My team just came back from four days at the WCLA National Tournament in Colorado Springs. This is Virginia’s second year at Nationals and we went 2-2. In the normal season under our usual conditions, this would be unacceptable. But at this level, in the conditions we experienced (hail, slip and slide field conditions, altitude, tough mudders in the eight meter) I’m tempted to cut our losses and slip into the summer hiatus…. Or I’ll think about it, incessantly… for a long time. To become better, we have to learn from our mistakes.
Usually I’m a no-excuses player. I remember my first varsity lacrosse tryout was in the snow. At the time I had horrendous stick skills and a pretty questionable perception of what the rules were. The weather, for me, was perfect. I was athletic, determined, and technically deficient. It was simple. So today, looking back on my fourteen year-old self–I wonder what changed. Our team is fast. Our team is skilled. We won the regional championship by ten goals, beating out Virginia Tech and University of Maryland. We’re very good at east coast lacrosse—and maybe that’s the problem.
The rules have changed. In the WCLA (club women’s college) we play by USL rules—different from NCAA. The sphere around the head is larger, limiting checking even further (yes, unbelievably so, women’s lacrosse can get more lame). This is strictly enforced in the western conferences and Texas; on the east coast, most refs are accustomed to NCAA rules: the sphere is small, checking is mostly always legal, physical contact is allowed. The west is a different game. A low check from a hanging stick is usually always a foul or “across body” regardless of the fact the attackers cradle resembles the earth’s orbit around the sun. This is frustrating from a technical standpoint—good stick skills are no longer an essential, but an added bonus. Defense is harder; the games are higher scoring; the game is disjointed, punctuated by whistle after whistle.
“Guys, let’s just play our game” we’d say from the huddle—but we couldn’t, not like we were used to. The weather and rules affect all.
At first glance I hate the new rules. They diminish the value of creative stick work—of dodges, of quick reactions for a low, satisfying check on the double team. This new game is about footwork, It’s about patience. As the scores of the tournament reflected, all teams are adjusting to the new rules. Our defense is suffering under the incessant cross checking/shooting space/checking into sphere/weird dolphin hand motion calls/poetic license calls. At final glance on this piece, I still hate the rules– But I’ll give a nod to the west coast teams who have mastered the rules and adjusted their game accordingly.
– Shout out to CSU for an incredible season–