The recent announcement that the NCAA women’s lacrosse rules committee added a 90-second shot clock could be a game-changer, literally. Assuming the NCAA playing rules oversight panel formally approves in July, the game of women’s lacrosse will undergo a revolutionary change in a major way beginning in 2017 (for Division I) and 2018 (for Division II and III).
Unlike the men’s game, which has a 30-second shot clock after the officials call a stall warning, this will be a pure shot clock. The 90-second clock begins off a draw, turnover or goalie change and can reset after a yellow/red card, goalie save or shot off the pipe. Since the women’s game has a running clock, that time isn’t necessarily a finite time. For example, if a ball goes out of bounds after a shot, the clock stops in the men’s game (and so would the 30-second shot clock after a stall warning). In the women’s game, the game clock and 90-second shot clock will continue to run, with the shot clock only stopping when officials otherwise stop the clock (cards, free position shots, etc.). Long story short, these 90 seconds could include some amount of time between action, effectively making the time to shoot even less.
To go from no shot clock to 90 seconds is extremely drastic. The teams can and will adapt, but it changes the dynamic of the sport, mainly for the better. The players (especially midfielders) need to be in even better shape than they already are. They will have to run up and down the field more. It will also be interesting to see if an up-tempo game forces the women’s teams to become more specialized like the men. Will there be more “defensive midfielders?” Will teams need to carry a bigger roster because they need to play more players to keep everyone rested?
In the end, this move is needed. The game presently features too much stalling, not almost intentional, and even the best of the best are doing whatever it takes to win. In Maryland’s case, it meant long stretches at the end of its National Semifinal win over Syracuse and National Championship victory over North Carolina when the Terrapins played keep away. I don’t blame them; at the moment and under the current rules, they were doing what gave them the best chance to win. Coaches have admitted that stalling is not good for the game, but as long as no shot clock is in the rules, they will continue to do what’s best for their team in a given game, as they have every right to do (and should do).
Beyond how teams adapt to rules changes become many small questions that add up. What happens when the shot clock is winding down and a player is far from the cage? Will she just heave it towards goal with no regard of who’s around her? That could be very dangerous considering only the goalie wears a helmet. Some aspects of the shot clock bring up safety issues as well.
Some sort of action to stop or dissuade stalling was needed and imminent. Whether a restraining box if a stall warning is called (like the men used to have), a clock that begins after a team clears the ball, or an actual shot clock, something needed to happen. Credit to the women’s lacrosse coaches for taking a chance for the betterment of the game.
There will be kinks that need to be ironed out, but we were likely going down this path at some point, so why not go right for it? In time, all players, coaches and fans will look back to the time with no shot clock and wonder, “why didn’t we do this earlier?”