October 8, 2012

Coaches, Players React to Rules Changes in Action

by Matt Forman, Mark Macyk and Joel Censer | LaxMagazine.com

Men's players across the country are still adjusting to new stringing rules, among other changes, like no horns, an extended substitution box and a 30-second shot clock after stall warnings.
© Kevin P. Tucker

Three hundred twenty minutes of lacrosse. An estimated five stall warnings — total.

That was the story of the new NCAA men's lacrosse pace of play rules in Bethesda, Md., on Sunday at the Capital Lacrosse Invitational.

Cornell, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina and Penn State played two games apiece Sunday under 20-minute running clock conditions. From participating coaches' approximation, three games had one stall warning, and one game had two — but the final stall call came against Penn State when it held a lead with less than a minute on the clock.

It was a noticeably faster tempo game. But then again, winning isn't the bottom line in the fall.

"In the fall, we all tend to play a little faster than we do in the spring," Penn State coach Jeff Tambroni said. "You'll see a bigger impact in the spring, once we start game-planning and start moving guys around like chess pieces. That's when the 30-second rule will start to take effect and have a much greater impact. So you'll see more then, than you would now."

What has been the overall reaction to the rules changes?

"Nothing but positive," Tambroni said. "With no horns on the sidelines, your middies get caught on the defensive end a little bit more so than they ever have before. The pace of the game is a lot better now than it was."

Said Cornell coach Ben DeLuca: "We like the rules. It encourages a faster pace of play. The no horns has the biggest impact. Being able to pick it up on the sideline and get ready to go very quickly, or very quickly in your defensive end if there's a turnover or violation, the ability to pick it up and go has been great. We've got a great game. The game of lacrosse is a wonderful game, and I don't think we need to tinker too much with it. It'll be interesting to see, as we get more experience with it, how things go in the spring."

With so few stall calls Sunday, coaches were unsure how to view the 30-second soft shot clock — with 20 seconds on the officials' buzzer, and the following 10 counted by hand — though momentum for a visible clock seems to be gaining.

"The jury is still out on those [shot clock rules]," DeLuca said.

Said Tambroni: "No issues there. But it's going to be tough. I don't care how alert the officials are, it's hard on them. It's interesting, you talk to the officials right now, and I'm not sure they understand the rules in their entirety. And I don't fault them, I think everyone is still trying to learn the mechanics and the rules themselves." – MATT FORMAN

Colleluori Classic Rules Reaction

Reactions to the new rules were mixed Saturday at the Nick Colleluori Classic in Ridley, Pa. Some coaches thought the pace of the game completely changed. Others saw no difference at all.

The only consensus was that the shot clock had little effect. Yet.

"It's probably not going to be [noticeable] in the fall," Lehigh coach Kevin Cassese said. "No one tries to stall or play ball control in the fall. Everyone's trying to figure out who they are and who their guys are."

The biggest impact seemed to substituting without the horn. In an early game between High Point and Mount Saint Mary's both teams took advantage of scrambling defenses with some downfield jailbreak scoring chances.

"You can kind of control the sidelines on offense but on defense you're at the mercy of how the other team's gonna play," High Point coach Jon Torpey said. "If they're gonna push the tempo, there are times you're gonna get stuck with offensive personnel on defense."

"The no horns has the biggest impact. Being able to pick it up on the sideline and get ready to go very quickly, or very quickly in your defensive end if there's a turnover or violation, the ability to pick it up and go has been great."

– Cornell coach Ben DeLuca

"There were some nifty things you can take advantage of that I don't we noticed as coaches before," Marquette coach Joe Amplo said.

And while the rules will certainly have an effect this spring, those changes might have some unintended consequences. Teams are still going to get their subs in, but now they'll do it with the clock moving.

"It actually shrinks the game," Cassese said. "That's been an interesting byproduct of all this. I'm not sure that's what we wanted to do, shrink the game. That's not gonna lead to more scoring. It's interesting. We'll adapt and we'll move on."

That total adaptation may not arrive until the spring, if not longer.

"All the coaches are getting used to what do tactically with these rules," Michigan coach John Paul said. "We're coming up with ideas. There's going to be adjusting over the next couple of months and even by the first few games of the spring. Any time there's such a drastic change to the game it's gonna take a year or two for people to start changing and figuring out how to best take advantage of the rules." – MARK MACYK

Reaction at Play for Parkinson's

After the NCAA men's lacrosse rules committee released the new set of proposals this summer, it seems like anyone who ever picked up a lacrosse stick and has a working internet cable had an opinion. Motorcycle grippers signed petitions. Hard shot clock advocates bemoaned referees now having discretion over a 30-second countdown. Players who used- U or V-pockets wondered aloud if they would ever be able to shoot side armed again. As fall season got underway, there were reports of early practices moving at a breakneck, if not utterly frantic pace.

But at the third annual Play for Parkinson's fall tournament on Saturday in Alexandria, Va., the new rules seemed have an almost entirely positive effect. The game wasn't some aimless free-for-all that traditionalists argued it would become. Instead, the quicker restarts caused more transition, and the 30-second shot clock put a quick end to offensive possessions that have resembled drying paint more than the "fastest game on two feet." Frankly, the biggest change from a fan perspective was seeing all the balls on the sideline (there to promote faster restarts).

"[The new rules] accomplished what we needed them to accomplish which was to take away those long extended possessions." Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "I thought the referees in this game made some 30-second calls much quicker than anything else than we've seen in either of our early scrimmages. That could be a good thing."

Princeton junior phenom Tom Schreiber spoke positively to the new guidelines as well: "I finally adjusted to the new stringing rules. I like the extended box and the shot clock seems to have sped up the game ... So far, so good." – JOEL CENSER

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