UF women's lacrosse primer

Everything you need to know about one of the fastest-growing sports in America.

Published: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 19, 2010 at 7:35 p.m.

Everything you need to know about one of the fastest-growing sports in America.


2010 Florida schedule

Date, Opponent, Site, Time

Today, vs. Jacksonville, Gainesville, 6 p.m.
Feb. 23, at LaSalle, Philadelphia, 3 p.m.
Feb. 28, at North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C., 1 p.m.
Mar. 4, vs. St. Bonaventure, Gainesville, 6:30 p.m.
Mar. 9, vs. Georgetown, Gainesville, 6:30 p.m.
Mar. 13, at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, Md., 1 p.m.
Mar. 17, vs. Marist, Gainesville, 6:30 p.m.
Mar. 20, vs. New Hampshire, Gainesville, 1 p.m.
Mar. 24, vs. Cornell, Gainesville, 6:30 p.m.
Mar. 27, at Ohio State, Columbus, Ohio, 1 p.m.
Mar. 30, vs. Oregon, Gainesville, 6:30 p.m.
Apr. 3, vs. Penn State, Gainesville, Noon
Apr. 9, at LeMoyne, Syracuse, N.Y., 4 p.m.
Apr. 11, at Colgate, Hamilton, N.Y., Noon
Apr. 18, vs. Vanderbilt, Gainesville, 1 p.m.
May 2, at Northwestern, Evanston, Ill., 1 p.m.



“Building a program from scratch, especially at a place like the University of Florida where expectations are high in all sports, it's not an easy challenge and (Amanda O'Leary) wanted that challenge.” — UF Athletic Director Jeremy Foley

“These 29 girls, we've come in and we've done everything together ... this has really become a pretty strong bond. So I think it will just mean a lot of great plays out there on the field.” — Sophomore midfielder Rachael Zimmerman

“Especially it being our first year for them to build such an amazing place for us like this ... you don't have that happen when it's just your first year. That comes after the championships.” — Freshman midfielder Julie Schindel

“Between the e-mails that she'd send, the phone calls, the mail that you'd get (during recruiting), I mean everything that (Amanda O'Leary) would do. She's like a second mother to all of us.” — Freshman attacker Janine Hillier


Because the women's version of the sport has stricter rules on rough play, helmets are not used except by the goalkeeper. Women's lacrosse players are required to wear a mouth guard and protective eyewear. They can also choose to wear close-fitting gloves, nose guards and soft head gear for added protection.

Goalies must wear a face mask and helmet with a throat protector and chest protector. Goalkeepers carry a larger crosse (lacrosse stick) than the field players to gain an advantage in making saves. They can also use extra padding on their hands, arms, legs, shoulders and chest.

Field players use a crosse made of wood, laminated wood or synthetic material with a shaped net pocket at the end used to carry the ball.

The ball used in lacrosse is made of solid rubber and weighs about the same as a baseball, but is slightly smaller in size.

As in many other field sports such as soccer, lacrosse players wear cleats during games and practices.


Field players use their crosses to pass, catch or run with the ball with the objective of scoring more goals than the opposing team.

Defenders can use checks, which are controlled taps with the crosse on an opponent's crosse, to gain possession of the ball. Defenders must be one step in front of the player with the ball to check. Rough checks, or contact to the body with the stick or body, are not allowed.

Players are not allowed to cradle the ball close to their bodies to keep it away from defenders. Players cannot touch the ball with their hands with the exception of the goalie when she is in the goal circle.

There are major and minor fouls in women's lacrosse, and the penalty is a “free position.” When a whistle is blown by the referee, all players must stop in place.

For major fouls, the offending player is placed four meters behind the player with the ball. For minor fouls, the offending player stands four meters from the direction she approached the player prior to the foul.


Developed by Native Americans, lacrosse is considered our country's oldest sport. Tribes would play often violent games that could last for days and included up to 1,000 people on each team. Native Americans referred to lacrosse as “The Creator's Game,” and used it to settle territorial disputes, heal the sick and strengthen young men.

French colonists “civilized” the sport in the 19th century, with Canadian dentist W. George Beers developing a set of rules in 1867.

The first women's college game in the United States was played at Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore, Md.

Lacrosse is now one of the fastest-growing women's sports in the United States. Between 2001-2009, the number of teams grew 127.3 percent at the high school level with more than 64,000 girls now participating in the sport.

The number of collegiate programs grew 49.8 percent between 1998 and 2008, trailing only golf (56.8 percent) as the fastest growing women's sport at the NCAA level.


Ice hockey

Hockey is a descendant of North America's oldest sport, lacrosse. Both sports are considered the official sports of Canada.

Like hockey, the objective is to score by getting the ball (instead of a puck) past the goalkeeper. Lacrosse, which is actually closer to field hockey because of the surface involved, is typically a higher-scoring sport than hockey.

The women's version of lacrosse does not involve as much as contact as the men's version, which allows more body checks like hockey. The women's game allows stick checks, which means players can jar the ball loose by using their sticks to hit opposing players' sticks.

Based on the design of the field, both lacrosse and hockey incorporate behind-the-net play. Face-offs, offsides, fast breaks and high-speed projectiles are common to both lacrosse and hockey.


Lacrosse and soccer both involve long stretches of continuous action on a large playing field, which means players must have a high fitness level. Offsides is a foul in both sports, and goalies are allowed to use their hands within the goal area.

Lacrosse is faster-paced and involves much more scoring than soccer, which has helped translate to its popularity in American culture.


To the naked eye, lacrosse seems to be a lot closer to hockey and soccer. However, lacrosse uses a lot of the same strategies as basketball, incorporating screens and picks to free up attackers to try to score goals.

Both sports are fast-paced and require high levels of athleticism. The draw in lacrosse is almost like a tipoff in basketball with two players competing for possession in the middle of the field, except draws are incorporated at the start of each half and after every goal.


Who: Amanda O'Leary

Hometown: Royersford, Pa.

Coaching record: 162-65 at Yale (win total ranks No. 7 among NCAA active coaches)

Coaching experience: Yale University Head Coach (1994-2007) with two NCAA appearances (2003 and ‘07) and 2003 Ivy League tri-champion; University of Maryland Assistant Coach (‘92-'93); University of Delaware Assistant Coach (‘91); University of Maryland Graduate Assistant Coach (‘90)

Playing experience: U.S. Women's Elite Lacrosse Team (1985-95), four-year starter at Temple University (1985-1988)

Superlatives: NCAA All-Tournament Team (‘87, ‘88); NCAA Midfielder of the Year (‘87, ‘88); NCAA Championships MVP (‘88); Lacrosse Magazine NCAA Player of the Year (‘88); U.S. National Team's gold-medal winning team at IFWLA World Cup (‘89, ‘93); U.S. Lacrosse National Hall of Fame (‘05); NCAA Women's Lacrosse 25th Anniversary Team (‘06); All-Century Women's Lacrosse Team (‘99) by Lacrosse Magazine; 2003 Northeast Regional Coach of the Year; 1996 USWLA Regional Coach of the Year

Assistant coaches: Jennifer Ulehla (a U.S. National team coach and member of 1993 World Cup Championship Team) and Erica LaGrow (current member of U.S. Women's Elite Lacrosse team).

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