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.

vallanceDuring this time of year I’m sure many of you have been swept up watching some basketball during March Madness.

Even though my bracket was busted long ago, I’ve been watching a bunch of games and kept seeing trends that I think can carry over to lacrosse as well.

As we are now down to the Final Four, here are my four crossovers from basketball:

* Syracuse’s 2-3 zone

Coach Jim Boeheim has been running his zone defense for as long as I’ve been watching college basketball.  Other teams know they are going to face the zone and the best way to attack it, but Syracuse has had great success this postseason by doing what they do best.

Lacrosse Takeaway: Do what you do and do it well.  It doesn’t have to be a zone defense, but find a system you believe in and stick with it.

Have your team comfortable and believing in that system.  It may be a style of offense or defense or even committing to playing a run and gun style of transition.  The consistency and focus of your practices will give your team confidence through repetitions so that they can perform on game day.

Where teams get in trouble is to play a certain style for some of the season only to change late versus a more talented foe or rival.  Figure out what you do best and stick with it!

* Basketball is a game of matchups

This tournament seemed to have a lot of games that were about match ups.  When a lower seed just doesn’t have the size to match up in the paint, the favorite just pounds the ball into the post to attack that weakness.  When your best shooter is covered by a slow forward after a switch off a pick – have him shoot the three.

Lacrosse Takeaway: These same matchups occur all the time in lacrosse as well. Take advantage of them.

Do you have a strong dodging attackman covered by a slow footed D-man more comfortable playing inside?  Take him behind or out to a wing and dodge him.

Did your opponent get their offensive middies stuck on the field playing defense versus your two-way mids?  Dodge those o-mids or put them in a help position where they may compromise your opponent’s help defense.

You can also find these matchups on the defensive side as well.  Put your best d-man on their third attackman who doesn’t like to carry the ball, and put him under pressure.  Slide early to their weakest mid and force him to make a tough pass under pressure he isn’t use to seeing.

* Get the ball to the stars/Feed the hot hand

With only five players on the court at a time, the best players on the team see the ball the most and have the most influence on the game.  If an outsider shooter gets hot you can bet he’ll be seeing the ball a ton.

Lacrosse Takeaway: Find ways to utilize your best players as much as you can.  Let your best players have every chance possible to help your team play at its best.  This may sound obvious, but often coaches can fall victim to running a scheme or system that might not take full advantage of their best players.

Run off-ball screens and mumbos to get your best shooters hands free for shots. Target your best off-ball player on the crease with your EMO plays. Give your talented LSM the green light to shoot after he picks up groundballs off the wing on faceoffs.  Find ways to get into your 10-man ride with your athletic goalie that is comfortable venturing far from his goal.  Allow your best players a chance to play to the strengths of their game.

* Game plan based on your bench

I’m sure by now everyone in the world has seen the injury to Kevin Ware of Louisville. What we haven’t seen yet is how his injury is going to affect the Cardinals’ depth when they take on Wichita State.  Will Coach Rick Pitino have to adjust the tempo he plays based on a lack of depth now?

Lacrosse Takeaway: Think about your depth when finding the best style for your team. If you only have a handful of talented players, you may need to play a slower pace to keep those players as fresh as possible. You still want to maximize your best players but be smart about how you’ll use them.

A simple dropback ride will limit the running for your skilled attack while still making your opponent work to clear the ball.

Sneak a fourth attackman on the field to invert with your second midfield line when your three best middies are in dire need of a break.

Maybe depth is the strongest part of your team. Use it to your advantage.  If you have a team full of just average skilled players, run as many of them as you can and play at a faster tempo.  By the second half, the difference in skill might be nullified as your team is fresh while your opponent has tired from trying to play at your speed.

As you are watching the Final Four this weekend, see how many times you see these situations and how they affect the game.  If your bracket is busted as bad as mine, at least it will give you reason to watch.

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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