September 30, 2008

Sept. 30, 2008

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

by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

What do you get when you put five All-Americans together and ask them about shooting space? An argument, of course.

It's the most-hotly debated rule in all of women's lacrosse -- one that is sometimes unevenly applied. Can an attacker behind the cage bait a defender into shooting space in front of it? Katie Chrest, Mary Key and Kelly Coppedge say yes; Michi Ellers and Lindsey Biles say no.

"This is what's wrong with women's lacrosse," says Chrest, the 2005 Tewaaraton Trophy winner at Duke and U.S. Elite team member.

The 2008 US Lacrosse women's rules book defines obstruction of free space to goal as when a player "with any part of her body guards the goal outside the goal circle so as to obstruct the free space to goal, between the ball and the goal circle, which denies the attack the opportunity to shoot safely and encourages shooting at a player."

For confirmation in this instance, Ellers, another Team USA member and Georgetown University assistant coach, calls head coach Ricki Fried. Verdict: yes and no.

Free space to goal, as defined by the 2008 US Lacrosse women's rules book.

According to the women's rules book, obstruction of free space to goal "applies only if initiated by the defender and not if she is drawn into free an attacking player." However, Fried said, hesitate for a second in front of the cage, and you're cooked.

Keep in mind:

• A shooting space violation can only occur in the attacking team's critical scoring area -- approximately 15 meters in front of the goal circle, to 9 meters behind goal line extended and each side of the goal circle.

• The ball carrier must be a threat to shoot and show intent.

• Players positioned behind goal line extended will not be penalized.

• If you are within stick's length of an attacker off-ball, but in the shooting lane, you are not in violation. (Rather, if the ball carrier shoots, it will be considered a dangerous shot.)

First, for a frame of reference, draw an imaginary 45-degree angle from the point of the ball ending on two points of the goal circle. This is the free space to goal that you cannot obstruct with your body. Do so, and it's a major foul, with a direct free position awarded to the ball carrier.

In this sequence, Michi Ellers (in white) avoids a shooting space violation by sliding on an angle with her stick and squaring up with her body only once she is within stick's length of Mary Key. Now, Ellers and Lindsey Biles are in position to drive Key outside of 8 meters with an effective double-team.
(Photo: John Strohsacker)

There are ways to defend off-ball, however, without violating shooting space. If your mark is behind the cage or adjacent to the ball, and your teammate gets beat, make your slide on an angle and keep your stick in the lane. Lead with your stick, not with your body. Once you are within a stick's length, you may close off the shooting lane with your body as your teammate recovers.

Same thing goes for double-teaming. You cannot advance through shooting space, but play your angles right, and your opponent could be in for trouble once you and your teammate are both within a stick's length.

If your opponent is double- or triple-teamed with no opportunity to shoot to goal, there is no foul. Defenders who are double- or triple-teaming a player without the ball and are within stick's length are also exempt.

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