Area coaches stand on pro side in debate over restraining TC line Opened-up game cited, but others worry about possible stalling tactics

March 06, 1998|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Opponents say it's the beginning of the end for women's lacrosse as they know it. Proponents say it's necessary to make the game safer.

It's the restraining line, long a part of the men's game but never the women's -- until now.

This spring, NCAA women will play with restraining lines at the 30-yard lines. Only seven field players from each team may be on the goal side of the line at once.

Most Baltimore-area Division I coaches say they favor the restraining line. They expect it to open up the arc, make the game safer and invigorate the transition game -- thus preserving the traditional style of the women's game.

Other coaches, including U.S. national team coach Sue Stahl, don't like it. They say it will slow the game and move it closer to the men's game, which has its restraining line at the 50-yard line.

"I worry what will come next," said Stahl, also coach at Old Dominion. "Will it be the 10-second clear, then sidelines, then unlimited subs, then helmets? Then we'll be playing the men's game."

Adding a restraining line, one of the most drastic changes ever made in the women's game, had been kicked around for several years at the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association convention. The U.S. Women's Lacrosse Association, whose rules govern the NCAA game, adopted it for use on the college level this spring. It will not be used in high school or international play.

The penalty for having too many players over the line is a turnover for an offensive violation or a 12-meter shot on goal for the opponent on a defensive violation.

The issue of the restraining line arose from safety concerns that have grown in recent years.

"We had an accident waiting to happen, because there were so many kids cutting through [the arc]," said Sue Diffenderffer, a nationally rated official and member of the USWLA rules committee.

Any defensive player in the 8-meter arc must be within marking distance of an opponent or she commits a three-second foul. But with teams bringing more players -- sometimes all 11 -- close to the goal, crowd control became a problem.

"I wasn't so much worried about the ball going through," Diffenderffer said, "but I was worried about two kids running into each other. From an officiating standpoint, there was very little you could call -- some picks, but three seconds? Forget it, because there were so many people in there to make it legal."

The restraining line eliminates the traffic jam and forces more one-on-one matchups.

"It brings a little more excitement into the game behind closed doors working the X's and O's, trying to work out some plays and trying to get creative," said Loyola coach Diane Aikens. "You're going to have to have a lot better one-on-one skills attack-wise in order to be successful."

Proponents also say it will encourage the passing game because at least four players will have to be farther downfield.

"The restraining line brings back the transition game," said Johns Hopkins coach Janine Tucker. "You now have players downfield to pass to. Watching the Loyola tournament [Feb. 21-22], it was such a beautiful game again. It wasn't a horse race of a mob of people running from one end to the other."

Opponents, however, do not expect to see more of the transition game. They say that without a time limit on possession within the restraining line, teams will stall.

"It was such a free-flowing, fast, aggressive, see-what-you-can-make-happen game," said Virginia coach Julie Myers, "and in some games now, if you want to win, you're going to have to hold the ball and make them come to you. That's a major change, and I think that's a backward step.

"If you're up by one or two goals, you're not going to fast break, you're not going to take a fast shot. Now, it's a game of possession," said Myers, who sees women's lacrosse moving away from a full-field game toward the specialized, compartmentalized game the men play.

The one thing coaches do agree on is that the true effect will not be known until teams start playing games that count this weekend. The strategy coaches have used in scrimmages may differ from what they use in actual games.

The effectiveness of the restraining line will be reviewed by the IWLCA at its convention in May. Most coaches agree that, at the very least, it will need refinement, but if it doesn't work, it could be dropped completely by the USWLA.

Maryland coach Cindy Timchal said she isn't thrilled about the restraining line, but is resigned to giving it a chance.

"I won't say I'm a great proponent of having a line that restricts any movement of players on the field," Timchal said, "but if this is the way in which people feel it will open up the game, we'll try it and see how it goes."

Pub Date: 3/06/98

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