In previous years, Maryland men’s lacrosse teams have had the skill and poise to exploit opposing defenses.
Chief among those skills is the Terps’ knack for winding time off the game clock. Last season, they were 13th nationally in scoring offense last season, but they ranked No. 67 out of 71 for their pace of play.
This season, Maryland will be forced to up its urgency when clearing the defensive zone and attacking the net after a rule change introduced a shot clock. Teams will have only 20 seconds to advance the ball past midfield and 60 seconds to shoot.
In response to the new timing rules, coach John Tillman’s staff has emphasized increasing playing pace ahead of the team’s first regular-season game against Bucknell on Saturday at Maryland Stadium.
“I actually like the new rules,” attackman Jared Bernhardt said. “It allows us to maybe speed up our style a little bit.”
When a team gains possession in its defensive half, it has 80 seconds to get a shot off. The first 20 seconds of that time is to execute a clear — advancing the ball past the midfield line. If the offense doesn’t clear in time, the opposing team gains possession, and the next 60 seconds are for the opposing offense to attempt to score.
The 20-second clearing time is a decrease from the 30 seconds teams had in the past. With the 10-second decrease, teams may be more inclined to get out in transition or make longer passes across the field to avoid a turnover on clears.
The Terps are aware that the new shot clock will lead to increased urgency in making substitutions, getting into their offensive set quickly and being wise in their shot selection.
“When it becomes a factor is if you have a possession and it takes you too long to get on the field or you miss a couple shots,” Tillman said. “You may generate a really good look and if you miss the cage, it doesn’t really reset. So when you shoot, you have to make sure you shoot smart.”
While women’s lacrosse has already employed a shot clock for years, it took years of discussion and experimentation for the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Rules Committee to suggest the rule change. The NCAA men’s lacrosse annual rules survey indicates that 71 percent of Division I coaches supported a shot clock on every possession.
Maryland had two preseason scrimmages, against Marquette and Georgetown to prepare for the shot clock era of college lacrosse. Tillman said that the team learned from those games and will continue to grow used to the implementation.
Because the shot clock will now dictate team’s pace of play and allows less time for wholesale substitutions, rotation depth will be especially important, especially for midfielders. As the only players allowed to roam the full length of the field, they now won’t have the luxury of down time on either end.
“We’ll have some new faces but I do think we’re a little bit deeper in the midfield and that may lend itself well for the new rules with the early shot clock and the tempo of the game,” Tillman said. “Being able to go a little bit deeper is going to be really important.”