Syracuse’s Loss in Women’s Title Game Proves Why Changes Must Be Made

SU’s style of play is exciting, but Northwestern wouldn’t let that type of game be played.

Greenwich Time

Northwestern’s 8-6 win over Syracuse in the women’s lacrosse National Championship game was nauseatingly disgusting to watch. So you may be awaiting a borderline sexist article about how boring the sport is. But men’s lacrosse can be just as bad (remember how ’11 ended).

While SU’s women’s season ended in a snooze, the lead up to it was exciting. About half of the most amazing plays I’ve ever seen on a lacrosse field have been made by Syracuse’s Michelle Tumolo. She’s an insane athlete who makes the women’s game incredibly fun to watch. If you watched SU-Northwestern you have no idea how tremendous she is be because Tumulo barely touched the ball. It was similar to the limited touches Syracuse’s male offensive weapons got last year versus Maryland. It’s time to save lacrosse.

Lax aficionados like to market the sport as the fastest game on two feet. This can absolutely be true when you get two teams who like to run. It’s also the slowest game on any number of feet when you get a team who likes to stall. The Orange women had been the Cardiac Kids in the tourney. Florida led 12-5 with about 14 minutes to go in the semis. SU then pulled off one of the greatest comebacks you will ever see capped off in double overtime when senior Sarah Holden, who had 3 goals in the final 6 minutes to tie it up, found the back of the cage for the sudden death win. Syracuse trailed by 2 with two and a half minutes to go against UNC in the quarterfinals. Tumolo single-handedly destroyed the Heels’ D over that final stretch, and netted two goals and an assist for the first amazing comeback win.

The fix is simple and by no means original to me. Both the men’s and women’s games need a shot clock. Milking the clock needs to end and “stall warnings” in the men’s game aren’t cutting it. Once a team gains possession it should have 10-15 seconds to get the ball into the offensive zone. Once there, it should have 30 seconds to shoot. If you want to slide either of those numbers slightly go right ahead. If a team shoots, misses but backs it up (thus maintaining possession), new shot clock. Maybe that clock is shorter. As a potential fan who likes watching good lacrosse but can’t commit because the game isn’t consistent, this would help.

There are other changes specific to the women’s game that would help tremendously. First, allow some contact. There’s no one who hates the “no contact” rules more than the players themselves. Take off the goggles and put on a helmet. Add some pads. They can take it. You don’t have to allow full checks like the men, but you should be able to play a little defense.

This would also take influence away from the referees. You have some pretty hideous officiating in the game and it shows. Twitter wailed after the game about how awful many of the calls were. Those who cover the games are often scratching their heads about why some plays are whistled. Allowing contact means fewer calls and less confusion. The aim is improvement. Less officiating is improvement.  

The draw control is also a joke. “Alright ladies, let’s fling the ball up in the air and have a free for all! But don’t touch each other while you go for it because that’s a foul!” The men’s faceoff is not any better. It would be like basketball jumping center after every basket. If we want to start games that way, fine. However to do this after every score slows everything down and makes it harder to have compelling contests.

Full credit goes to Northwestern for dominating the draw in the title game. But the Wildcats also stalled the game away. If after every NU score Syracuse re-started play the game would’ve been very different. Northwestern could’ve never held onto an 8-6 win.

This year’s SU team was fun to watch and was chock full of storylines. Local product Katie Webster played in high school with Gary Gait’s daughter, and has been a scoring machine in her first two seasons on the Hill. Sophomore goalie Alyssa Constantino inherited the tall task of replacing the best to ever play in SU’s net, Liz Hogan. Freshman Kailah Kempney owned the draw control. And Tumolo might be the best player in the sport. She’s certainly one of the most exciting. Michelle is a member of Team USA, an All-American, a Tewaarton finalist and didn’t start playing until high school.

All of these standouts are back next year, along with leading scorer Alyssa Murray and defender Becca Block (both first team All-Americans). Syracuse will be fun to watch when it plays its game – an up and down style the way lacrosse is supposed to look. Plus, John Desko’s crew won’t likely have another year like they did this one. CNY could be looking at two very potent teams on the Hill next spring. Hopefully, after all the negative attention the national title received for the ladies we’ll see a different looking sport as well. We can only hope.

Posted: Craig Hoffman 


16 Comments on this Post

  1. PersonalBias

    It was a great game until the stalling killed it. The call against the SU ladies toward the end was awfulllll. Rather than have a clear run toward the goal after heavy contact by NU the official changed her call to a throw in, thus ending the game. Gait was right in being upset aboput the call. I was impressed by the speed of the game and have thought the rules truly must change. From a strategy standpoint I understand it’s about winning. Nonetheless, stall takes any and all excitement of the game from a fan standpoint.

  2. Install the shot clock! Northwestern realized that they couldn’t stay with the Orange if the normal game was played.
    It looked like Northwestern was mulling the Orange players and the officals could have been a little more understanding of the rules.
    If the (35 sec.) shot clock was used yesterday Syracuse would have brought the championship home.

    Congratulations go to the Orangewomen for a great season. It’s just to bad that they have to wait another year before they get another chance at the title.

  3. Frank

    I have watched most of last year’s WLAX games and all of this year’s WLAX games.Granted I had to pay attention to try and figure out some of the rules, but they were fun to watch. If you were a virgin prior to Sunday’s game then don’t complain about the rules. When you get a team that averages 17 goals a game (SU) then goes against a team who slows it down to win, them are the rules. The coach has to adjust during the game and take NU out of the stall. Great game as it is. Sometimes the Refs are crappy/inconsistent!

  4. Frank – if you say the game is “great” as is because SU scores 17 per game, then why not try and get all teams to play at that pace. Both men’s pro leagues (MLL outdoor and NLL indoor) use a shot clock. It needs to happen.

  5. I agree that something needs to be done with the stalling on both the men’s and even more so the women’s game but not sure a shot clock is the answer or possibly the best answer. It was like watching paint dry with the Northwestern offense but we also did not push out on them. We obviously knew that if they established a lead that was their plan so we should have been ready to counter that. An alternative would be to keep, and in the women’s case, install the stall warning. The change is here; exponentially decrease the size of the box. Make it goal line extended or close to it so they just can’t keep running back and forth behind the goal and also decrease the width of the box by a third or so. With this there will be no more clear passing lanes of six plus feet and also slides would come much easier within the confined area. Not completely opposed to the shot clock which would also improve the standard minute or so of substitutions we see every time a team takes possession but also not sure that is the answer. Just my 2c

  6. a shot clock isn’t necessary. Eliminate subs on the fly, only allow 3 poles, and bring back the true two way midfielder. Subs only allowed on the horn, bring back fast breaks. The game has been ruined.

  7. DMAC – no way you can keep the ball in front of the net and stay true to the game. The SU offense (women’s) so often started behind cage with Tumolo. If you make the “non-stall zone” all in front of the game you’ve fundamentally changed the game instead of just speeding it up.

  8. Hoffman, Please re-read I said goal line or close to it.. leave an alley if you want just not a “end-zone”

  9. You have to leave the whole endzone depth wise. Maybe you narrow the width (like the men have when a stall warning is in place) but you can’t just change the dimensions of the field…especially the area where most teams run offense from.

  10. Lax Coach

    I love when people just throw out advice for a sport that predates them and has been doing just fine without your influence. How can you install a shot clock? More importantly–why? Because another team used a tactic to win a game? Strategy should be allowed. Games and sports are based on using your strengths against a team and about finding a team’s weakness and using it to your advantage….also the idea for pads and helmet is just silly. Women’s lacrosse is not Men’s lacrosse and we don’t want it to be!

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  1. […] unwatchable sporting event in the history of the planet. The Wildcats play was described as “nauseatingly disgusting” by some, “a brutal, ugly brand of lacrosse” by others and led one Syracuse […]

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