Back to the rule book: lacrosse 101

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By: Abby Kushina and Claire Quist, Staff Writers

Men’s and women’s lacrosse are two of the newest varsity sports at Illinois Wesleyan, and probably the two varsity sports that people know the least about.
Though it seems like a newer sport, just coming into the national spotlight within the last 15 or so years, lacrosse pre-dates Anglo-European America.
Originally played as a war game in various Native American communities in Canada, the Great Lakes region and down the Atlantic coast, there is evidence of lacrosse being played on North American soil since around 1100 A.D.
The rules were much different then, with as many as 1,000 participants on a field that could be miles, playing games that could last days at a time.
Today, the field is about the size of a football field, with 10 players in the men’s game and 12 in the women’s, and game that last only an hour.
Though they are both called “lacrosse,” rules in the women’s game and the men’s game differ greatly.

Women’s

Women’s lacrosse, although similar in many ways to the men’s sport, has a unique set
of rules that set it apart and continue to evolve as the sport does.The game is played with 12 players on the field which include four attackers (offenders), three midfielders, four defenders, and one goalkeeper. The field of play is broken up into three sections, divided by two restraining lines.

When a team has the ball on their attacking end, the four defensive players are not permitted to crossover the restraining line that is closest to that attacking end. Similarly, the four attack players are not allowed to crossover into the defensive third of the field when their team is playing defense.

In total, when either team is on attack or defense, there are seven players on each team who are engaging in play, while the other four players from each team are holding behind the restraining line. Failure to hold back the four players will result in an offsides call from the referees.In total, a women’s lacrosse game is 60 minutes and consists of two 30 minutes halves.

The game starts with what is known as a draw which involves three players from each team.Two opposing players set up in the center circle at midfield, while the other two players from each team line up outside of the circle. The referee places the ball between the backs of the draw takers’ stick heads, and on the whistle, the players must push the ball up and out of their sticks into the air.

On the referee’s whistle the six players apart of the draw are free to move and fight for possession of the ball.
Once one team gains possession, the remaining players, who hold behind either of the restraining lines, are free to move into the midfield. From here, the team with possession looks to move the ball into their attacking end and begin their offensive play.

While lacrosse has always been a fast paced and high scoring sport, the new rule changes effective in the 2018 season such as self-start, free movement, and the 90 second possession clock, make the game even faster.
The self-start rule applies to situations in which there has been a minor foul in the midfield or outside of the critical scoring area, the 12 meter arc around the goal. Within the 12 meter arc is another eight meter arc, which functions similarly to the key in basketball. When fouls are committed inside the eight meter, the attacking player is rewarded a free-position shot from a designated hash on the eight meter line.

Free movement allows all players to move on a whistle while the ball is not in play, just like they would in soccer. The 90 second possession clock begins when a team gains possession of the ball, no
matter where they are in the field. This includes when a goalkeeper makes a save or if the ball is turned over in the midfield. The team with possession has 90 seconds to transition the ball up the field, create an offensive set, and get a shot off.

The possession clock restarts if a shot hits the goal pipe or if the goalie makes a save and the ball is rebounded by the offensive team. If the offensive team fails to convert on their offensive set in the 90 seconds they are given, the ball is turned over and possession is given to the other team.

Similar to hockey, the 120 yard field extends beyond the goal. Players utilize the space behind the goal, often feeding to cutters in front of the goal. Additionally, attacking players are not allowed to cross into the crease, or goal circle, which surrounds the goal.

Men’s
By: Matt Wegh, Managing Editor
Men’s lacrosse plays on a field that is 110 yards long, and 60 yards wide. The length, which is slightly longer than a football field, allows for players to go behind the net. Within this field, there is a midline as well as an offensive zone on both sides of the field. These zones are 35 feet long by 40 feet wide. After a defensive stop or save has been made, the team with the ball has 30 seconds to advance into their opponent’s zone.

Teams consist of 10 players, three “attack” (offense), three midfielders, three defensemen and one goaltender.
The game starts with a faceoff at midfield, where each team has one player facing off, and then one player on either side of the field.

Once the referee places the ball between the “crosses” (sticks) of the two faceoff men, the whistle is blown and all six midfielders fight over the ground ball. Getting a “ground ball” is simply picking up and possessing the ball after it was on the ground.

Once a team possesses, they advance into the opponent’s zone, which is called a “clear” in lacrosse jargon. Switching sides of the field is one of the more complicated rules that lacrosse has. A maximum of six players are allowed on the offensive side of the field for a team at a time, and a maximum of seven are allowed on defense (this includes the goaltender). If a player crosses over the midline and puts his team over the maximum number of players, that team is called for offsides. If the team in possession goes offsides, the whistle blows and the ball goes to the other team. If the team on defense goes offsides, it results in a 30 second penalty.
Penalties are similar to hockey. The player responsible for the penalty is given time in the “penalty box” depending on the severity of the infraction.

Time in the box ranges from 30 second penalties like offsides, all the way up to three minutes. Usually if the other team scores, the player is released, unless they are serving an “unreleasable” penalty for something dangerous or unsportsmanlike.

One of the other trickier rules of lacrosse is how missed shots are handled. If a shot misses the cage, the ball only has 15 yards to go before it goes out of bounds. Whichever team has a player closest to the ball when it goes out of bounds is awarded possession.

Similar to hockey and soccer, goals count for one point, although professional lacrosse includes a two-point line similar to the three-point arc in basketball. Despite its similarities to soccer, teams on average score a combined 17-20 goals per game. The high scoring, physical nature of lacrosse has earned its nickname: “The fastest sport on two feet.”

Both women’s and men’s lacrosse will active next week, with the 6-4 women’s team taking on Augustana at home on April 7, and the men’s team facing Aurora at home on April 2.