Men's Lacrosse

Scrimmage an opportunity for Syracuse to play with new rules

Shijing Wang | Staff Photographer

Syracuse midfielder JoJo Marasco expects the rule changes to benefit the Orange's up-tempo offense.

For a second straight season, Syracuse enters the upcoming campaign clouded in uncertainty. Last season, the question was how the Orange would replace one of the best recruiting classes in NCAA history.

In September, the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee approved the implementation of a 30-second shot clock. How the 2013 season will play out, though, remains especially uncertain as every team in the country adjusts to the new rules.

“There’s so much that’s put on the officials – from the early jump on the faceoff to when do you call stalling. They’re going to have to determine whether a team is stalling,” SU head coach John Desko said. “And then you’re going to have to look at what teams will do.”

On Saturday, Syracuse will get its first real test run of how the new rules will affect the sport. The Orange plays host to a pair of opponents, Hofstra and Holy Cross, at 10 a.m. in the Carrier Dome for an exhibition doubleheader to open the season. For all three teams, it’s an opportunity to play under the new rules for the first time.

SU’s regular season doesn’t kick off until Feb. 17. The Orange will get one more chance for game action after this weekend – a Feb. 2 exhibition doubleheader against Ohio State and Robert Morris in Columbus, Ohio.

The addition of the 30-second shot clock was the most talked-about rule change in the offseason. Lacrosse fans – Orange fans in particular – have clamored for some sort of a shot clock for years. Syracuse should especially benefit from the rule change.

Under Desko, the Orange plays at a fast pace. SU has struggled against opponents like Maryland and Johns Hopkins, which have held the ball on offense to limit Syracuse’s possessions and force it out of its rhythm.

Under the old rules, even after a stall warning, players could hold the ball for as long as they wanted so long as they didn’t leave the box. With the new rule, players have 30 seconds to shoot after a stall warning. Teams can no longer imitate the tactics of the Blue Jays or Terrapins. The Orange can get out and run.

“There’s going to be a lot of goals in transition this year,” SU attack Derek Maltz said. “We’re a very athletic team. We have great, very athletic defensemen, very athletic midfielders, and our attack’s been moving the ball very well. So I’m very confident in these new rules, and they’re going to help us out a lot, especially in transition.”

But the biggest change could be that substitutions are now on the fly. The horn that signaled substitutions no longer exists.

Whereas the 30-second shot clock is still flexible – it only begins after the referee’s stall warning is called – the new substitution rules, as well as placing more balls on the sidelines and allowing for quick restarts, are more absolute and promise to speed up the game regardless of officials.

“You can just pick up the ball and basically, if you step on the field fast enough with the balls on the sideline, you can go right away,” Syracuse midfielder JoJo Marasco said. “And we’ll get some transition goals pretty fast on that.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise is how the new stringing rules have affected the game. Not everyone sees much of a change – both Marasco and Maltz will use extremely similar pockets to those they used last season – but other players’ slight modifications have made a world of difference.

Steve Ianzito is one of several players using a new style of pocket. In past seasons, nearly every player utilized a hard-mesh pocket. Now, Ianzito estimates, at least 75 percent of the team is using a soft-mesh or traditional pocket.

“It’s completely changed my style of play after five years,” the long-stick defensive midfielder said, “and I love it.”

The changes will have an effect. Just how much of one, though, remains to be seen.

Even in the fall, the Orange worked to get a leg up on the competition. As early as late September, SU brought NCAA officials to practice to play with the new rules.

Syracuse won’t be caught off-guard.

“We brought officials in earlier than we normally do,” Desko said. “ … That’s one of the reasons we’re getting into it earlier this year, also, is to see how the rules will actually play out. There’s still some unknown until you actually play by the rules.”

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