Normally on this site I write about how goalies can increase their odds of making saves. But this week we’re going to flip the script.
This post is about how to score on a lacrosse goalie, written by a lacrosse goalie.
As goalies we have a unique perspective as to which types of shots are difficult saves and which ones are just pure popcorn.
So if you’re a middie or an attackman wondering the best method to score on a goalie below are a few tips to help you increase your odds.
Move the Goalie
When I teach goalies to make saves one of the tenets we practice is being completely still prior to the shot. Completely still and in the right place on the arc.
Good offensive ball movement gets the goalie moving aggressively along his/her arc and increases the probability that they get “lost” on the arc. Meaning they’re giving up a large portion of the goal (perhaps unconsciously) and not splitting the goal from the shooter’s perspective.
For me a quick shot off of a swing pass was always more difficult to save because I’m moving on the arc to get into position and sometimes wouldn’t be 100% ready and still in my stance when the shot was released.
Another method of “moving the goalie” is to get them moving vertically, up and down in their stance.
As a goalie when we see a shooter lower his hands, drop his chin, and point his shoulders downwards we lower our body in anticipation of a low shot. Most goalie coaches (including myself) teach this method to keepers as I think it does maximize your odds of making a save.
However as a shooter if you’re talented enough to:
lower your hands, drop your chin, and point shoulders downwards
see the goalie lower themselves vertically in their stance
then rip a shot high
You’re going to have the goalie moving vertically in the opposite direction of the shot. Thereby greatly increasing the odds of tickling the twine.
The same goes for keeping your hands high and raising your shoulders and chin. This indicates to the goalie that you’re about to rip a high shot.
If you use these deceptive techniques to your advantage you’ll find the goalie cheating in the direction that your body language indicates. If you can then vary the shot you’ve created deception that’s going to be hard to stop.
Here’s a good video from Mark Matthews describing shot deception with body language in more depth:
Hide the Release Point
As a goalie we’re insanely focused on the shooter’s release point. The quicker we can pickup the shot, the quicker we can understand where the ball is going and execute our save movement.
A sidearm shot might be a little faster but it allows the goalie to get a great view of the release point. This makes the save much easier.
If you shoot overhand with proper technique, you can hide the head of your stick behind your head, body, and shoulders. Some shooters even turn their back to the goalie in their shot motion which hides the stick even further.
As a goalie, this makes picking up the release point way harder. Thus the save is way harder.
Shoot off of a screen or defender
Another method of hiding the release point is shooting off of a screen or a defender’s hip.
Anyone who watched the 2017 NCAA men’s tourney will remember this shot from Towson attackman Joe Seider. The shot is stick side high which isn’t the greatest location, albeit he does absolutely stick the corner.
The best thing he does is hide the release point by shooting right off the defender (his head in this case). Great shooters also frequently shoot of their defender’s hips.
This means Syracuse goalie Evan Molloy can’t pickup the release point right away and that fraction of a second is all you need to score on a goalie when you shoot with power and precision.
From the goalie’s perspective, normally we can pickup the shot’s release here:
When the shot comes off of a screen or the hip/head of a defender, we pickup the shot somewhere around here:
Remember that goalies find the most success when we can pickup that release point instantly.
By disguising the shooter’s release point we lose a fraction of a second that is often the difference between a goal and a save.
Great Shot Placement – Shoot Off Stick
Lacrosse goalies setup in their stance with the stick around head level and to one side of their body.
While there are many differences in lacrosse goalie’s stances, the above sentence is true for 100% of goalies.
It’s simple physics then that a shot to the opposite side of where their stick is setup is going to be harder because the stick needs to travel a longer distance.
Here’s a couple of side by side images from a video of a goalie making saves. Notice how much farther the stick head must move to make the off stick low save.
In fact if we were to create a heat map for all goalies in the NCAA you would definitely see the percentage of goals given up on shots off stick hip and low to be much higher than other shots.
Stick side and higher shots have a higher probability of being saved versus off-stick and lower. So consider your shot location to increase the odds of scoring on us goalies.
Exploit the Goalie’s Weakness
While we work effortlessly to rid our game of weaknesses, most goalies I know have at least one weakness to their game.
For many, its off-stick hips shots like I describe above but other goalies might have another weakness that shooters can exploit to score goals.
In the same way that I encourage goalies to scout shooters, shooters should scout goalies.
Where are they strong? Where are they weak?
Are they strong high and weak low? Are they strong stick side but very weak off stick? Do they have the tendency to drop to their knees on low shots allowing in the high bouncer every time? Do they get lost on the arc when a middie sweeps from TOP CENTER down the alley?
These are all questions you can get answered through proper scouting and video review.
If scouting a goalie is not an option, then at least watch the goalie warmup before the game. You can usually get a good read on how the goalie plays by watching his technique for saving shots to different areas.
Once you discover a goalie’s weakness, exploiting it will give you better odds of scoring a goal.
Maybe this one is a no brainer but it’s worth mentioning. High velocity shots are harder to save.
This isn’t a post about how to shoot harder but let it be known that the harder the shot the harder the save as us goalies have less time to react.
With slower shots a goalie might be able to recover from a false movement or not seeing the ball right away. High velocity shots are not as forgiving.
So shoot hard to increase your chance of scoring on a goalie.
I hope my fellow goalies aren’t too upset that I’m giving secrets to the enemy. But as a goalie we have a unique perspective and I wanted to share that with potential shooters.
Seeing so many shots I can tell which ones are harder to save and which shots are so easy I wish I saw them every time.
Here are my tips for shooter’s looking to put one past the goalie:
Move the Goalie (both along the arc and vertically)
Hide Your Release Point
Shoot Off stick hip or low
Exploit the Goalie’s Weakness
Don’t say us goalies never gave you anything.
Until next time! Coach Damon Wilson
Any other tips for scoring on a goalie that I missed? Leave me a comment down below.
Lacrosse is my passion! The game has given me so much and this blog is my way of giving back to the lax community. Specifically the most bad a$$ part of that community - the goalies! After learning to play goalie from scratch, I wanted to create a site where I could share what I learned with others so they too can become champions in the crease and in life. Learn more about Coach Damon.