September 18, 2007

Sept. 18, 2007

Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of Lacrosse magazine in March 2007. If there's a topic you'd like to see covered in the "Classroom," e-mail section editor Matt DaSilva at mdasilva@uslacrosse.org.


by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Bred in the Canadian brand of lacrosse, Zack Greer had to find a way to draw overstuffed goalies from their undersized nets, and so he became a proficient faker. The Whitby, Ontario, native brought his shifty sticksmanship to the Duke men's lacrosse team in 2005, when he scored 57 goals as the Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA Division I championship game.

"In box, they're wearing more equipment. There's not much room in the net," Greer said. "You've got to get them to move to create more space. That's been a big part of my game, to dictate where the goalie's going to go and where you want him to go, rather than having him dictate where you go."

Along the way, Greer's attack mate and current Duke senior Matt Danowski -- a prototypical dodger-feeder bred in the Long Island brand of lacrosse -- observed and adopted some of that finishing form.

"We try not to outthink ourselves or out-scout ourselves," Danowski said. "We want to make people scout us."

Take a cue from the Canucks. Work on faking. Below are some tips. (Photos: Ed Purcell)



Find a 'Hitch'

During the season, Duke's coaches furnish a game tape each week of the ensuing opponent's goalie to identify his tendencies. Maybe he drops his stick when you fake a low shot. Maybe he does not bite on a first fake. Maybe he moves fast.

It's up to you as an attackman to discover, and exploit, a goalie's "hitch."

"A lot of goalies stand their ground and read fakes really well. They'll wait until the last second before having to move," Greer said. "Other goalies have a hitch in their game."

Create a shot sheet, and analyze shot-by-shot how the goalie reacts. Sooner or later, a pattern should emerge.

Change Planes

"You never want to fake high and shoot high, or fake low and shoot low," Danowski said. "You want the goalie's position to shift opposite to where he is at that moment."

This concept can also apply laterally. Not all fakes occur directly in front of the crease. If you're dodging from behind or across the crease, you're trying to bait the goalie to shift his body, instead of his stick.

So by the same token, you can change planes with horizontal movement. For instance, if you've got a point-blank opportunity on the backside of goal line extended, the goalie has been trained to protect that pipe when the shot approaches. Use that tendency to your advantage.

"If I'm coming cross-crease, I want to get the goalie to jump backside, rather than far side, so I can throw it around him," Greer said. "It's tougher to come back and shoot strong side if you're going away from it."

While the cross-crease dive is no longer legal by NCAA and NFHS rules, you can still effectively use this by faking at the goal line extended, taking one more step, and wrapping the shot off the goalie's hip after he hesitates on the pipe.

Fake with Your Body As Well

Body language can be quite convincing. Danowski cites the example of his high school teammate, former Farmingdale (N.Y.) High School and Towson University attackman Jonathan Engelke.

"Jon Engelke would dip his shoulders and head down as if he was going to shoot low, and then he'd shoot high with it," Danowski said.

Likewise, if a goalkeeper comes out of the crease on an aggressive, high arc, you can use your body to dodge him as you would any other defender. For instance, you can cock your hands and shoulders back as if you're going to fire a right-handed shot, drawing the goalie, and switch to your left hand for a soft stuff.

In any such situation, your fake is determined by what the goalie gives and denies, so be flexible. And be sure to sell the fake.

"If you're just kind of twiddling your stick around, you're not going to get the goalie to buy it," Greer said.

Don't Ignore the Dish

You might think a one-on-one with the goalie is your only option. Danowski knows better.

"He makes three or four looks every time he comes across GLE," said Max Quinzani, a freshman vying for Duke's third attack slot behind Danowski and Greer. "He can create so much."

Sometimes, that creation is a product of a well-timed fake, Danowski said.

"When you're close to the cage, give a shoulder fake and snap your wrist a little bit to freeze the goalie," he said, "and throw it to the back pipe. It works best in a 3-on-2."

Similarly, a midfielder can wind up from up top as if he is shooting, pull it in, look at the defense, and throw it to whichever pipe is left open.

It's All in the Wrists

A good fake comes from strong and smooth wrists, from which you generate the power to change planes and maintain possession of the ball. Perform wrist-strengthening exercises -- wrist curls with a barbell, for example -- to improve your faking effectiveness.

Also, do so for both wrists. Greer says he tends to fake most with his bottom hand, but it depends on how much depth you want in your fake. "If you're throwing a big stick fake to get a defender to bite on a pass, it's your bottom hand. But a quick fake inside might be a top-hand flick," he said.

Shoot for the Back Third of the Cage

This depends on where your first fake is directed. If you fake high, the back third of the cage extends out from the back pipe. You should try to bury the ball deep, as a shallow shot could bounce back to the spot where you've baited the goalie. If you fake low, you still want to bury the ball deep, but higher on the plane.

"Other than that," Danowski said, "it's not too complicated on our end."
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