improperly.

From most reports, the possession clock resulted in quicker lacrosse, especially in the final 10 minutes of halves. There were fewer instances of bleeding minutes off the clock in Division I, but I was waiting for more strategic lacrosse in the last three minutes of play, going for quick shots in order to get one more possession out of the half — a tactic known as “trading 2 for 1” in basketball.

Of course, changing the thinking for a strategy like this is the fact that a draw follows every goal; the defensive team can’t simply inbound the ball like in basketball. Draws became even more important than ever in 2017, leading to the use of “draw in, run off,” or DIRO, specialists. Syracuse used Morgan Widner to effect in the circle.

But more teams used all-around lacrosse players at center, and were effective. North Carolina’s Sammy Jo Tracy was her usual excellent self in the draw circle, but perhaps the best turned out to be freshman Kali Hartshorn of the University of Maryland. Hartshorn, despite being frustrated by attack wings crashing the space in between the 35s, still managed to win 112 draws as the Terps, in winning the 2017 NCAA Division I title, won 60 more draws during the season than they lost.

Draws also featured on the scholastic level, especially since the National Federation limits teams to three players a side within the 35-yard lines until a draw is secured. This allowed physical talents like Maddie Jenner of Owings Mills McDonogh (Md.) to dictate the pace and rhythm of the game by winning 56 percent of her draw attempts.

Jenner, who is headed to Duke, helped pace McDonogh to an undefeated season, wins over teams from Florida, Georgia, and Virginia, and played its post-Southern schedule in just a shade under five weeks. McDonogh also laid a 17-3 defeat on the superprep team at Hill Academy in Vaughn, Ont.

Speaking of superpreps, an announcement came out of Florida that an American superprep lacrosse team was going to be forming at Bradenton IMG Academy (Fla.). As the team will be playing under Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) rules, it will be required to adopt the hard-shell helmets which are planned for the 2018 season, despite science to the contrary.

Now, despite the more physical nature of the professional game of women’s lacrosse as played in the UWLX, there appears to be an appetite for the enterprise to grow. Former UWLX commissioner Michelle DeJuliis is spearheading an effort to start a second professional circuit, the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League. The WPLL is not only willing to offer professional development to its players, but appears willing to engage in a bidding war for players, having already signed up some of the World Cup stars for the United States and Canada.

And given the fact that there are no FIL rules on player transfers and compensation for professionals, it is going to be interesting to see how this is going to turn out.