I'm sure you have all heard the news. US Lacrosse Women's Division Board of Governors voted to again change the rules of the women's game. Among the most impacting and significant rule changes was the addition of the hard boundaries. Anyone who has been around the game has seen this coming for quite some time. It started with the "guidelines" that were added a few years ago.
Sue Stahl, the recently retired 17-year World Cup Coach, and current head coach at Old Dominion, sits on the Rules Committee for US Lacrosse's Women's Division. We talked recently and she laid out the new rule in plain speak. Here's the Scoop:
If you are carrying the ball and you step on the line, YOU'RE OUT!
The line is considered out!
You can have your stick over the line and be safe as long as your feet are in bounds.
If there is a shot, the official will call possession to the closest player to the ball when it crosses the boundary.
Where the ball goes out of bounds, the official will call possession to whoever is closest to it on a shot. The goalie must be a quick sprinter, more agile than ever, and commit to going hard for a missed shot on cage. If the goalie gets possession, remember the ball must be "played" before she can re-enter the crease. She does have the option of rolling it in, but be weary of those quick low homes who could give your goalie some hassle.
Stahl went on to add that she feels the hard boundaries will pose no problem for the college level and beyond. This is in part due to the fact that college games have three officials. Her only worry is that now the fans will be able to more clearly see the "line" and perhaps be more tempted to yell out to refs due to a missed call by the official. Stahl also stated that she is concerned that at the high school level the officials may have a problem policing the new hard boundary on top of everything else. Lacrosse traditionally encouraged the ball carrier and person off ball to work toward the edges of the field. With the new boundary Sue feels that high school level of play and below may be concentrated in the center of the field and limiting even more field space because of an intimidation of the sideline.
The hard boundaries have been in the women's international rules for quite some time and this is also another step to closing the gap in differences of rules. Sue felt that this will also make the game more TV ready because, "everyone can understand boundaries." I am guessing the new debate will be if the women's high school game now needs three officials or maybe a line judge. I guess we'll have to wait and see how it goes this season.
In all of the attention paid to this big and new game changing boundary rule, most have not heard that a controversial issue from last year was also addressed in the new rules. E-Lacrosse's Mike Spinner brought the issue of cross checking, or cross holding really, in the women's game to the general public, while coaches and referees were torn by its increased popularity, aggressive use and effectiveness. The NCAA champion, Northwestern, was the best team in many ways in 2005, but they were also the best at the cross hold. And all of the top college teams last year used them quite well and quite often. No one will have the advantage without it.
But the new rule is "no cross to body, body to cross contact." When I asked Sue Stahl about his one she stated that it is primarily to keep the defense from dropping their sticks horizontally and using "the stick between the hands" as something to push into the attackers. So the cross hold is gone. We'll see how it affects the top teams this season.
Hopefully this will clarify some of the questions you may have had as a player, parent, or fan. See you on the field!
November 14, 2005
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