New women's lacrosse rule aims to make the draw more consistent

Among the many new rules in women’s college lacrosse this spring, one aims to make the draw more even and cut down on the ability to manipulate the stick to get an initial advantage.

Players taking the draw now must keep their sticks directly above the center line and parallel to it. No longer can they have the butt of their stick higher or lower than the head of the stick, where the ball is placed between the backs of the pockets.

The change gives more consistency to the draw, said Dana Dobbie, assistant coach at Loyola Maryland who conducts clinics on draw-control technique.

Dobbie, who took the draw for Team Canada at last summer’s World Cup, had 126 draw controls her senior year at Maryland in 2008 which still stands at No. 4 on the Terps’ single-season list, but she said since then, rule changes have made the draw inconsistent.

When she played in college, the official placed the ball in the middle of the pockets and the sidewalls of the two sticks had to remain together until the whistle for the draw. Players could not try to gain an advantage by moving the butt of the stick up or down before the draw was set.

Then, the placement of the ball changed.

“When they moved the ball to the upper third of the stick, you could manipulate where that ball sat in your pocket by raising the butt of your stick or dropping the butt of your stick and that took away any base for the ball to sit in, because you’re either moving your stick up or you’re moving your stick down, so there was just no consistency of a starting point of the draw.” Dobbie said.

“Depending on what ref set it, or who you were drawing against, whether someone was pushing or pulling ... there was a lot of variety that centers could kind of play with and without having any baseline, it was just not consistent per game or even per draw in a single game.”

Having a player who can win a lot of draws can give a team a considerable advantage in possession time. Robert Morris’ Jessica Karwacki, a Hereford graduate, averaged 9.77 draw controls for her career and 12.7 her sophomore year, both NCAA Divsion I records. That many possessions off the draw can go a long way toward winning a game.

With centers trying to get any advantage they could to win possession, some draws began taking five or six minutes to set up. With so much maneuvering the sticks up and down, the official often had to reset the ball several times.

“The refs were doing their best to make it as fair as possible,” Dobbie said, “but without having any consistency of what you had to do and what it had to look like, they were at a disadvantage. That’s when one draw would take five seconds and the next one would take a minute and I think in our Syracuse game, one took five minutes. That’s just because you had two draw specialists going head-to-head and neither one of them was going to let you blow that whistle until they were happy with way the ball was placed.”

As more and more teams have had draw specialists, although many of them remain on the field in other positions, there’s been talk of eliminating the draw. Even with the new rule, some players likely will continue to dominate with their ability to draw the ball to themselves or to place it to a teammate on the circle.

No matter what happens, Dobbie doesn’t want to see the draw eliminated.

“It’s so interesting how people are all wrapped up in these draw controls and how specialized these players are and how it’s creating an advantage for certain teams,” she said. “I look at it like we had Molly Wolf in goal for us who was saving 18 shots a game and no one was saying we need to make goaltending fair. It’s just part of the sport and part of your position, but if a kid wins 18 draw controls, people want to take the draw out of the game. It’s so interesting how one position’s OK, but if someone’s winning all the draw controls, people start to freak out about it.”

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

twitter.com/kdunnsun

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