We got killed at the X this weekend, leading to lots of 4-on-3 Fast Breaks coming our way. We asked some other coaches for help, and got these two simple wing plays to slow down the other team and force them to play settled 6-on-6.
We see this play more often at the High School level than we do in the NCAA. It all comes down to hustle, timing, and getting back in the "Hole!" as fast as you can from the Wings. On Face Offs, Turnovers, and Clears, playing even-strength Defense is always preferable to giving up numbers-advantage scoring situations to the other team!
Face-Offs Win Games:
Winning Face-Offs and scoring Fast Break Goals is often called, "Make It, Take It" Lacrosse. Win a face off, score a goal, go back to the X, win another face off. None of us here are lucky to have a dominant FOGO like T.D. Ierlan, or a Trevor Baptiste. Love it or hate it, the bottom line is the Face Off position wins possessions. If you can't win at the X, you're not going to have the ball much.
There's so much good coaching out there on how to train a really great Face Off Man: Face Off Academy and Face Off Factory, to name a couple. With our limited coaching staffs and limited-experience players, we try to focus on FOGO's and Goalies for at least 15 minutes, every practice. We're not always successful, but we try. If the other team isn't going to make mistakes, Goalies and FOGO's are your two main sources of possessions. So take extra special care of them!
"Slow the Break!"
Lots of Face-Offs and Fast Breaks will wear down your Defense and your Goalie, and give the other team all the mojo and momentum, and probably all the goals too. There are lots of things you can do to combat the Face Off Man himself- block his forward exit, put a Long Pole on the Face, make it a messy 3-on-3 Ground Ball, etc.
This isn't about forcing Turnovers. If you can't stop the Face Off guy from starting the Breaks, you're going to need help from your Wings. These are two simple ways to neutralize the initial 4-on-3 Fast Breaks into settled, 6-on-6 possessions. Make the other team grind out long, slow goals instead of easy, fast ones. Then eventually you'll have a chance at some Turnovers or Saves to get the ball back!
2 FACE-OFF FAST BREAK WING PLAYS FOR DEFENSE
Figure 1.) The easiest solution is to just have both Wings (Red 5 and 6) "Crash!" straight into the "Hole!" Play Defense "from Inside-Out". Use the full length of the Face Off Wing Lines! Go all the way to the end for the full 10-yard head start in front of the guys at the Face Off X. If they're even decently fast, they can get in the Box and kill the 4-on-3 numbers advantage before Blue 4 gets there with the ball. But this doesn't always work!
Defense: Communicate! Stopping the "Ball!" is always Job #1! Red 5 or Red 6 must clearly communicate who is covering the "Ball!" at all times. Stopping the ball from the midfield without forcing the Defense to "Rotate!" will help preserve your Match-Ups- Long Poles covering Attackmen, etc.
Imitate Game Situations in Practice!
You can practice this exact same scenario before big games against a really good FOGO. Set up your team for a Face Off, and let your FOGO practice against a stationary "dummy" stick. Run the Face Offs and the Fast Breaks just like you will see in games. Your team needs to be in this situation before Game Day, so they know what to expect! Have fun, and figure out which one works best for you!