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BULLETIN: July 21, 2022 — A long-overdue addition to women’s lacrosse coming next year

The game of women’s lacrosse used to be reasonably easy to umpire without an outer boundary, without restraining lines, and with wooden sticks which propelled the rubber ball with a much lower velocity as is done today.

Several incidents in women’s lacrosse over the last five years, however, have exposed the fact that the game has started to get beyond the capacity for even highly-trained umpires to judge lines, goals, and shooting space.

Next spring, NCAA women’s lacrosse will finally adopt a video assistant referee on an experimental basis. Of course, the scope of replay is wholly dependent on whether or not a game is televised. And, frankly, it will also depend on how many cameras get used during the course of a game. A Big Ten Network game, for example, is likely to have many more cameras on site rather than interconference games involving teams from one-bid conferences.

I’ve watched more of the latter than I care to admit, and I can’t see any way for any umpiring crew to be able to use a camera angle from midfield to judge a crease violation or whether a ball has gone over the goal line.

Now, there are some quirks to this VAR system. It is somewhat of a hybrid of the NFL’s two-challenge system and FIH’s rechargeable challenge system. The proposed rule will allow coaches two renewable challenges per game. In other words, if a team is able to win every challenge but one over the course of a contest, the game will finishes with the team still able to make a video challenge.

In addition, like in field hockey, there is a provision for an umpire referral if the on-field game officials want to take a second look at a play.

The system will only apply in these situations:

  • Clock errors (both game clock and possession clock)
  • Determination of crease violations
  • Status of the ball at the goal line
  • Judging shot release at the end of a quarter to see if the release occurred before the horn
  • Determining whether a shot at goal deflects off the body of an attacking player

Of course, you’re going to see this VAR system implemented in two places: the ACC and the Big Ten, since they’ve had video referrals in field hockey for years. I think you’re also going to see it in many more places this spring, especially given the number of controversial calls (or non-calls) last spring. There could be an outlay for a referral system only because of the perception that one or two referral calls could change the course of an entire season.

Let’s see what happens next year.

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