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‚Äôs 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‚Äôve ever seen on a lacrosse field have been made by Syracuse’s Michelle Tumolo. She‚Äôs an insane athlete who makes the women‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs and women‚Äôs games need a shot clock. Milking the clock needs to¬†end and “stall warnings” in the men‚Äôs game aren‚Äôt 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‚Äôt commit because the game isn‚Äôt consistent, this would help.
There are other changes specific to the women‚Äôs game that would help tremendously. First, allow some contact. There‚Äôs 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. ‚ÄúAlright ladies, let‚Äôs fling the ball up in the air and have a free for all! But don‚Äôt touch each other while you go for it because that‚Äôs a foul!‚Äù The men‚Äôs 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‚Äôve been very different. Northwestern¬†could’ve never held onto an¬†8-6 win.
This year‚Äôs SU team was fun to watch and¬†was chock full of¬†storylines. Local¬†product Katie Webster played in high school with Gary Gait‚Äôs 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‚Äôs certainly one of the most exciting. Michelle is a member of Team USA, an All-American, a Tewaarton finalist and didn‚Äôt 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‚Äôll see a different looking sport as well.¬†We can only hope.