Lehigh senior midfielder Kendall Garden rallies the team in a game Wednesday, April 20, 2016, against Lafayette College at the Ulrich Sports Complex. Garden was one of five players on the Mountain Hawks to score a goal. (Kendra Costantino/B&W Staff)

NCAA to make possessions over 90 seconds illegal in women’s lacrosse next year

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The NCAA is making a dramatic change to women’s lacrosse for the 2017 season.

Starting next season, women’s lacrosse at the collegiate level will have a 90-second shot clock in which teams will be forced to attempt a shot on goal or be forced to turn the ball over.

In Lehigh’s 6-4 win over Lafayette College on Wednesday night in Bethlehem, there was no such rule to be enforced. A nine-minute “stall” by Lafayette to begin the game — a span where it never relinquished possession — and a six-minute hold by the Mountain Hawks to finish the game made this particular contest more about ball control than scoring.

“We weren’t expecting them to be that slow, but we were expecting them to hold the ball and look for the best shot,” Lehigh freshman attacker Courtney Henig said. “I think our defense did a great job of working together today and really communicating — making sure we held them to little goal scoring.”

When Lehigh’s offense finally did get a chance to score, Henig knew goals were going to be at a premium. Henig’s two goals led the Mountain Hawks to a win over the Leopards, and with Boston University’s win over College of the Holy Cross later Wednesday night, Lehigh clinched a postseason berth.

This marks the third straight season the Mountain Hawks qualified for the Patriot League Tournament. For Lehigh coach Jill Redfern, the certainty of a playoff game is something to celebrate.

“Our team has worked really hard,” Redfern said. “They’ve taken every game one at a time and just to have that assurance that they’re going to be seeded in some position is exciting for us.”

To ensure they would seal the win, the Mountain Hawks adopted the Leopards’ style of play late in the game when up 6-4. Milking the clock down to just 52 seconds left in regulation, Lehigh turned to its speed.

“The last six minutes were big,” Henig said. “We knew we needed to hold the ball so we gave it to the people on are team who are really fast — Kendall (Garden), (Allison LaBeau), Kierstyn (Voiro) are really great people to have the ball because they are so fast.”

With the rule change being implemented next season, both Lehigh and Lafayette will have to execute new strategies in the next chapter of the rivalry. Yet at Ulrich Sports Complex on Wednesday night, Lehigh played well within the rules, and held on for the win — literally.

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