Impact of the 2019 NCAA Rule Changes on Lax Goalies | Lax Goalie Rat

Impact of the 2019 NCAA Rule Changes on Lax Goalies


If you haven’t already heard, the NCAA rules committee recently met in Indianapolis to vote on several changes to the college level game for the 2019 season.

The 2 major rule changes to be approved were:

  1. Introduction of the shot clock
  2. Bringing back “the dive” play with a twist

And unlike this rule change, these ones are for real. There is still another hurdle the rules have to pass before they become official but odds are they will be adopted.

NCAA rules usually make their way down to the lower levels after some vetting so even if you don’t play college ball it’s worth understanding these rule changes.

In this post, I want to give my analysis of how these new rules will impact everyone’s favorite position – us goalies.

Impact of Rule Changes on Lacrosse Goalies

Shot Clock

The first rule change is the introduction of a shot-clock combined with a time limit to clear the past the midfield line once the defense gains possession.

Under the new proposal, a team will have 20 seconds to cross the midfield line when it gains possession in its defensive half of the field. If a team fails to clear the defensive half of the field, the ball is awarded to the opposing team. The referees will keep this time on the field, as they do currently.

After advancing the ball to the offensive half the visible 60-second shot clock will start.

If the offensive team regains possession after satisfying the shot clock, such as with a save, rebound off goal, etc., the shot clock will reset to 60 seconds. If no shot is taken in the 60 seconds, the defending team will be awarded possession.

The MLL uses that exact rule. 60-second shot clock and 20 seconds to clear past the midfield line. So it’s a little surprising to me that the NCAA committee elected to use the same 60-seconds.

NCAA Basketball uses a 30-second shot clock (35 until 2015-2016 season) while the NBA has a 24-second shot clock. I thought college lacrosse would use a similar system, giving the amateurs a little more time on offense.

The point of the shot clock is to speed up the game and make it such that offenses can’t simply ball control and waste clock. I like that aspect and I’m very much in favor the shot clock.

Right now, in theory a team could hold onto the ball for the entire quarter if they kept attacking the cage. The referee’s decision to put on a stall warning and enable the shot clock is way too arbitrary.

There’s nothing more frustrating than watching an offense simply pass the ball the around for 5 minutes before the refs work up the nerve to call stalling and put on a shot clock.

So what’s the impact of the shot clock on goalies?

I think it’s pretty obvious – we’ll be facing more shots per game!

Let’s do some quick math – I do have an engineering degree from Berkeley after all.

Looking at this NCAA D1 men’s data, in 2018 the top 50 teams averaged just over 35 shots per game.

Meanwhile in the 2018 MLL season, with the same 60-second shot clock, the average number of shots per game was 46 (source).

So with that back of the envelope math, lacrosse goalies can expect to face an average of 11 more shots per game, give or take.

In my elite lacrosse goalie triad, I teach that one part of the triad for goalies is the Physical.

Having to face 11 more shots per game simply means your team is on defense more. It makes the physical even more important. Facing more shots is physically exhausted and goalies’ bodies must be up to the task.

Especially because when the body gets tired, the mind gets weak. And as we all know, mental toughness for lacrosse goalies is an essential element.

So lacrosse goalies will need to ensure they’re even more physically fit for games in 2019 with the shot clock.

Now just because a goalie is going to see more shots per game that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be the same caliber of shot.

With less time to run their offense and wait for a perfect shot, I do think many college lacrosse offenses will settle for subpar shots from distance or at a bad angle.

So while the number of shots a lax goalie will face will increase, the quality should decrease resulting in a slight lift in save percentage in the upcoming year.

Here’s another point which may result in lower quality shots.

With only 60 seconds to get a shot on goal – remember an errant shot that doesn’t touch the goalie doesn’t reset the shot clock – the offense has less time to sub. The offensive squads might have trouble subbing out 3 defensive middies for 3 fresh offensive middies.

As a goalie which would you rather face, an offense with 3 defensive oriented middies who just sprinted the full length of the field or 3 fresh offensive specialist middies? I think the answer is clear and that we’ll see defensive middies get caught on offense more often resulting in poorer chances.

The final point is that I think goalies will benefit by seeing quicker shots.

When an offensive ball controls for 5 minutes its common to lose concentration and give up an easy goal on the shot that eventually comes as you were lulled to sleep. Now knowing that you’ll only be on defensive 60 seconds before you see a shot should allow goalies to maintain full concentration as long as their physically and mentally fit.

Nick Washuta led D1 NCAA teams last year with a save percentage of 60.9% with 184 saves. We will see how that measures to 2019 but my guess is the save leader will have both a higher percentage and a higher number of saves.

The 2nd piece of this rule is that the defense now has 20 seconds to clear the ball into the offense half when gaining possession.

When you watch college (or even high school) lacrosse games, the majority of clears last just a few seconds.

The only situation I envision changing is where the riding team locks off all other defensive players on a restart leaving the goalie open.

In the past goalies lacking confident stick skills might have been content to wait while their teammates attempted to get open.

With the 20-second rule that option is gone. Teams must push the clear.

While stick skills and confidence with cradling and dodging have always been important for goalies, they become even more emphasized with this new rule.

A goalie might have to take off and venture into the offensive side to lead the clear Brett Queener style. Perhaps even score a goal!

The Dive is Back – Kinda

For those who are unfamiliar with “the dive” let me explain.

With the current rules, a ballcarrier cannot leave his feet – on his own volition – and land in the crease or else the goal is nullified.

With “the dive” legalized this play is now perfectly legal.

Here’s a nice example of a goal on a dive along with Paul Carcaterra’s rant on bringing the dive into the NCAA game:

The rule committee has listened to Carc and now made this is a legal play with one very important exception.

A player that dives in the direction of the goal mouth will receive a one-minute penalty.

How officials interpret and call “direction of the goal mouth” remains to be seen. The crease dive play happens so fast that will be very hard to officiate.

Here is how lacrosse goalies can defend the dive.

Technically if an attackman dives like this to score, they should be assessed a 1-minute penalty as that is diving in the direction of the goal mouth.

But will that be called? I doubt it.

By definition this is jumping at the “mouth of the goal” and old #7 Virginia should get a 1-minute technical.

Will he in the new rule? Remains to be seen.

So with the rule exception, an attackman who is going to attempt a dive must not dive towards the mouth of the goalie and they cannot make contact with the goalie.

Obviously, the return of the dive is tragic for lacrosse goalies everywhere.

One, because of an increased chance of injury.

I understand by adding the penalty for those diving towards the goal they’re attempting to discourage contact with the goalie.

But defenders are pushing and shoving the ball carrier as they purposefully launch themselves into the crease. The defenders’ push can easily send them out of control.

Just ask Alex Krawec the former Denver Outlaw goalie whose leg ended up like this after “the dive” –

The dive play happens so fast. By allowing players to launch their bodies into the crease they’re inviting contact with the goalies’ knees and a high risk of injury.

Let’s check an example:

This is a legal dive now as he not diving at the “mouth of the goal” but while airborn he gets hit by a defender and is sent right into the goalie. Tell me that’s not dangerous for a goalie who is standing there stationary not really braced for a hit?

I pretty much guarantee one goalie this year will suffer a serious knee or leg injury as a result of this new rule. And that is just tragic.

Also if I took a hit like that I’d expect my defense to stick up for me. So by inviting the dive, you’re inviting unsportsmanlike conduct into the game in the name of respecting the goalie.

The sport of lacrosse has implemented a lot of rules to reduce big hits in favor of safety. Now safety goes right out the window to increase the excitement of the game? Doesn’t make sense to this goalie.

The other disappointing part of this rule is that a crease dive is just hard to defend.

Seems like every rule change in the last 10 years has benefitted the offense to the detriment of lacrosse goalies everywhere.

Perhaps it really is time to bring in the double-headed goalie wand!!

Defending the Crease Dive As a Goalie

How to properly defend the crease dive could probably be an entire post on its own.

As I see it, we have two options:

  1. Attack the ball carrier pre-dive
  2. Read ’em and Beat ’em

If you’re a big bodied keeper a la Scott Rodgers, you can attack the ball carrier before they launch themselves into the crease.

One big hit like this, especially early in the game, will make ball carriers think twice before diving into your crease again.

The other method of defending the dive play is anticipation.

Reading the ball carriers body language you can usually determine when they’ve committed to diving for the far post.

When you’re a goalie with enough experience you’ll develop a knack for when a player is going for the dive.

Going back to the example in the 1st video, probably an instant before this point we know “the dive” is coming:

The Dive

Read ’em and beat ’em as my friends at Goaliesmith would say. Meaning read the body language and beat them to the spot on the far post.

When a ball carrier is unguarded at X, the dive is now very much a possibility. Like this –

Again as a goalie we’ll need to quickly read ’em and beat ’em to the post. Your footwork when playing the ball at X also becomes extremely important.

Lax Goalie Rat camp members – I break down the proper way to play the ball at X in this training video. If you’re not a member, sign up here.

No question, a well-executed dive is extremely hard to defend. The advantage is with the ball carrier but those two methods should help goalies defend the dive play a little better.


The 2019 NCAA lacrosse season will see two pretty drastic rule changes.

The introduction of a shot clock and the legalization of the dive will change the game a little for lacrosse goalies.

With the shot clock, goalies will need to be physically and mentally prepared to face more shots per game, albeit many of those may be of lesser quality as the offense fires away to avoid a turnover.

The introduction of the dive is a shame from this goalie’s point of view. It will result in a serious injury, mark my words. It’s also very hard to defend and yet again the rule committee has given another advantage to the offense.

Until next time! Coach Damon

What are your thoughts on the 2019 rule changes? Let me know in the comments below. 

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10 thoughts on “Impact of the 2019 NCAA Rule Changes on Lax Goalies

  1. These rules changes have me divided on my opinions because I am a HS coach and the father of a goalie (an athletic and aggressive goalie).

    I like the shot clock rule change as well as the 20 seconds to get it cleared. It will add to the speed of the game and to the excitement. It does change how we as coaches need to approach the game (especially if this rule makes it down to the HS level, rules usually do after some vetting at the collegiate level). The days of the big slow kid playing goalie may be gone because of this rule. Too often at the HS level (and youth) the least athletic and overweight kid is thrown in goal because he takes up space and can’t run on the field. Goalies like mys son who are one of the fastest and most athletic kids on the team will thrive. I think this direction is positive for more reasons than just speeding up the game. Too often my HS team played great zone defense (we are primarily a backer zone d) to only be slow played because the offense doesn’t have to take a shot. This rule will benefit teams who play defense like our HS team does.

    The dive rule….now, I don’t like it. It flies in the face of every other rule change made for safety reasons. It does add an angle for more scoring but at what cost? Very skilled Attackmen and Middies will pull this off with out impunity (especially from X as shown) because it’s very hard to stop. Bad players will also try and this will result in injuries more often than not. This is one rule change that I don’t think will make it to the HS level. But then again it only takes HS coaches wanting to score more to drive the change. I am not one of those HS coaches.

    In short, yay for the shot clock and 20 seconds. Boo on the dive play.

    1. Cool we share same thoughts! The zone defense being more effective in the shot clock era is something I didn’t consider. Will we see more NCAA defenses switch to zone. it takes longer to develop a scoring chance in zone I believe. Thanks for the comment Coach!

      1. I think we will see an increase in zone defenses because IMO it does take a tad longer to find a shot against a zone. Especially a very disciplined zone team.

        We were a young HS team last season: Frosh goalie, many sophomore and junior starters on both sides of the ball. Few Seniors. One game, against a one loss team, they maintained possession for almost the whole 1st quarter but couldn’t get a shot off because the zone was shutting the lanes and alleys down. If we had a shot clock in this game we would of won IMO. We lost 5-2.

        The dive though….ughhhh. Interested to see how the refs call the dive towards the mouth. That will be the key to preventing injuries. Dives parallel to the goal line don’t worry me as much because the goalie should be hugging the pipe (or close to it) and not necessarily in danger of contact per se.

  2. To add on about your point of how the refs calling the dive, I think they need to have refs who have to be trained to look at where they are diving and when. Before the season starts I think they need to be retrained to know what is a violation and what is not. If they don’t do this it could go one of two ways, one a lot of injured goalies or two they will remove the dive in the following seasons.

    1. It will be new to most refs unless they’ve done MLL or International games so you’re right there will be a learning period. I guess that’s what pre-season is for. Work out the kinks.

  3. If there isn’t a goalie interference penalty because of a dive, you will see plenty of injuries cause they can dive right into the goalie and knock him out of the way. But then if you add an interference penalty, would they make it illegal for goalies to try and force the penalty?

    Too many questions on the table about the dive, it’ll be interesting to see what plays out

    1. Yeah lots of dive questions but bottom line unfortunately I think we’ll see some injuries. When an attackman launches himself and then gets hit by a defender? They fly right into the goalies legs.

    2. The way I read the rule you cannot dive at the goalie directly as he or she will be standing in the goal mouth. You might be able to catch a goalie from the side on a really oblique dive, but at that angle the goalie should be hugging the post anyway. The re-introduction of dives is frankly silly to me – it’s not as if there isn’t enough scoring in lacrosse as it is – because it is a step back for player safety with no substantive benefit to the balance of the game.

      I do like the shot clock rule – stalls are no fun for anyone, and getting rid of the subjective nature of stall warnings makes sense to me.

      1. You’re right you cannot dive towards the goal but there will be contact with the goalie. Check out the GIF I included where the defender pushes a diver who is diving “away from the goal” right into the goalie. Really can’t believe they enabled this rule. Agree w/ you on shot clock. I like it.

  4. From a (primarily) box lacrosse perspective, the shot clock is no big deal. But you are right about the conditioning; there will be fewer (and shorter) times to rest. The dive is a horrible decision. Twice I’ve had my knees taken out by dives, tearing my meniscus both times. A third memeorable dive ended with my helmet in corner of the box with a broken facemask from where the shooter crashed into me. No calls on any of those plays. I read somewhere that box goalies are ‘protected’ from dives because they wear more equipment. Box pads will NOT protect a goalie from a shooter diving at the sides of his knees. You can’t focus on the ball and your flanks at the same time. But I adapted. When I see a guy starting his dive, I make sure I initiate the contact. I simply can’t afford any more surgeries, and I see no reason to give up playing the game I love just because some fool announcers think it’s a cool play. I also have no doubt that diving will lead to retaliation penalties, which is where many of the fights in the box game start. Goalies will get hurt; most of them will not be high-profiled college goalies, so most will go unnoticed. Don’t make comparisons to Gary Gait or Wes Berg — we have to worry about the ‘weekend warriors’ who get just as big a thrill at taking out a goalie as scoring a goal.

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