The implementation of a shot clock has been a conversation in women’s lacrosse for years. Men’s lacrosse added a 20-second non-visible shot clock in 2013 and added a 30-second stall warning clock in 2015. These changes made to the men’s game prompted serious discussions about adding some sort of a shot clock to the women’s game.
There were a couple of watershed moments where coaches and players realized that there needed to be a change. First was the 2015 NCAA Tournament Semifinals between Syracuse and Maryland. Maryland held the ball for the last six minutes of the game to move onto the National Championship.
In this particular game, Maryland had more pressure to just stall. In the 2014 National Championship game, Maryland was ahead by a goal against North Carolina and decided to go to goal instead of maintaining possession with a stall. This strategy would come back to haunt them as Carolina would come back and beat the Terps in double overtime.
Stalling is frustrating when you aren’t the team with the ball, but coaches had to ask themselves: Do we go to goal to extend the lead and hope that we can get the next draw control or stall to maintain possession and the lead?
In July 2015, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel approved the addition of a visible 90-second shot clock to women’s lacrosse. The shot clock would be added for the 2017 season.
The rules for the shot clock are simple: the offensive team must get a shot off within 90 seconds. Failure to do so in 90 seconds results in the ball being awarded to the defense. The clock will reset if the goalie saves it or it hits the goal’s pipe. If a shot goes wide of the goal the clock will not reset, and the clock will reset with a change in possession.
“I was in favor of the shot clock. I think that there was a stalling issue that needed to be addressed,” UConn women’s lacrosse head coach Katie Woods said. “I think there’s a lot more strategy involved and we’ve learned more and more with each game.”
The majority of women’s lacrosse rules are put in place with player safety in mind. This usually means that the offense would be rewarded and never the defense. This shot clock finally rewards the defense for playing good defense. Offenses early in the season forced the ball into the middle of the eight meter often and they have continued to do that, which is increasing the number of caused turnovers by the defense.
“I like that it speeds up the game,” Woods said. “I do think that it’s devalued the draw knowing that you’ll have the opportunity to gain possession after 90 seconds, assuming you can make a save and clear the ball.”
The hopes of many of the advocates for the shot clock is that it will minimize stalling and increase the speed of the game. Players and coaches are going to have to adjust to a different way of playing. Players are going to have to mentally prepare for how long 90 seconds actually is because it is longer than it seems.
Many coaches downplayed the effect the clock had on their teams during fall ball. An early February showdown between then No. 4 Stony Brook and No. 19 Towson highlighted the impact the shot clock would have. The game was tied with 1:53 to go. Stony Brook forced a shot clock violation on Towson giving the ball back to Stony Brook with 17 seconds to go in the game. Stony Brook’s Kylie Ohlmiller would score the game-winning goal with four seconds left.
Later this season, Syracuse played Virginia. It was another perfect example of way the shot clock has aided in comebacks that would have never have happened if there wasn’t one. Syracuse was down 11-2 with 5:22 remaining in the first half. The Orange closed the half scoring two goals and the score at halftime was only 11-4. Syracuse would come back and win 16-15 scoring 12 goals in the second half compared to Virginia’s four.
The shot clock is supposed to give underdogs the chance to beat top tier teams because there is an equal amount of time that a team has the ball. This doesn’t necessarily take into account that underdogs are usually worse than these top tier teams and this would usually correlate to the worse team having more turnovers.
No. 12 Virginia opened up the 2017 season against unranked Elon. The game was tied 10-10 with just over six minutes remaining and Virginia had the ball. A shot clock violation against the Cavaliers gave Elon the ball with 20 seconds to play. Elon’s Abby Godfrey scored with one second remaining to seal the victory over Virginia.
Now that we are halfway through the season, the big question is: Is the shot clock actually causing more scoring?
The statistics don’t lie; through the first seven weeks of the 2017 season, Division I teams are averaging a total of 11.42 goals per game compared to 10.39 goals per game scored in the first seven weeks of the 2016 season. Although it is only a small increase of a goal, scoring an extra goal could mean one more win for a team that they didn’t have last year. Also, defenses are allowing more goals this year, 11.88, in comparison to 10.47 goals against last year.
One statistic that should concern coaches is that teams are averaging two more turnovers per game than last year. This is one of the negative effects of the shot clock; you only have a 90 seconds to score unless you get the clock reset.
This new rule has been an adjustment for everyone, and UConn women’s lacrosse has seen the positive and negative effects of it.
“I think the draw has become less of a factor,” Woods said. “Teams can still be in games even if they don’t win a single draw. I think our clock management has had to improve with the shot clock. With the offsides penalty resetting the shot clock, it’s put an emphasis on teams not going offsides during their transition defense.”
The Huskies have been averaging just under 10 draw controls this season, the same as 2016. UConn is averaging 12.86 goals through the first seven weeks of the season, a slight increase from last season. They are allowing about two more goals against than last year, but this could be an effect from the shot clock or just because they are playing better competition.
The implementation of the shot clock is just one of the many inevitable rule changes that are bound to come to women’s lacrosse.
“I think shooting space is becoming a bit of an issue,” Woods said. “It’s not a black and white thing so every official calls it differently. Even though it’s a safety rule, there has to be a way to have it called more consistently.”
For right now, the shot clock is a huge change and it seems to be doing what coaches wanted it to do: speed up the game.
Sophia Ross is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.