Women's Lacrosse

For the first time, SU’s postseason will be marked by a 90-second shot clock

Ariel Dinero | Staff Illustrator

For the first time, SU heads into the playoffs with a shot clock in place.

Syracuse head coach Gary Gait remembers his first “stall game” vividly.

He was an assistant coach for Maryland in the 1994 national championship game, his first year coaching. Princeton held the ball for nearly the entire second half against Gait’s UMD squad, eventually topping the Terrapins, 10-7.

The Tigers knew they would have to “slow things down,” head coach Chris Sailer told the Baltimore Sun after the victory.

“Slowing things down” had become the euphemism for stalling opponents out, and Princeton exploited the absence of a stall warning rule.

It was a rule that bugged Gait for the next 22 years, following him to Syracuse. In 2014, the rule cost Gait a shot at a national title game when the Terrapins took advantage of the stall, and Gait’s team suffered the loss.

Kayla Treanor had gotten Syracuse within two goals of the Terrapins in the pair’s matchup two years prior, and with the Terrapins holding a slim 10-8 lead and nearly a quarter of the half left, an Orange comeback seemed possible.

With no rule in place to stop the Terrapins from draining the clock, UMD held the ball for the final 7:18 of the game. Chants of “shot clock” crept through the crowd as UMD effectively iced an SU comeback.

From 2011 to 2015, every NCAA women’s national championship game was decided by three goals or less. Dozens more postseason games, like the Orange’s defeat against UMD two years ago, had been decided by similar margins.

After that game, when the Terrapins won its 12th NCAA Championship and the SU players sat wondering what could have been, the NCAA released the new set of rules. One of those added the shot clock, which took effect this season.

“It’s been a lot more fun to watch,” Gait said, looking back on a full regular season under the shot clock rule. “Getting rid of stalling and holding long possessions, it makes you play.”

An NCAA committee determined that the shot clock should be 90 seconds because it’s the “average time of possession,” in the women’s lacrosse game, according to Halley Quillinan, a former Orange attack who played from 2007-2010 and now serves as the women’s editor at Inside Lacrosse.

“I think 90 seconds is a perfect amount of time,” Quillinan said. “I certainly think that teams have the opportunity to work for multiple offensive looks, which is nice when a shot is taken but not on cage.”

The clock works similarly to the basketball shot clock. The only way to reset it is to either hit the frame of the goal or the goalie. Sophomore attack Nicole Levy called it “a whole new game” back in January.

Some of the early benefits that Quillinan has seen from the rule change are more full-field rides from defenses, re-defending post slide and zone defenses, all in an effort to squeeze time from the clock and force unwanted shots. She called it “one of the first rules that actually helps the defender.”

“(The shot clock) rewards the defense,” Quillinan said. “If you do your job, and if you play clean smart defense collectively as a team, then you’re rewarded. That’s pretty great to see.”

SU defender Haley McDonnell said that the Orange defense was excited about the new rule coming into the season, and the team still feels that way. She said the clock has made the defense’s job more exciting. If they ride out the opposing offense for the entire clock, they can get the ball back.

Quillinan said that she doesn’t see the shot clock coming into play much until the postseason. It’s the most common time for teams to settle for one-goal wins to make it to the next round, and with the previous rules, this was most easily done through stalling, she said.

The new rule hasn’t come without its problems. The largest problem Quillinan has seen this season is young players rushing shots, and in turn making dangerous attempts on goal where they would regularly pass for a better shot.

When the clock is running out and an inexperienced player has possession, they’re much more likely to take a risky shot, Quillinan said. The constant running of the shot clock gets in the attackers’ minds, and they’re more likely to make a poor decision with a whole sideline screaming at them to shoot.

“When you have a young woman who knows she has to take a shot with 10 seconds left from the corner of the field, that’s dangerous,” Quillinan said. “And it’s a lot harder to (make a safe play), especially when there’s a national championship or conference championship on the line.”

Quillinan said through her conversations with individuals involved in the rule change, this was a problem that was foreseen far before the rule was implemented. It gave coaches the opportunity to plan how they would teach the rule to their shooters.

Orange attack Riley Donahue said that from her perspective, the shot clock isn’t forcing dangerous shots. Instead, it’s forcing attackers to work for smarter shots, Donahue said, and even though it’s a rule mainly meant for defenders, she applauded the NCAA for adding it to the game.

When the Orange enters postseason play Thursday in the first round of the ACC tournament against Virginia Tech, it’s a strong possibility that the game will be decided in the final minutes, similar to SU’s 12-11 win at SU Soccer Stadium on April 9.

One thing is for certain. This time, Gait won’t have to worry about stalling like he did in 1994, 2015 and the 22 years in between.

“It’s been exceptional,” Gait said regarding the shot clock. “I think now we’re just going to see fun, great lacrosse in the playoffs. And that’s it.”

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