January 25, 2013

New Men's Rules Among Champion Challenge Storylines

Final cuts for Team USA women; Syracuse gunning for victory

by Corey McLaughlin and Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com

Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan is curious as to how the new set of NCAA men's rules will impact the college game? "There's a lot that we'll all have to learn," he said Friday ahead of the Fighting Irish's scrimmage with Team USA.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Count Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan among those wondering what impact the widespread NCAA men's rules changes for the 2013 season will have on the game. No more horns and limited substitutions, a 30-second shot clock after stall warnings, quicker restarts, new stringing patterns, and many more changes were made this offseason with the intent of speeding up the sport.

Will the moves have the intended impact? The jury is out. All Corrigan sees is uncertainty.

"There is a lot to learn," Corrigan said after the Fighting Irish wrapped up their second of two practices Friday at Champion Challenge, the annual US Lacrosse event at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in sunny Florida. "My biggest thing to learn is what does 60 minutes of the pace of this game look like?

"Can you play two midfields, three midfields?" he said, which Notre Dame did last year. "Can you get your defensive-middies in and out? Do you have to change your traditional substitution patterns based on the fact that guys aren't getting to leave the field, without the horn?

"Do you have to have an extra defenseman or attackman for guys to be able to play as hard as you want them to the whole time? What are the stall calls and what is the 30-second [countdown] going to look like? Are [officials] going to change the way they call stalling? There's a lot that we'll all have to learn. I'm glad we're getting a chance to do it early."

Notre Dame brought its 46-player roster, coaching, training and support staffs, and two-a-day practices south to train on pristine turf field under blue skies in welcome 70-degree temperatures.

The Irish are one of three NCAA Division I men's programs that will compete over three days here this weekend. They scrimmage Team USA and Jacksonville on Saturday before defending national champion Loyola plays the U.S. men's national team in Champion Challenge's marquee men's event at 1:30 p.m. ET Sunday (ESPN3.com/LaxMagazine.com live blog).

The U.S. women's national team plays NCAA runner-up Syracuse at 7 p.m. ET Saturday (live blog) and defending champion Northwestern at 11:30 a.m. ET Sunday (ESPN3.com/live blog). Women's teams representing England, the Haudenosaunee, Division II Rollins and first-year program Stetson will also compete.

But as much this weekend is about the collection of talented teams and preparation for the season ahead, on the men's side, it's equally about the questions surrounding the new rules. While teams have used the updated set through fall practices and scrimmages, Sunday's Team USA-Loyola matchup will be the first men's game, officials included, of the spring season on television. The U.S. roster, comprised of former college stars and current Major League Lacrosse and LXM Pro players, will be brand new to the rules while even those exposed to them already are uneasy.

Corrigan had pointed comments for the 30-second shot clock after a stall warning rule, which will ask officials to use a on-field 20-second timer and then use a 10-second hand count for the remainder of the play.

"There's a tremendous amount of uncertainty," Corrigan said. "I hate that we don't have a visible shot clock. It's beyond stupid. I can't even fathom how you put a shot clock into the game, but then make an invisible shot clock."

Corrigan said he talked with an ESPN official at Champion Challenge on Friday and they discussed what Corrigan described as a missed opportunity of instituting a physical clock, as seen in many other sports, collegiate and professional.

"There's great drama with a shot clock, with the end of the game or end of a shot clock," Corrigan said. "We took it right out of the whole thing. All we turned it into is great uncertainty. We turned great drama into great uncertainty. That's just silly. It doesn't make sense."

And there will be plenty to get used to. When Notre Dame practiced for the first time on Thursday, the lines for the substitution box were still painted 10 yards apart. One of the new rules has extended the box to 20 yards. By Friday, the field was up-to-date.

Final Cuts for Team USA

"We have a lot of tough decisions to make," Team USA women's coach Ricky Fried said of trimming his roster from 25 to 18 after this weekend.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Champion Challenge marks the final evaluation round for the U.S. women's national team staff before the 2013 Federation of Interntional Lacrosse (FIL) Women's World Cup in Oshawa, Ont. this summer. The current roster of 25 will be pared down to 18 after this weekend. (Two alternates to be selected at a later date.) All members on the 25-player roster will be invited to continue training with Team USA if they choose to do so.

"We have a lot of tough decisions to make," coach Ricky Fried said.

There are 10 players on the current roster that played in the 2009 FIL Women's World Cup and won gold for Team USA. One of them is defender Amber Falcone.

"The pride that you feel playing for the United States never changes. It's just really cool to be here," said Falcone, a North Carolina alum and Vanderbilt assistant.

Attacker Katrina Dowd, who is trying to make her first World Cup team, echoed Falcone's sentiments.

"I'm just excited for the opportunity to get on the field to play with great teammates and a great coaching staff," Dowd said. "Our attack, all six of us put together in a team, are the best people have seen in a while. And we have fast middies who can put the ball away. It's a fun combo to watch."

The midfield is one of the biggest questions marks for Team USA — and therefore one of the biggest opportunities for up-and-comers to have an impact. Only three midfielders from the 2009 team, Caitlyn McFadden, Sarah Albrecht and Sarah Bullard, are on the 25-player roster, and neither is a draw specialist. Midfielders Allyson Carey, Kristen Carr and Laura Zimmerman all have extensive draw experience.

Syracuse Speeds Up

Syracuse is racking up the frequent flyer miles, and it's not even February yet. The Orange began its NCAA season on Jan. 13, winning at Jacksonville, 21-8. For their second trip to Florida in the month of January, they've come to Champion Challenge to take on Team USA on Saturday night.

"An opportunity to come to an event like this is a must, to play against the national team," Syracuse coach Gary Gait said Friday. "We're going to use our depth. We're going to take advantage of how good our freshmen are, and increase the pace of play a little bit. You're going to see a different style of play out of Syracuse this year in general, certainly in the midfield."

The Orange returned all but two of its starters from last year's NCAA runner-up squad, but the rookies are already making an impact. Freshman attacker/midfielder Kayla Treanor, a U.S. under-19 team alum, was the leading scorer in the Jacksonville win with five goals; classmates Erica Bodt, Brenna Rainone and Kelly Cross all got on the board versus the Dolphins. Syracuse hopes to match Team USA's up-tempo style step for step.

"We've been preparing mostly for their defense. Letting them have time to settle is the most dangerous thing we can do," sophomore attacker Devon Collins said.

Confidence is the byword for the Orange in 2013. They were once the hunters, and are now the hunted.

"Your preparation and your attitude, you have to change it from the past. It's easy to be an underdog," said Gait. "We've seen a lot of the U.S. I've certainly seen enough to know what they're running offensively with their staff. What they do in the college game is very similar to what they do in the international game. This team's a high intensity pressure team, and we've got to change how we play a bit. Hopefully we can give the US a solid game."

England Opens Champion Challenge with Win

In the first official game of the eighth annual USL event, Team England women defeated the Haudenosaunee, 18-2, on Friday night.

Check back to LaxMagazine.com throughout the weekend for live coverage from Champion Challenge.

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