Women's Lacrosse 101

Women's Lacrosse 101

Since my lacrosse-mad daughter started playing on her middle school modified girl's lacrosse team she's gotten me to take her to the Orange women's lacrosse games in addition to the men's games, and I've had to learn the rules to the women's game. With the Orange women at home for the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament and plans in place to attend the women's final four at Stony Brook I asked Sean if he would like some coverage of the Orange women's tournament run and he basically said "Content I don't have to write? Duh, of course", so here we are. I'm going to kick off that coverage with a quick primer on the women's game.

The Field of Play



The main differences in the field of play from the men's game are the restraining line (30 yards from the goal line) instead of the "box", and the 8 meter fan (green) and 12 meter arc (red) as measured from the crease, which are similar to the penalty area of a soccer field.

The Players

There are 12 players for each team on the field when both teams are at full strength:

  • 1 goal keeper
  • 4 defenders
  • 3 midfielders
  • 4 attackers

The attacking team is allowed 7 players in the offensive zone as defined by the restraining line and sidelines, and the defending team similarly may have 7 players plus the goal keeper in the zone while defending its own goal.

The Crosse

The crosse used in the women's game differs from the one used in the men's game in that the pocket on the women's crosse is significantly shallower, and there are no long poles. Try playing catch with one if you are used to a men's crosse. Way harder. Screw a shot clock for men's lacrosse. Change the heads out on theirs sticks and make them use a women's crosse. Sure, it would probably end up as a sloppy turn over fest, but defenders would be able to get the ball loose from an attacker without having to use power tools.

The Draw

The draw is used to restart play at the beginning of each period and after goals. A player from each time will stand with at least one foot on the line, and the ball is placed between each player's crosse which is turned pocket side out. On the referee's signal, both players will attempt to pull the ball up and out. Attempting to draw before the referee's signal is a minor foul.

The Throw

In situations such as offsetting fouls, a ball become stuck in a player or official's equipment or the officials being unable to determine who the ball went out of bounds off of, play shall be restarted with a throw. A player from each team will move towards the sideline and the official shall stand between 4 and 8 meters from the two players. The official shall gently lob the ball towards the two players who will attempt to gain possession of the ball.

The Rules (briefly)

  • No contact, where contact is defined as body to body or crosse to body. Crosse to crosse contact in the form of checks is allowed. Any other contact will result in a foul. Play is stopped and the fouled player is awarded possession of the ball and play is restarted.
  • Fouls may be major or minor. Major fouls that warrant a mandatory yellow card (2 minute penalty) are checks to the head, slashes, dangerous propelling and dangerous follow through. Other major fouls include dangerous/illegal shots, blocking, charging (yes Virginia, women's lacrosse has a block/charge call. Higgins and Burr would have a field day officiating women's lacrosse), cross-checks and illegal use of the crosse.
  • Minor fouls include covering the ball with the crosse, warding, hand/body balls, illegal draws and illegal crosse.
  • On the restart, the following rules apply:
    • If a major foul is committed on an attacking player in the 8 meter fan, the fouled player moves to the nearest has mark on the 8 meter fan line and the fouling player moves to the 12 meter arc line behind the fouled player. All other players move to the nearest position on the 8 meter line from where they were at the time of the play. This is referred to as a free position, which give the attacker a free run to the goal with which to try and score. This is similar to a penalty shot in soccer.
    • Generally, on all other foul situations, the fouling player will move to a position 4 meters behind the fouled player and all other players will restart from the position held when the foul occurred. The officials, at their discretion, may have defenders near the fouled player move back to give her more room to advance on the restart.
  • No player except the goal keeper is allowed in the crease, or to reach into the crease, with the following exceptions:
    • A defensive player may move into the crease to play goal if the goal keeper has vacated the crease
    • An attacker crosse may enter the crease on a shot follow through provided the attacker's feet remain outside the crease
  • The goalie may not keep the ball inside the crease for more than ten seconds
  • There is no stalling call. Seriously. In the Big East semifinal game against Georgetown the Orange women laxers will milking a lead. Alyssa Murray held the ball for five minutes out near the restraining line by the sideline while Michelle Tumulo literally ran laps around the crease (including some fancy high steps) before a Georgetown defender came out to press her and force the play. Not the most exciting brand of lacrosse, but very entertaining in it's own way.
  • Defensive players may only use their body to impede the progress of the attacking players. Using the crosse to impede progress is a foul.
  • The game is 60 minutes long, played in two 30 minute halves
  • Each team is awarded 2 time outs in regulation play
  • Overtime is played a 6 minute period with an end change after 3 minutes. If the game is still tied after 6 extra minutes, additional 6 minute periods with an end change after three 3 minutes will be played under sudden victory conditions.

There are some things in the rule book that I glossed over, but on the whole this should give you enough to understand 95% of what's happening at any given time. Some things were skipped (e.g. backing up on missed shots) since the rules are the same as in the men's game and would already be familiar to a men's lacrosse fan. For further reading, download a free PDF copy of the NCAA women's lacrosse rulebook and edify yourself on the rules to the women's game.

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