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Lacrosse has arrived out west

America's oldest sport enjoys surge in popularity
By: Kurt Johnson, senior sports editor
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It may have taken hundreds of years to get here, but the sport acknowledged by many as the America’s first has finally arrived in South Placer County. Over the past eight years, the sight of local youngsters playing lacrosse has gone from non-existent to fairly common. Nowhere is the increasing popularity of what has been predominantly viewed as an East Coast sport more visible than at the Granite Bay High School stadium. “We began with about 25 kids eight years ago, and now between the high school program and the local youth league, we have better than 500 kids involved in lacrosse and the number is growing,” said Granite Bay High girls coach Dan Daly. With its beginnings in Native American religion, the origins of modern lacrosse date to the mid-1600s, but the game itself is very modern. Locally, the game has exploded in the last two years as more players give it a try. “Lacrosse is an exciting sport to watch,” said Granite Bay senior midfielder Austin Nash, who was also a receiver on the Grizzly football team. “You see the game and you want to play.” “You try it, you love it,” said Scott Pink, the boys coach at Granite Bay High, who was recently named to the United States Lacrosse Association’s board of governors. “Once kids come out and play the sport, they tend to stay with it,” Daly said. “I would guess that 95 percent of the players who try it stay with it.” Somewhat unique among youth sports of today, and possibly due to the attempts to grow the sport, local coaches see lacrosse as a great cross-training sport and encourage their athletes to continue to participate in other endeavors. “It is really a combination of basketball, soccer and hockey,” Pink said. “The requirements to play the game are agility, speed and hand-eye coordination, and it is a great cross-training sport for basketball, soccer and football.” “I still play with my club soccer team in the off-season,” said Brittany Nielsen, a captain on the Granite Bay girls’ team. “I tried lacrosse when I was in eighth grade and after playing high school soccer as a freshman, I changed to lacrosse because I like the community part of the game. There is a great sense of community among the players and coaches.” Because of its emphasis on stamina and field awareness, participation in lacrosse is not contingent on a player’s size, but on desire and hard work. “The mental side of football is a great help in playing this sport.” Nash said. “Conditioning is also a big part of it. If you are out of shape, you cannot win.” One interesting aspect of lacrosse is that the game is very different for men and women. While both games are true to their origin, they are played under significantly different rules. “I played the game, and then I began coaching boys lacrosse before switching over to coach the girls,” Daly said. “The boys game is a very physical game, but the rules of the girls game make it much more of a finesse game.” Women's rules limit stick contact, prohibit body contact and, therefore, require little protective equipment, while men's lacrosse rules allow some degree of stick and body contact. The sport, huge in the eastern part of the country for years, is still in its infancy on the west coast. The Grizzlies play in the Sacramento Valley Lacrosse Conference, a CIF-sanctioned league, which includes just six boys’ and five girls’ teams. As it has since it began playing the sport, Granite Bay still must travel to the Bay Area (or host Bay Area teams) for many of its games. With a growing junior program, and a strong base of coaches teaching the game, lacrosse is the up-and-coming new thing in local youth sports. “If you would have told me a few years ago that there would be the number of teams and athletes competing right here in the area,” said Pink in a recent news release regarding his appointment to the national board, “I would have never believed it. This is beyond my wildest dreams.” Additional information For news on youth lacrosse and information on the Granite Bay youth lacrosse club, visit its Web site at gblax.org. Lacrosse tutorial courtesy US Lacrosse (www.uslacrosse.org). Men's Lacrosse Rules Men's lacrosse is a contact game played by ten players: a goalie, three defensemen, three midfielders and three attackmen. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. The team scoring the most goals wins. Each team must keep at least four players, including the goalie, in its defensive half of the field and three in its offensive half. Three players (midfielders) may roam the entire field. Collegiate games are 60 minutes long, with 15-minute quarters. Generally, high school games are 48 minutes long, with 12-minute quarters. Likewise, youth games are 32 minutes long, with eight-minute quarters. Each team is given a two-minute break between the first and second quarters, and the third and fourth quarters. Halftime is ten minutes long. Teams change sides between periods. Each team is permitted two timeouts each half. The team winning the coin toss chooses the end of the field it wants to defend first. The players take their positions on the field: four in the defensive clearing area, one at the center, two in the wing areas and three in their attack goal area. Men's lacrosse begins with a face-off. The ball is placed between the sticks of two squatting players at the center of the field. The official blows the whistle to begin play. Each face-off player tries to control the ball. The players in the wing areas can run after the ball when the whistle sounds. The other players must wait until one player has gained possession of the ball, or the ball has crossed a goal area line, before they can release. Center face-offs are also used at the start of each quarter and after a goal is scored. Field players must use their crosses to pass, catch and run with the ball. Only the goalkeeper may touch the ball with his hands. A player may gain possession of the ball by dislodging it from an opponent's crosse with a stick check. A stick check is the controlled poking and slapping of the stick and gloved hands of the player in possession of the ball. Body checking is permitted if the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball. All body contact must occur from the front or side, above the waist and below the shoulders, and with both hands on the stick. An opponent's crosse may also be stick checked if it is within five yards of a loose ball or ball in the air. Aggressive body checking is discouraged. If the ball or a player in possession of the ball goes out of bounds, the other team is awarded possession. If the ball goes out of bounds after an unsuccessful shot, the player nearest to the ball when and where it goes out of bounds is awarded possession. An attacking player cannot enter the crease around the goal, but may reach in with his stick to scoop a loose ball. Glossary of Men's Lacrosse Terms Attack Goal Area: The area defined by a line drawn sideline to sideline 20 yards from the face of the goal. Once the offensive team crosses the midfield line, it has ten seconds to move the ball into its attack goal area. Body Check: Contact with an opponent from the front - between the shoulders and waist - when the opponent has the ball or is within five yards of a loose ball. Box: An area used to hold players who have been served with penalties, and through which substitutions ""on the fly"" are permitted directly from the sideline onto the field. Check-up: A call given by the goalie to tell each defender to find his man and call out his number. Clamp: A face-off maneuver executed by quickly pushing the back of the stick on top of the ball. Clearing: Running or passing the ball from the defensive half of the field to the attack goal area. Crease: A circle around the goal with a radius of nine feet into which only defensive players may enter. Crosse (Stick): The equipment used to throw, catch and carry the ball. Defensive Clearing Area: The area defined by a line drawn sideline to sideline 20 yards from the face of the goal. Once the defensive team gains possession of the ball in this area, it has ten seconds to move the ball across the midfield line. Extra man Offense (EMO): A man advantage that results from a time-serving penalty. Face-Off: A technique used to put the ball in play at the start of each quarter, or after a goal is scored. The players squat down and the ball is placed between their crosses. Fast-Break: A transition scoring opportunity in which the offense has at least a one-man advantage. Ground Ball: A loose ball on the playing field. Handle (Shaft): An aluminum, wooden or composite pole connected to the head of the crosse. Head: The plastic or wood part of the stick connected to the handle. Man Down Defense (MDD): The situation that results from a time-serving penalty which causes the defense to play with at least a one man disadvantage. Midfield Line: The line which bisects the field of play. On-The-Fly Substitution: A substitution made during play. Pick: An offensive maneuver in which a stationary player attempts to block the path of a defender guarding another offensive player. Pocket: The strung part of the head of the stick which holds the ball. Rake: A face-off move in which a player sweeps the ball to the side. Riding: The act of trying to prevent a team from clearing the ball. Release: The term used by an official to notify a penalized player in the box that he may re-enter the game. Unsettled Situation: Any situation in which the defense is not positioned correctly, usually due to a loose ball or broken clear. WOMEN'S LACROSSE RULES: Women's lacrosse is a non-contact game played by 12 players: a goalkeeper, five attackers and six defenders. The object of the game is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. The team scoring the most goals wins. Women's lacrosse begins with a draw, which is taken by the center position. The ball is placed between two horizontally held crosses (sticks) at the center of the field. At the sound of the whistle, the ball is flung into the air as the crosses are pulled up and away. A draw is used to start each half and after each goal, and it takes place at the center of the field. The collegiate game is 60 minutes long, each half being 30 minutes. The high school girl's game is 50 minutes long, each half being 25 minutes. In both collegiate and high school play, teams are allowed two timeouts per game (including overtime). There are visual guidelines on the side of the field that are in place to provide a consistent indicator to the officials of what is considered the playing field. The minimum dimensions for a field is 120 yards by 70 yards. Additional markings on the field include a restraining line located 30 yards from each goal line, which creates an area where only a maximum of seven offensive players and eight defensive players (including the goalkeeper) are allowed; a 12-meter fan, which officials use to position players after fouls; and an arc in front of each goal, considered the critical scoring area, where defenders must be at least within a stick's-length of their attacker. The boundaries are determined by the natural restrictions of the field. An area of 120 yards by 70 yards is desirable. When a whistle blows, all players must stop in place. When a ball is ruled out of play, the player closest to the ball gets possession when play is resumed. Loss of possession may occur if a player deliberately runs or throws the ball out of play. Rough checks, and contact to the body with the crosse or body, are not allowed. Field players may pass, catch or run with the ball in their crosse. A player may gain possession of the ball by dislodging it from an opponent's crosse with a check. A check is a controlled tap with a crosse on an opponent's crosse in an attempt to knock the ball free. The player must be one step in front of her opponent in order to check. No player may reach across an opponent's body to check the handle of a crosse when she is even with or behind that opponent. A player may not protect the ball in her crosse by cradling so close to her body or face so as to make a legal, safe check impossible for the opponent. All legal checks must be directed away from a seven-inch sphere or ""bubble"" around the head of the player. No player is allowed to touch the ball with her hands except the goalkeeper when she is within the goal circle. A change of possession may occur if a player gains a distinct advantage by playing the ball off her body. Fouls are categorized as major or minor, and the penalty for fouls is a “free position.” For major fouls, the offending player is placed four meters behind the player taking the free position. For a minor foul, the offending player is placed four meters off, in the direction from which she approached her opponent before committing the foul, and play is resumed. When a minor foul is committed in the critical scoring area, the player with the ball has an indirect free position, in which case the player must pass first. A slow whistle occurs when the offense has entered the critical scoring area and the defense has committed a major foul. A flag is thrown but no whistle is sounded so that the offense has an opportunity to score a goal. A whistle is blown when a goal is scored or the scoring opportunity is over. An immediate whistle is blown when a major foul, obstruction or shooting space occurs, which jeopardizes the safety of a player. WOMEN'S LACROSSE TERMS: Clear: Any action taken by a player within the goal circle to pass or carry the ball out of the goal circle. Critical Scoring Area: An area 15 meters in front of and to each side of the goal and nine meters behind the goal. An eight-meter arc and 12 meter fan are marked in the area. Crosse (Stick): The equipment used to throw, catch, check and carry the ball. Crosse Checking: Stick to stick contact consisting of a series of controlled taps in an attempt to dislodge the ball from the crosse. Deputy: A player who enters the goal circle when the goalie is out of the goal circle and her team is in possession of the ball. Draw: A technique to start or resume play by which a ball is placed in between the sticks of two standing players and drawn up and away. Eight-Meter Arc: A semi-circular area in front of the goal used for the administration of major fouls. A defender may not remain in this area for more than three seconds unless she is within a stick's length of her opponent. Free Position: An opportunity awarded to the offense when a major or minor foul is committed by the defense. All players must move four meters away from the player with the ball. When the whistle sounds to resume play, the player may run, pass or shoot the ball. Free Space To Goal: A cone-shaped path extending from each side of the goal circle to the attack player with the ball. A defense player may not, for safety reasons, stand alone in this area without closely marking an opponent. Goal Circle: The circle around the goal with a radius of 2.6 meters (8.5 feet). No player's stick or body may “break” the cylinder of the goal circle. Grounded: Refers to any part of the goalkeeper's or deputy's body touching the ground for support outside of the goal circle when she attempts to play the ball from inside the goal circle. Indirect Free Position: An opportunity awarded to the offense when a minor foul is committed by the defense inside the 12 meter fan. When the whistle sounds to resume play, the player may run or pass, but may not shoot until a defender or one of her teammates has played the ball. Marking: Being within a stick's length of an opponent. Penalty Lane: The path to the goal that is cleared when a free position is awarded to the attacking team. Scoring Play: A continuous effort by the attacking team to move the ball toward the goal and to complete a shot on goal. Stand: All players, except the goalkeeper in her goal circle, must remain stationary following the sound of any whistle. Sphere: An imaginary area, approximately 18 cm (seven inches) which surrounds a player's head. No stick checks toward the head are allowed to break the sphere. 12 Meter Fan: A semi-circle in front of the goal used for the administration of minor fouls.