November 24, 2008

Nov. 24, 2008

This article appears in the November issue of Lacrosse Magazine, a US Lacrosse publication available exclusively to its members. Join today to start your monthly subscription to LM.

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by Matt DaSilva, Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

What's your angle? Jesse Schwartzman wants to know.

Whereas many goalkeepers rely purely on reflexes, Schwartzman, the Denver Outlaws' wiz between the pipes, uses a more proactive approach.

Most shots come from 45, 90 and 135 degrees -- the left, straightaway and right alleys, respectively. For each, Schwartzman demonstrates first how to cut off the shooter's angle, and then how to bait the shooter.

Baiting the shooter is a riskier measure in which the goalie lures him to a certain spot by purposefully leaving parts of the cage open.

Schwartzman's instructions are for a right-handed goalie. All directions are from a goalie's view of the field.

45 Degrees: Taking Away the Angle

Photos by John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

As a right-handed goalie with the shot coming from the top-left alley, leave a gap between the left pipe and your left foot of about 8 inches. At right, Schwartzman, facing a left-handed shooter in Outlaws' attackman Brendan Mundorf, hopes he shoots stick side to his right, but can still cover the gap to his left.

For all shots that are stick side, step towards the center of the field, with your lead foot landing at the high point of your arc. No matter where you're standing in the cage, never be more than two steps from center.

45 Degrees: Baiting

Photos by John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Close the gap between your left foot and the pipe. Hug the pipe, insisting that the shooter go stick side, and hold your stick closer to your ear.

The risk, of course, is that you're exposing more net. The benefit is that you know absolutely as a right-handed goalie that the shot's headed to your right. Know the shooters' tendencies, because the good ones will make you pay.

90 Degrees: Taking Away the Angle

The straightaway shooter winds up at 12 o'clock. You'll want to straddle the high point of your arc to meet him. There's much less real estate available to the shooter when you're standing higher on the crease. Coming out of the cage, in this instance, allows Schwartzman to limit Mundorf's looks. No matter where the shot goes, he's covered.

With a fundamental stance and hand position as a right-handed goalie, physical elements impede the shooter if he shoots top left (your stick), top right (your left shoulder and elbow), top center (your helmet), bottom left or bottom right (your feet).

Beware the five hole.

90 Degrees: Baiting

Photos by John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

There's not much you can do from this shooter-friendly angle except shade to your left, hoping the shooter will go stick side.

(You might recall Schwartzman's kick save in the 2007 NCAA title game against Duke. He lunged to his left to kick away a last-second attempt by Duke's Brad Ross to preserve a Johns Hopkins victory and national title. "Yeah," Schwartzman answered when asked if he baited Ross, "I didn't want to get beat to my other side.")

135 Degrees: Taking Away the Angle

Photos by John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

Mirror that which you did for 45 degrees. Straddle the second mark you've made on your arc to your right. You should stand one step from the middle to your left and one step from the pipe to your right, and cut off the shooter's angle by stepping out on the crease. A higher arc limits his options.

135 Degrees: Baiting

Photos by John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

This is the best angle at which to bait for a right-handed goalie. Establish position high as if you're going to take away the angle. Then take one step to your left and one step back, so that you're sitting deeper in the cage than normal and exposing your stick side. This is your baiting stance.

The shooter sees net exposed around your head and to your right, but you're actually better covered there by the the pipes, your stick and your helmet. It's something of an optical illusion, and you're only giving up a quarter of the goal to your left, which is an easy recovery.

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