Team Attack and Defense
(part of an E-Lacrosse Interview with Trish Cummings)
In this June issue of Girls Lax Guide, I will be discussing a number of strategies for game play on both the offensive and defensive ends of the field. On the attacking side, I will point out a variety of methods for maintaining possession of the ball and how to set picks for teammates. On the defending side, I will discuss the use of communication as the backbone behind developing strong defensive team units on the field. It is very important to develop an overall understanding of the entire game and all of its dimensions in order to make smart choices on attacking end through the midfield and into the defensive side of the field.
In order to discuss strategies for offensive players in a lacrosse game, we must first recognize the setup of positions on this side of the field. The new restraining line rule has just been recently added to the women's game and has created a 7 on 7 set with 7 attack players vs. 7 defense players from the 30yd line in toward the crease circle. The attack positions can be configured a number of ways but they are most commonly the following (diagrammed below): first home (FH), second home (SH), third home (TH), left attack wing (LAW), right attack wing (RAW), left defense wing (LDW), and the center (C).
The 7vs.7 offense has opened up more space for players to maintain possession of the ball around the goal. It has also given them the ability to set up a variety of plays from behind the goal and enabled players to pass and move the ball while looking to drive towards the goal and become scoring threats on the cage. At the same time, they may have the opportunity to set picks which is a great way of working together as a team. This allows players to get open in order to receive a pass in front of the goal. As you will see clearly, good offensive strategies create opportunities but players must also rely on their own creativity and practiced skills to handle the ball under pressure and finish the play when it really matters!
One of the most effective ways to develop a solid team attack is to learn the proper method for setting picks for teammates. It requires exact timing and space in one's movements. Below is a precise representation made with the E-Lacrosse playmaker that will enable you to establish a vivid image in your mind. First, we have a feeder (FH) with ball behind the goal. Next, we have two players (AW) on either side of the crease circle. They are known as the "pickers". Then, we have two players (SH, TH) at the top of the 12M on each corner who will be using the pick to cut in toward goal, receive the pass and shoot to score. The feeder looks for the open player. However, if they are both still covered, these two players need to clear through the space and get out of the middle of the 8M or set picks for the original pickers cutting through behind them performing what is called a 'pick and roll'. They can turn and find themselves to be wide open so the feeder needs to be patient and make a smart pass right on her player's stick. If there still seems to be nothing open, the feeder should work the ball around to the other perimeter players on this attacking unit. It keeps the defense moving and could open up other scoring pportunities as the players begin to change the point of their attack on the goal.
There are some important details to be aware of when setting and using the picks properly. In setting the pick, the main idea is to approach the defender and stand at her side. It is very critical to hold your strong body position and do not move at all. If you find yourself moving to block the defender, you could get called for a moving pick that is a major foul in the game of lacrosse. Once the pick is set, you must remain there until your teammate runs off your side and cuts toward the ball. Also, when setting the pick correctly the defender must be able to see the picker. If she does not see you, then there is a possibility it could be called an illegal blind side pick, which is a foul in the critical scoring area. The main focus of using the pick properly is for each player to concentrate on exact timing and spacing of their cuts. You must wait for the pick to be set on the defender's side. Do not leave too early. Otherwise it turns out to be a wasted pick and cut. After waiting a split second, rub off your teammate's shoulder, cut into the middle being aware of other players on your team. Finally, you have made a great cut off the pick and you find yourself wide open for a pass in the middle of the 8M. The last step is to catch the ball and finish the play with an amazing shot on goal right into the back of the net!
One of the main components of a strong team defense is excellent communication with teammates throughout the game. This allows players to work together while also marking their individual assignments in order to keep them from scoring. The seven positions on the defensive side of the field are diagrammed below. The player closest to the goalkeeper, also known as the lowest defender is the point (P), then we move up the field to the cover point (CP), third man (3M), left defense wing (LDW), right defense wing (RDW), center (C), and either one of the attack wings. As I discussed earlier on the attacking end, these positions are not set in stone and can vary depending on the strengths and weaknesses of each team.
The use of good communication lets your teammates know where you are and whom you are marking at all times. By talking on defense, players begin to feel comfortable as a team unit. Let's keep in mind our main objective: to prevent the other team from having any possible scoring opportunities. I will provide a few ways to use communication on the defensive end of the field. The defender marking her player who has possession of the ball behind goal could say "I have the ball behind goal". It allows everyone to know where the ball is, while also marking her player at the same time. It is extremely critical to see both the ball and your girl all the time. If you get caught just watching ball, then your player could slip behind for an open pass and shot on goal. If you get caught just watching your girl, then you could miss out on coming up with a loose ball pickup or finishing a double team play with another teammate. Sometimes each player will call out the number of the person that they are marking at a certain time. For example, one may say "I have # 5" or "I have # 15". While marking off-ball on defense, players can also comment to each other by saying things like, "I am with you, I am next to you." They may also say, "I am on your right/left side". It keeps everyone aware of the spacing and movements around the 12M critical scoring area. By working together as a cohesive team unit, players become confident in their own ability as well as the defensive unit as a whole.