Sept. 3, 2008
Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of the October 2007 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
Six years ago, Quinn Carney led Maryland to a seventh straight Division I women's lacrosse championship and made the 2001 U.S. World Cup team as a rookie. It had a resonating effect for Carney, now 28, when she looked at the 2007-08 U.S. Women's Elite team roster, announced in August, and saw she was by far the team's oldest player.
The notion sunk deeper when she realized that she and Kelly Berger, now a U.S. teammate and fellow assistant coach at UMBC, never played each other in college. "It was intense then, too," Carney said of making a team initially loaded with veteran players. "I'm so used to being the youngest. It's different being an older player."
Asked what difference six years made, she said with a smile, "It's nice to be the baby. You can get away with doing something stupid. But now it's good to be able to impart wisdom."
A month later, Carney did exactly that, teaming up with Berger in September to demonstrate for Lacrosse magazine how two elements of deception -- the backhand shot and the bait dodge -- have helped her stay on top of the game.
Whereas power has become the focus of shooting in the men's game, the women's game continues to rely on an element of finesse. Ironically, it was the greatest men's player of all time who taught Carney and the Maryland regime the backhand shot -- a means of getting off a quick release on a crease dodge without switching hands.
It was Gary Gait, who was an assistant women's lacrosse coach at Maryland for nine seasons (1994-2002) and is now the head coach at Syracuse.
"Oh heck yeah, that's my specialty," Carney said when asked if the backhand played an important role in women's lacrosse today. "It's funny because that was kind of a Gary invention, back when I was in school. I always say I got worse at my left hand in college, because we learned that, and it's so much quicker."
If you're in front of the cage with your stick on your weak side, save time and stun your defender with a backhand shot, remembering these mechanics:
1. With your top (strong) hand, keep your knuckles facing the goalie and your wrist and elbow behind the stick. Your instinct will be to go backhand as you would with a tennis racquet, flexing your wrist and elbow outward. But you'll generate more power and accuracy on your shot by rotating your hand back over the handle so it is behind your stick.
2. Use the same push-pull mechanic you would for a regular shot, with more emphasis on pulling with your bottom hand, as your top hand will already be in flex.
3. Keep the goalie off balance with a high weak-side fake. She'll think you're well guarded with her defender between the two of you. Use your defender as a screen, and wrap a backhand shot around her and the goalie's stick when she commits to the fake. A good backhand shot can frustrate good positional defenders like U.S. Developmental team midfielder Lauren Schwarzmann.
"I hate that shot," said Schwarzmann, a senior at Johns Hopkins. "It stinks if you play good `D.' I'm on her body, body, body. I got her, got her, got her. Goal."
Bait, Switch and Go
Part of getting older, Carney admitted, is getting slower.
"It's harder to stay in that `game shape' compared to girls who play every day out of college," she said.
As a wily veteran, Carney has found solace in the bait dodge, which takes advantage of an overzealous defender by lulling her into a check attempt.
If she's a good defender, she'll be set square between you and the cage, her shoulders perpendicular to yours. While maintaining stick protection with your front shoulder, hang your stick slightly so the ball is in view. Let her think she is within checking distance by moving backward and drawing her forward. When she lunges for the check, snap the stick back to your weak side like a face dodge, switch hands and enjoy easy access to the goal.
"It's better for me because I'm not quite as fast," Carney said. "If she's on you really hard, I want to protect my stick and bring her back. That's how I get her off balance -- I draw her back. She's really tight on defense; she really wants to check my stick. I bring her back, and then I go."
The bait dodge is an explosive maneuver that requires a strong burst from your hind leg and good stick protection. If you get really good, try a bait dodge into a backhand shot, and make sure you maintain a direct line to the cage so that your defender is the only fish out of water.