New NCAA rules for women’s lacrosse force players, coaches to adapt


Photo by Austin Anderson

NCAA rule changes now allow for only three people in the draw circle at a time.

Women’s lacrosse may look different from the game fans watched last season after the NCAA instituted new rules to improve the pace and flow of the game.

The biggest of these changes is the free movement rule, which allows players to continue moving after a foul or violation has been called, which allows for “quick restarts” similar to those seen in soccer. Prior to the change, all players had to stop at the sound of the whistle.

Senior attacker Riley Hill said she is in favor of the new rule. “It gives (attackers) the upper hand, especially with the defense trying to set up and a lot of communication going on,” Hill said. “I can pick up the ball and just go and make something happen.”

Women’s lacrosse head coach Meredith Black said she believes the new rule will benefit the Golden Eagles’ play style as well.

“I think it’s a nice change,” Black said. “In the beginning of the season, it will be a really interesting game because it’s just still so new …  Once we settle into it, I think it will be a positive change for our team.”

Despite the rule providing an upper hand to attackers, there are some drawbacks. Offensive players behind the net are more closely marked than before the rule change. Previously, defenses had to cover long distances in short times to get to those attackers.

To compensate for these obstacles, Black engages her team in free movement drills, simulating out of bounds plays or foul calls when the new rules would come into effect.

“It’s really important to try and make them as game-like as possible,” Black said. “We’ve done our best.”

In addition to the free movement rule, the NCAA changed the way draws are conducted. Draws to determine possessions after goals will now happen with three players from each team in the circle. The revamp ensures player safety and allows officials to accurately determine the player with possession.

Hill said she appreciates the extra room for taking draws but finds it difficult to remain disciplined.

“I want to jump over the line and try and run in and actually help out the girls that are taking the draw and stuff, but I can’t,” Hill said. “If I do step over the line, the other team gets the ball, so it’s kind of having that awareness in the back of our minds 24/7.”

Adjusting to the midfield draw rule has been easier than getting used to the free movement changes. The basic format of draws remain unchanged; the only difference is three people are allowed in the draw circle instead of an unlimited amount.

Black said she believes the revamp will allow for junior midfielder Grace Gabriel, the single-season record holder for draw controls at 81 in 2016-’17, to be more successful in the circle.

“I think now with her having a little more freedom on the circle with less traffic, she actually should be able to win more,” Black said.

With the new NCAA changes sinking in, Hill remains optimistic about the upcoming season despite its 0-2 start to the 2018 season.

“I really hope that I can help our team get to the BIG EAST tournament and have a winning record for the first time in Marquette women’s lacrosse history,” Hill said.