THE LAXICONBlue Devils explain the sport's terminology

By Matthew Iles The Chronicle

April 10, 2008

Durham, NC (UWIRE) -- It's hockey on grass. It's basketball with sticks. It's soccer with hitting.

These are just some of the ways people try to characterize lacrosse.

Lacrosse, though, is like nothing else. The players even have their own vocabulary to prove it.

"COD on GLE with BTB," midfielder Ned Crotty said. For those not lacrosse savvy, that means change of direction on the goal-line extended with a behind-the-back shot. But don't worry, no one would ever actually say that, Crotty laughed.

Nevertheless, lacrosse remains a sport on the outer edges of many fans' understanding. When the ball goes in the goal-or, to laxer, the pill goes in the cage-they know to cheer. When the referee throws a flag, they know there's a penalty but don't always understand what it's for.

Most of the Blue Devils, though, started playing lacrosse before middle school, so the game's "laxicon" seems normal to them. But many admit they have experienced a language barrier when speaking with untrained observers.

"If I'm talking to someone from an area where lacrosse isn't as hot yet, sometimes they'll ask me some questions, and I just have to use some basketball terminology or some hockey terminology just to simplify," said goalie Dan Loftus, who started for his high school varsity squad as an eighth grader.

Since Duke recruits come from all over the country, some players even have trouble understanding their teammates' different regional dialects. Many Blue Devils refer to the lacrosse ball as either "the rock" or "the pill," but senior Mike Ward still catches a few laughs during practice when he asks for "a fresh peach."

Sophomore attackman Max Quinzani, who hails from Massachusetts, admitted he initially had trouble understanding some of Long Island-native and co-captain Matt Danowski's lingo.



"When someone does something well, Dino says, 'Bring your skates. It's getting slippery.'" Crotty said.

"Wow, he always used to say that," Quinzani added. "Slippery-I don't even know what that means."

Growing up, Crotty and Quinzani split their time between the hockey rink and the lacrosse field, giving them a unique insight into which sport lacrosse is most like. But their conclusion might seem surprising.

Although lacrosse resembles hockey with its behind-the-net play, on-the-fly substitutions and hard hitting akin to checking, both agreed the sport's X's and O's are closer to basketball.

On defense, the game is almost exactly like its hardwood cousin. Loftus said goalies direct the traffic as teams typically execute either man-to-man or zone looks, concentrate heavily on help defense, and try to prevent opponents from driving-or dodging-into the paint, a six-by-12-yard imaginary box in front of the goal.

Offensively, though, the approach is far more fluid, especially at Duke. Quinzani said the Blue Devils get into sets, or different six-man formations around the goal, and simply go from there.

"We just kind of do whatever out of that, kind of freelance," Crotty said. "Coach Danowski's always like, 'I don't want you guys to be robots, like this is what you have to do.'

"That's one reason why I love our offense. It's just go, figure it out."

Even though basketball chalk talk might not translate as literally to lacrosse's offense, the terms are still all there. Picks, screens and feeds-as well as the point, the wings and the paint-are a part of everyday lacrosse vernacular.

And it doesn't stop there.

"A lot of the passing is alike," Quinzani said. "When a middie dodges from the top and zings it to an attackman who is right next to the crease, that's just like an alley-oop."

With the former hockey players explaining why lacrosse is similar to basketball and Loftus agreeing "the fastest game on two feet" is some kind of multi-sport hybrid, it's easy to see how newcomers to the game draw the same kind of conclusions. But what makes lacrosse distinctly different?

Crotty, Loftus and Quinzani all cited one thing as the sport's defining characteristic: the stick.

"It's an extension of yourself," Quinzani said. "It's funny because if just anyone tries to pick up a lacrosse stick, they look like an idiot."

"When you're the offensive player running full-speed and cradling in unison, while protecting your stick, shooting and aiming on the run... there's just so many different components that go into being a lacrosse player," Crotty added. "You could have an unbelievable athlete step out, but the second you put a stick in their hands, all of it becomes so much harder."

As Duke's lacrosse program continues to establish itself as one of the most formidable in the nation, the school's overall interest in the sport has steadily increased alongside it. As time goes on, hopefully fans will improve their understanding of the once-enigmatic game.

(C) 2008 The Chronicle via UWIRE

Related Stories