The lacrosse stick, or crosse, is the key piece of equipment used by players to control the ball, make passes and take shots on goal.
Feel like you're the only one who knows next to nothing about girls lacrosse? Well, you're not alone. With New Hanover County schools making it a varsity sport this season for the first time, here's a guide to help you decipher what's happening on that field:
Players are required to wear goggles and a mouthguard for one simple reason - that ball is hard. Plus, with opponents checking their crosses (more on that later), they need to protect their heads. Goalies wear significantly more equipment since girls are shooting that hard ball at them. They're required to wear a helmet, mouth guard, throat protector and chest protector.
Most sticks are made of synthetic material, as opposed to wooden ones used by the Native American inventors of the game. Baskets, where the ball is transported, are made of string similar to clothes line. Goalie sticks can be up to 4 feet long and the basket can be up to 12 inches, three to five inches more than the basket of a field player's stick.
Each team gets a goalie plus 11 field players. The center and attack wings act like midfielders, working on both offense and defense. The first, second and third homes are like a forward line and primarily responsible for scoring. The defense wings try to contain the opponents' midfield players, while the third man, point and coverpoint make up the defense responsible for marking the opponents' front line.
Having 11 players guarding 11 players near a goal would get a little crowded, so lacrosse rules don't allow all players to run the whole field. A restraining line, 30 yards from each goal, marks where offensive players may not go on defense and defensive players may not go on offense. Only seven field players from each team are allowed past the restraining llne.
Girls lacrosse is a finesse game, one that nearly prohibits physical contact. Players can be called for major or minor fouls, with the former seeking to punish players for aggressive, physical play. While they may check, or tap their opponent's stick, to knock the ball free, they must be sure their stick doesn't come within a 7-inch sphere around their opponent's head. A dangerous check, in which a player attempts to do so too near her opponent's head or across the body, is the most common call. Other major fouls include blocking, charging and slashing. Minor fouls include an empty crosse check (hitting the stick of someone who doesn't possess the ball) or a body ball, in which a ball that rebounds off a player's body gives her a distinct advantage. In most cases, the foul results in a free position for the other team, with all players 4 meters away from the ball handler.
As evidenced by the rules, physical contact is not allowed in girls lacrosse. The boys play something resembling ice hockey on land, as they were protective upper body equipment and a helmet and are allowed to check with their bodies and sticks.