October 21, 2008

Oct. 21, 2008

This article appears in the "Classroom" section of October's Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription to LM.

Denver Outlaws attackman Brendan Mundorf is all smiles, as he has the advantage by hanging up his defenseman as goalie Jesse Schwartzman awaits Mundorf's move.
(Photo: John Strohsacker)

by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

What's worse than being stuck between a rock and a hard place? Being stuck with a hard place between you and the rock.

It's the best cat-and-mouse game in lacrosse. An attackman wriggles free of his defenseman, perhaps catching him asleep off the ball or on a switch off a pick, and secures possession behind the cage with said defenseman now "hung up" on the crease.

"It usually happens off of off-ball movement," says Denver Outlaws attackman Brendan Mundorf. "You react to the defense, not the ball."

Most defenses slide from the crease. As the crease attackman, your best bet to slip behind the cage unnoticed is when the ball moves to the high slot or wing, and your defenseman anticipates the slide by sloughing off you, the furthest man from the ball.

If the ball rotates through a 2-3-1 offense a couple of times, keep an eye on the defenseman's off-ball habits, and time your move behind the cage accordingly. Work the crease with the goal of getting the defenseman to mirror your position on the opposite side -- now you're ready to hang him up when you receive the ball at "X."

Another way to hang up your defender is off a two-man game on the crease or behind the cage in a 2-2-2 or 1-3-2 invert, respectively. When the ball hits the slot, your partner sets a pick on the defenseman's backside, you roll around the pick and behind the cage, and hope to receive the ball before the defense can switch.

With the crease, it's like a double-pick. Now you're behind the cage and the defenseman is stuck trying to defend you from in front of the cage. The advantage is yours: if he chases you to his right, you dodge to your right; if he chases you to his left, you dodge to your left.

"But be patient," Mundorf says. "You're a feeder first. Look to pop a pass to a cutter from up top."

Hang up your defenseman by mirroring his positions on the crease, then force him to chase you around the cage.
(Photo: John Strohsacker)

Once you've hung up your defenseman, he has no choice but to commit to one direction - unless, of course, the defense and goalie have prepared for exactly such a situation.

How to Play Hung

There are different philosophies on how to neutralize the attack's advantage. Communication between the hung-up defenseman and the goalkeeper is key.

You can't let the attackman feed at his convenience back there, but at the same time, you don't want to abandon the cage. Here's a suggestion from Outlaws goalie Jesse Schwartzman: force the attackman's hand.

Once hung, it's on the goalie to alert the rest of the defense, "Hung! Hung!" This will draw the midfielders down with their sticks in the lane to protect from cutters on the crease.

The goalie and hung-up defenseman, meanwhile, should protect the goal by standing side-by-side facing the ball carrier. It's his move, yes, but you can bate him in one direction or the other. Without a feed, his only choice is to dodge the cage or yield the advantage by passing the ball to the wing.

As the goalie compensating for a hung-up teammate, plant your inside foot on the crease where it meets GLE and address the attacker.
(Photo: John Strohsacker)

In the instance illustrated, Mundorf starts to his right as if to dodge to the long pole's side, but switches to his strong side, his left.

Schwartzman steps outside the crease. Positioning is critical. He plants his left foot on the crease where it meets goal line extended. As the attackman approaches, Schwartzman meets him at GLE, as the defenseman protects the empty cage.

"I want him to come to my stick," Schwartzman says.

And Mundorf has no choice, because he kills the advantage if he tries to go wide, or risks a crease violation if he tries to beat Schwartzman inside, with Schwartzman's left foot sealed to the crease.

"Either force him to go wide, or turn him back," Schwartzman says.

Now the defenseman can recover through the crease to the strong or weak side, respectively, with the attackman thwarted and forced to reset.

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