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:
Introduction of the shot clock
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.