Tony Vallance has been coaching at the college level for the past 11 years including stops at Dean Junior College, Muhlenberg College, Bellarmine University and most recently Fairfield University.  Originally from Maryland, he played goalie at Penn State University where he graduated in 1998.  He is currently the Director of Lacrosse Instruction at the House of Sports, located in Ardsley, N.Y.

This week, we are going to get a little defensive.

While the new rules in the college game are creating some very high-scoring games — anyone see that Albany vs. Drexel score? — there have also been some low-scoring games. (Syracuse and Army combined to score eight goals.)

vallanceThe college game is not just about a quicker pace of play and extra possessions, there is a great chance to see some new wrinkles to defense being played.

Zone defense

One of the ways that teams are choosing to slow down the game is to mix in zone at a higher frequency than in previous years.  With last year’s version of the rules, you might see some teams play a zone at the end of a period to try to limit any high quality looks for the opponent with not much time on the clock.

Now the “timer on” situation is providing yet another chance to jump into a zone and limit any high quality looks.

Here is an example of how zone becomes a viable option in these situations:

Team A is on offense and has been given the “timer on” by the officials.  As they cycle through their offense, one of their middies gets his hands free down the alley and shoots high and wide with around 20 seconds left in the timer on situation.

As one of Team A’s attackmen sprints to the endline to retrieve the ball, Team B sets up into a zone defense.  On the restart, Team A realizes that their opponents are now playing a zone and have to quickly communicate what offense they will now run.

This change could easily burn five or 10 seconds, leaving only a limited time to run a viable offense.

Most likely, all Team A will be able to generate is an outside shot as the shot clock runs down.

The upside for all of you coaches who aren’t playing by these new rules is that you’ll have more opportunities to see more college teams run their zone defense.

Where do teams put their shortsticks in the zone? How far out are their players looking to pressure?  Will they play the ball behind the goal or stay near the pipes?  Do they look to hold their spots or are the quick to rotate?

Keep an eye out for different types of zones and you might see a new wrinkle that could help out your zone defense.  Or you might finally decide it’s time to add a zone to your defensive bag of tricks.

Slide vs. Double

OK, I know I’m getting a little picky here, but this is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine.

After watching a bunch of games on TV the past few weeks, I’ve heard almost every announcer (even you Quint) call EVERY slide by the defense a “double.”

Especially when we are talking about a slide up top to a midfielder, the majority of the slides are NOT a double team.

The player originally playing the ball is usually peeling off of the man with the ball to recover inside to account for the mismatch created when his teammate slid.

Now there are times where staying on the double team with both the mid originally on the ball and defender sliding to the ball can be beneficial. True double teams are best used versus powerful mids who will look to power through a slide (think JHU’s John Ranagan or Maryland’s John Haus after watching him torch Loyola).

The drawback on staying on the double in front of the cage is that your opponent will have a numbers advantage if you can’t apply enough pressure to the ball carrier.  True doubles will occur more frequently behind the cage or near GLE.

When a defender can turn his matchup away from the cage or whenever an adjacent defender sees the back of the ball carrier’s head is a great time to double.  These types of doubles are lower risk because the ball carrier is below or behind the goal and the passing lanes are easier to cover.

Again, this may seem very specific but I feel it is an important distinction to make when talking to your players and explaining to them what you expect.

Enjoy watching a great weekend of lacrosse and see if you can spot any zone defenses or pick out a double instead of a slide.

Please feel free to email in any questions or topic ideas for future installments. I can be reached at


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Posted In: Coach's Corner, House of Sports

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2 Responses to “Coach’s Corner: The defense never rests”

  1. Laxtime says:

    Interesting info on defense. I have a question – is there a lax equivalent of a matchup zone in basketball?

  2. Observer Lax says:

    Very good job of outlining defensive strategies Coach V.

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