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.