Sept. 4, 2008
Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of the June 2008 issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription.
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by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
You've made the save. Congratulations. Now what?
You've got five seconds to remain in the crease, 20 seconds to advance the ball past midfield and 10 more seconds for your team to get a possession in the offensive box. That's more time then you think. Don't panic, but don't get caught like the proverbial fish out of water, either. Follow these measures, and your team's clearing percentage should hit its high-water mark.
Look for the fast break
The best offense is a good defense, yes, but who's to say you can't create good offense from bad defense?
If a teammate gets beat, resulting in a shot, he's the outlet to whom you should first look. He's already got a step on his opponent, who's too busy feeling bad about himself (nice save) to realize your teammate darting up field behind him. Waste no time. Lead him with an over-the-shoulder pass for a fast break in the opposite direction.
"When I was at Salisbury, Chris McQueeny and I had this working to a tee," said New York Titans goalie Erik Miller. "We trusted each other. It led to a lot of goals."
If your opponent picks up the potential break, your next look should to either of two middies breaking for the sideline, depending on your team's clearing package. If they are covered, your third look for an outlet should be to either of your wing defenseman at goal line extended. Have confidence in your long poles to make wise decisions with the ball.
Avoid at all costs the cardinal sin of clearing: sending a contested outlet into the middle of the field. It's one thing if a teammate is wide open in the pitch. But if there's even a shadow of an opponent near him, you're better off eating a turnover near the sideline than in the middle of the field.
Draw the 2-on-1
If none of your teammates are open, you must be. Don't forget, with you, the clearing team has one more player in its defensive end than the riding team has in its offensive end. Use those numbers to your advantage.
After you've exhausted the aforementioned opportunities, go ahead and step out of the crease to avoid a five-second violation. You still have 15 seconds to get the ball past midfield. Once you step out of the crease, however, you may not return if the ball remains in your possession.
You may want to step behind the cage to use it as a shield from the oncoming ride. Here you can continue to look for midfielders, who should break back to the goal, or an adjacent outlet to a wing defenseman. Both long poles should be in alignment with you.
Otherwise, if you are left uncontested, advance the ball up field yourself. Continue until contested. With players on your end, you should be able to find a 2-on-1 match-up.
Draw an opponent and dump the ball to the teammate whom he has left open.
Outlet passes should be crisp. You don't want to lob, or "buddy pass," a teammate into an oncoming body check.
Always pass overhand. The sidearm and three-quarter stuff might work for your short-stick counterparts, but anything but an overhand outlet can be batted down or checked out of your stick.
"Your mechanics have to be consistent, like Peyton Manning's," said Miller. "The man's mechanics simply do not change, and a goalie's shouldn't either."
You should string a pocket with enough depth and whip to rein in a shot, but with a quick release for an overhand pass, too. Two shooting strings across and one `V' offers both whip and release.
Even if that pesky crease attackman raises his stick to block the overhand angle, you've got five seconds in the crease to maintain separation. If your sticks make contact on an outlet pass while you're still in the crease, an interference call will result in a free clear.