August 10, 2009

This article appears in the "Your Edge" section of July's Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 300,000-plus members today to start your subscription.

Your Game: Ponytail Roll

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

The adjacent defender knows to double when she sees the ball carrier's ponytail. The on-ball defender draws contact and turns the ball carrier to the inside. The on-ball defender maintains defensive posiiton on the body; the adjacent defender goes for a stick check.

© John Strohsacker/

Want to know what makes top teams like Northwestern tick? The stats say it's their high-flying offenses, but it's often their high-pressure defenses that yield such opportunities.

While some teams are content to slough in and play straight up inside of 8 meters, others like to push out on opponents and look for timely double teams.

We asked Loyola head coach Jen Adams and assistants Dana Dobbie and Kylee White where and when double-team defense is most effective. First, there's the obvious -- near the sideline. (Thank you, hard boundaries.)

But then they shed a little secret they like to call the "ponytail roll."

The ponytail roll is a double-team tactic taken on the perimeter of the 8-meter arc up top.

"It's more like a defensive jump than an organized double," Dobbie says.

Here's how it's done:

  • The on-ball defender draws contact with the ball carrier near the top of the 8-meter arc.
  • The adjacent defender moves off the hash, splitting between her mark and the ball.

When the adjacent defender sees the ball carrier's ponytail (or pigtail, or goggle strap, etc.), she leaves her mark entirely to double team the ball.

  • The on-ball defender seals off the outside to roll the ball carrier inside and into the double team.
  • The on-ball defender plays the body; the adjacent defender swoops in for a stick check.

In the accompanying photo sequence, Adams is the ball carrier, White is the on-ball defender and Dobbie is the adjacent defender.

"Once I see Jen turn her back on me, then I jump and kind of blindside her," Dobbie says.

Says Adams: "She knows I don't have any vision of her, so she can come and fully play me. It's Kylee's job when she sees Dana coming to step around at the right time do that when I roll back, Dana's going for stick."

The on-ball defender (White) must get all the way around on the ball carrier's hands in front. Otherwise, with even an inch of wiggle room, the ball carrier (Adams) could run the on-ball defender and adjacent defender (Dobbie) off one another and feed the open mark.

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