Area Men's Lacrosse Teams Adapting To Rules ChangesPosted on April 12, 2013
By Todd McElwee
Stop and slow have become dirty words in lacrosse.
The sport is often pegged as the fastest game on two feet, but some felt that various tactics and rules were bogging down the game during recent years. Maryland tediously plodded along to a 6-5 win against Syracuse during the 2011 NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals, and the Terps were issued 10 stall warnings.
Looking to inject life into the sport, the NCAA Men's Lacrosse Rules Committee instituted a new series of rules to increase fluidity, excitement and -- above all -- pace of play.
Recommended in August and approved in September, the rules put teams on notice that lacrosse would no longer, at times, resemble a leisurely stroll. It would be a torrid sprint. Changes to faceoff and stick-stringing rules were also part of the NCAA's revisions.
"I would say the biggest change is the pace of play being a bit faster," Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said. "With no sideline horns and quicker restarts on the field during change of possession, the game moves quicker at times.
"Unsettled play has increased, and it has allowed the players to create a bit more freely. Teams still try to control the tempo and will work for the best shot at times, willing to have a timer-on situation, but that is to the preference of the team."
Headlining the changes is the new de-facto shot clock. Stall warnings now come with an actual countdown. After a team is issued a stall warning, it has 30 seconds to take a shot, which can be a goal or an attempt to score -- a save by the goalkeeper, a deflection off the goalkeeper or a hit off the pipe. After a 20-second timer, there is a 10-second hand count, and failure to produce a shot results in a loss of possession.
Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala said he didn't think the clock had been as significant a change as some had thought it would be. He said he would like to see an actual clock installed, which would count down a predetermined and definitive amount of time from the moment a team gained possession, in order to eliminate official objectivity.
"You get the ball, you come down and have generated a shot or you haven't," Pietramala said. "You make the lives of the officials a lot easier. Then they're not timekeepers. I think the rules they made now were stepping stones."
The changes also hastened restarts and substitutions, and teams caught napping are now in more danger than ever before. Action now resumes as soon as the referee has signaled the ball is ready for play. An opponent within 5 yards of the ball carrier cannot defend the ball until after he backs 5 yards away from the ball carrier, and any violations result in a delay-of-game whistle. Sidelines and end lines also must have at least six balls ready for retrieval.
"Quick whistles off the sideline and end line are forcing guys to stay on the field," Pietramala said. "You used to be able to take them off, and now you cannot. You're encouraging guys to put the ball in play and get that bang-bang play. I like it."
Gone is the angelic blow of an air horn signaling substitutions, as players can come and go more freely from the now-expanded 20-yard substitution box. UMBC head coach Don Zimmerman said the no-horns substitutions and quick restarts constituted the biggest changes. Pietramala said he didn't miss the horn substitutions in the slightest, and loved the change.
Pietramala said Hopkins' practices had changed just as much, if not more, than games. The Blue Jays put even more of an emphasis on conditioning, because stoppages in play have become briefer. Midfielders are staying on the field longer, going both ways as play swiftly progresses. Pietramala said the rules would force coaches to recruit differently, looking more for two-way middies in particular.
Officials, maybe even more than players and coaches, are still adjusting to the changes.
"I don't think the officials have been any more vigilant with the newer rules," Nadelen said. "It has been more demanding of the officials to be consistent with their calls with the increased speed of play, possibly more up- and down-the-field action and a larger substitution box to monitor. The officials have their hands full as is, and the newer rules make it more challenging for them to be consistent with all that happens during a lacrosse game."
Issue 184: April 2013