First in a series of blog entries on’s quarter-century of covering lacrosse.

It was May 1989 when your Founder first saw a lacrosse game as played by women. The scene was the 1989 national semifinals held in West Chester, Pa.

I had been somewhat familiar with the game as a child in Mississippi. My father had somehow come into possession of a blue-strung wooden lacrosse stick I remember was sitting along the back wall of the garage in our home in Mississippi. It was just one stick, no ball, and we never knew either where it came from or what to do with it.

I was exposed to the game infrequently as a youth, but, as you do, you could go to lacrosse games at your university and try to learn the rules as if drinking from a firehose.

And this certainly was the case when I saw my first women’s lacrosse games.

I had a number of strong impressions about the game when I first watched it. First off, the “freeze-tag” rule was something that I found a parallel with Australian Rules Football, where a team could forfeit the right to close-cover a ball-carrier because of a minor or major foul.

A second nuance was the lack of restraining lines and/or boxes around the field. Like cricket, the boundary in women’s lacrosse, at least before the rules changes in the 90s and 00s, was the natural boundary of whatever competition surface was being used. Teams could bring all 11 outfielders into the attack if they chose. Coaches could be dispatched to both the offensive or defensive ends of the lacrosse pitch, leading to scenes where two groups of coaches would be giving encouragement to the players on either end.

Depending on the location, you could have oblong, offset, or L-shaped playing areas. Also, there are stories about having football goalposts, long-jump pits, park benches, or even trees in play at certain lacrosse grounds.

I was also fascinated by the use of the 8-meter free position shot, which, depending on execution, was something like a football placekick or a basketball free throw. Theoretically, if you were a good enough shooter from 24 feet out, you should be able to make them with regularity.

All of my impressions changed over the years, especially with the rules changes putting in free movement, restricting the number of players on attack or outfielders on defense to 7 per side, and the 90-second possession clock.

But one of my first impressions has changed somewhat, and that is about the way that free positions are currently thought of. Back in the day, my impression was that a free position was a near-automatic goal, and the pace of a 24-yard throw could beat most goaltenders of the day.

That impression has evolved as goalies got better and defenders on the 8 would run in with ruthless intent to make a stick check or even an interception of the intended shot.

Attackers have had to run plays off an 8-meter in order to flummox defenses, and you also saw players like University of Maryland attacker Quinn Carney making a seven-step run to the top of the crease and dunking the ball over the goalie’s head.

These days, you’re seeing more players taking after former Boston College attacker Charlotte North, and putting all kinds of speed behind the ball to score off the 8.

The game has certainly changed over the last 35 years. But my curiosity about the nuances of the game have never left.

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