Sept. 4, 2008
Note: This article appeared in the "Lacrosse Classroom" section of the January 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
Women's lacrosse players everywhere from Long Island to Australia, and soon to be Evanston, Ill., are trying to figure out how to stop Shannon Smith. The miserly attacker has amassed over 400 goals in just three seasons at West Babylon (N.Y.) High School and scored 18 more to help lead the U.S. women's under-19 team to the gold medal at the 2007 IFWLA World Championship.
In November, Smith signed a national letter of intent to play for three-time defending NCAA Division I champion Northwestern beginning in 2009.
Smith's success has many components, but as illustrated in this sequence, her ability to maintain her strong hand with a weak-side cradle -- and still protect her stick -- opens up higher-percentage scoring opportunities around the cage.
Smith receives a pass on the right wing of the 8-meter arc and posts back to Australia's Brooke Butkiewicz, who had fits covering her in the gold medal game.
Here's why: As Smith drives off of her instep, in a position where many attackers might switch to their outside hand to protect, she keeps her stick in her right hand at 3 o'clock. That exposes the stick head just enough to bait Butkiewicz to go for the check, which creates a seal for Smith and uninhibited access to the cage. By keeping her stick in her strong hand, Smith stays goal-side on Butkiewicz. Had she switched to her left hand, Butkiewicz may have had the goal-side positional advantage.
Moreover, when she opens up to shoot, Smith's hips are automatically square to the cage. It's a higher percentage shot. Had she switched hands, she would have planted perpendicular to the cage, forcing her to a backhand or off-balance shot.