At the start of each quarter (with two exceptions) and after a goal, lacrosse begins with a face-off. During the face-off, the two players at the center try to move the ball and gain possession. There are several rules regarding the face off, including the players maintaining a “set” position prior to the whistle, not being allowed to kick the opposing players stick, and not withholding the ball from play. If a player traps the ball with the back side of his stick, he must pop the ball loose within his first step, or it is a violation (this is a recent change to the face-off rules and players can no longer carry the ball in the back of the stick after a face-off). Any of these violations results in awarding the ball to the other team.
During the face-off, the other players must line up in specific areas. The attack and defensemen must line up inside the restraining box (the large box that is painted around the goal. They must remain in that box until the referee calls “possession” meaning one team has picked up the ball for long enough to be considered having control. At that time, the attack and defensemen may come out of the restraining box and play anywhere in their half of the field in accordance with the offside rules.
The wing midfielders must line up on the lines painted at midfield near the sidelines. They may line up anywhere on that line – in the offensive or defensive half of the field. On the whistle, they may run in to pick up the ground ball and play lacrosse as possession is gained.
In our league, if one team has a 5 goal lead, the opposing coach may opt to skip the face off and receive possession in a free-clear situation.
Technical Fouls vs. Personal Fouls: In lacrosse, flagged penalties are of two varieties – technical fouls and personal fouls. When a foul is committed, the referee throws the flag and will make a “slow” whistle. This means that the whistle should not blow until the offense loses possession or a goal is scored. If the ball is dropped or an errant pass is made, the referee should stop play and issue the penalty.
Technical fouls are penalties of a less series nature. Technical fouls committed by the defenses while the offensive is in possession of the ball result in a 30-second penalty. These include: push with possession, defensive holding, offsides by the defense when the offense is in possession of the ball, interference, illegal substitution while the other team is in possession, delay of game. Technical fouls by the offense include moving picks, warding (using the free arm to push off or block a check when carrying the ball), withholding the ball, offsides, or illegal substitution. Technical fouls by the team with possession of the ball result in a turnover to the other team. Technical fouls in a loose ball situation result in the ball being awarded to the other team. If a goal is scored while a flag is down for a technical foul, the penalty is noted, but no time is served as the penalty is “waived off”.
Personal Fouls are penalties of a more series nature and are most often assessed a one-minute penalty. Referees may assign more time for violent checks, equipment violations, and unsportsmanlike conduct. They may also be deemed “non-releasable,” which means the offending player remains in the penalty box for the entire time, even if the other team scores. (Most penalties are released on a goal). Personal fouls include slashing, illegal body check, unnecessary roughness, tripping, cross-checking, or illegal equipment. If a goal is scored while a flag is down for a personal foul, time is served for the penalty and the offending team will start “man-down” on the ensuing face-off.