I went to the Navy vs. Lehigh lacrosse game on Friday night along with around 2,200 of my closest friends. That’s about 500 more people than attended the Navy vs. Holy Cross game last weekend, despite a cold, wet night on a day the temperatures never seemed to break out of the 40’s. And by the end of the evening it was the Lehigh fans that were cheering the loudest as their Mountain Hawks closed out a 9-4 victory over the Midshipmen.
It was a tale of one quarter going well for the Mids followed by three quarters of Lehigh dominance. One could say it was a game of missed opportunities for Navy, but that really just applies to the first 20 minutes. During that time, Navy built a 4-1 lead, but they also had a number of quality looks that missed and a few turnovers after stall warnings were called. Even if they converted all those chances, it still would have been difficult to pull out a victory given their performance over the final three quarters.
To put it plainly, Lehigh dominated the final 45 minutes. Their defense showed why it is ranked #1 in the country, holding Navy to just 7 shots in the 2nd half and not allowing a goal after the 12-minute mark in the 2nd quarter. Wickham had some nice saves, but as I tweeted during the game, you’re not going to win many games when you’re allowing multiple goals from 10+ yards out (Lehigh had at least 3 of those by my count). Combine that with a couple of second-chance goals by the Mountain Hawks off of juicy rebounds, and you’ve dug yourself a deep hole.
Ok, so enough about the nuts and bolts of the game. There are a couple of more meta things I’d like to address. The first is the stall warning issue. There are those who say college lacrosse needs a shot clock. To them, I say balderdash. Well, balderdash to a degree. Tonight exemplified what is wrong with the stall warning in college lacrosse – it’s purely subjective. There were times where Navy was given stall warnings after 60 or so seconds of possession on offense. And there was a time where Lehigh held the ball for over two minutes before they were given a stall. This creates an unequal situation for teams to deal with and leaves players unable to tell what they need to do to stay off the stall. The solution I see is not a shot clock, but a stall clock.
My proposal, had I a voice to use, would be a 45-second (not married to that number) stall clock. This would start the moment a team touched the ball inside the offensive box. If the team takes a shot before the clock expires, it automatically resets. After it expires, a stall warning is issued and the possession proceeds as it does under today’s rule. But you know how long you have before the stall comes into play every single time. A shot clock would suggest a turnover if the ball is not shot, and while that may be OK for the few elite players that make up the pro teams, it’s not a good idea for college. Just like the Princeton and other slow-moving offenses help equalize games in college basketball, a good controlling offense that can take the air out of the ball can help level the lacrosse playing field. Teams need to be allowed to possess for extended periods of time – refs don’t need to be given control over a game that is purely based on their opinion. Opinion is about as opposite from a rule as you can get. It’s time to end this nonsense.
And while we’re addressing delays in the game, can we please do something about mass midfield substitutions? There were times tonight where teams spent nearly a minute switching players in and out as they transitioned from defense to offense. Maybe this is my first crotchety old man rant, but what ever happened to middies who can play both ways? I understand specialization, but when we spend over half an offensive possession just making sure we’re getting the right guys on the field, it loses something. Imagine having a middie who plays both ways as you transition to defense. Now the offense has to go a man down for a few seconds just to get their switch in and expose themselves to a double team, or they leave their non-offensive mid on the field and have to deal with a less than ideal situation. When I played, we ran lines much like hockey teams do. You’d do subs on horns from balls going out or after goals. Not every time the ball crossed midfield. Then again, maybe it’s just me that’s annoyed by this.
Finally, I’m going to give what some may call a sour grapes moment, but I was tweeting about it before we started losing. Lehigh sent their entire team, even the goalie, to the Navy goal for high fives every time they scored. I thought it was a low rent move, and one that caused delays in faceoffs. Many times Navy was set and ready to go while Lehigh was walking back to their defensive positions. Just something that I noted early on and hoped would be greeted by a little more wood being laid on hits. But in the end, the Navy team looked like it just wanted to get out of there after failing to back up such a promising 1st quarter. Such is life – onwards and upwards to Maryland on Friday at College Park.