Do you ever wonder why most lacrosse games never end in a tie? Whether you go watch a professional game or an NCAA game, there’s a clear winner in the end. In fact, this is where lacrosse differs from some other popular sports, such as soccer. Therefore, for beginners and people who just got into lacrosse, this might cause some confusion.
Hence, in this post, let’s answer the question “can a lacrosse game end in a tie?” And then we will examine the rules to figure out how it affects you as a player.
In the event of a tie within the regular play, lacrosse games will continue on into overtime. At the high school and collegiate levels, it is called a sudden death overtime where the first team that scores a goal will win the game. If you play different tournaments not governed by NFHS and NCAA, the rules can be subject to change.
Reasons why lacrosse games don’t end in a tie
Outside of NFHS and NCAA, ties are more common in local tournaments, recreational leagues or youth play. If you are a high school or college player, simply know that games will not finish until there’s a winner declared at the end.
After digging around on the internet, I found two reasons why the rules are written the way they are. First, the legibility of playoffs is decided based on wins and losses; ties don’t contribute to either bucket rendering the game “useless” to the ranking. Therefore, in order to count every game as a point and make ranking easy, each game needs to pick a winner.
Second, because lacrosse games have more frequent substitutions and run no more than an hour, the extra 5-10 minutes overtime will unlikely to over-exhaust players. Also, ties are relatively rare, games typically finish within the regular hour. If it ever goes overtime, the length is kept short and sweet. Injuries often happen when players are fatigued, so the rules ensure the game doesn’t go on for too long to push their limits.
Additionally, if you ever play in a lacrosse tournament, games are played back to back. So it’s very important for games to run as efficiently as possible, meaning each game has a set time to decide who wins before the next scheduled game starts.
Different ways of how overtime works in lacrosse
At the beginning of the post, I mentioned sudden death overtime. In fact, there are variations of overtime that are acceptable. In this section, let’s get familiar with them so you are prepared no matter which version the game takes.
Sudden death overtime
The most common version of overtime is sudden death. Just like the name sounds, sudden death is a high stakes and intense process for both teams. Five minutes after the end of the regular play, teams are given a set of time, and which team scores first will automatically win the game.
The length of overtime depends on the lacrosse league and in game situation. In high school and collegiate lacrosse, sudden death overtime lasts 4-minute. If extra time is needed, there will be a 2-minute break between each period.
In professional lacrosse (PLL), overtime lasts 12-minute long each. The standard format in overtime is the same as the format in regular play. Two teams will have 10 players on each side and a coin toss is conducted to decide the defensive and offensive halves respectively.
In women’s lacrosse, overtime lasts 3-minute long each; in total 6 minute will be played if needed. Teams will change ends after the first 3-minute half with no delay for coaching.
Overtime is very exciting; watch it in real action below:
There’s another less common yet unique tie-breaker, Braveheart. It’s a fun and exciting form of sudden victory overtime which you see more often in practice and less formal lacrosse games.
Braveheart is essentially a one-on-one version of lacrosse. Only one field player and one goalie on each team will play for the overtime. Whoever scores first will declare the winner. Since braveheart is rare in standard high school and college lacrosse, be sure to learn specific rules that pertain to your league.
Coin Toss Procedures
Let’s quickly go over how the coin toss procedure works before the overtime begins. The officials conduct another coin toss with the captains. The visiting team receives the right to call the coin toss. The team that wins the coin toss has the option to choose the defensive field. After the first half of overtime, teams switch ends just like during the regular play.
How you should prepare for an overtime
As a player, you need to prepare for every situation and know what to do. If you play NFHS or NCAA lacrosse, just remember overtime is present as part of the rulebook. In the event of a tie, as long as you read this post and come away with a fair understanding of the rules, you will be just fine.
During the 5-minute water break, pay attention to your coach’s instructions while giving yourself a rest. Sudden victory doesn’t leave much room for you to make mistakes, so be 100% focus.
For leagues and tournaments that lie outside of NFHS and NCAA, rules can have more nuances so be sure to ask officials or your coach to learn and understand the specific rules.