Last Saturday, Yale sophomore attacker Taylor Everson made a crease roll maneuver into the heart of the Stony Brook defense about three minutes from the end of the third quarter in a non-conference lacrosse game. On the play, the Stony Brook defender, holding her stick parallel to the ground, pushed into Everson’s body to try to impede progress to goal.
Everson scored, but paid a terrible price. She’s been in the hospital for a week, as the cross-check lacerated her kidney. It is an injury that has created a kerfuffle on social media, with some users calling for an investigation, others for rules changes.
Here’s my take: this is one of the worst injuries I have read about in the game of women’s lacrosse in decades. And in a game which has generally eschewed protective equipment over the years, I’m surprised that there have not been more injuries of this type.
A lot of injury prevention in women’s lacrosse has relied on a fine balance between proper defensive technique and officiating. Indeed, before the 2020 season, umpires were cautioned to watch for crosse-checking of the kind that put Everson in the hospital. The following was written in the rulebook update:
It is illegal for a player to initiate stick-to-body contact and use the shaft of the stick to hit, push or displace an opponent. Cross
checking often occurs when a player plays an opponent’s body, and not the ball. Specifically, cross checking an opponent from the rear position is dangerous and has the potential to cause physical harm. The committee encourages officials to card forceful stick-to-body contact to an opponent’s head, neck, shoulders, and back. The committee also encourages coaches to instruct their players to slow or stop an opponent’s progress without using dangerous or illegal means.
Now, I understand that, because of the growth of the sport at the Division I level, I have seen a bigger pool of umpires. There have also been a number of umpires who have officiated in the professional game — the UWLX, the WPLL, and Athletes Unlimited. In some of these games, I have seen an unusual number of rough collisions which you do not see in the college game.
Too, a number of the more conservative officials of the past have retired or left umpiring, leaving a group which, frankly, are wont to swallow the whistle at key intervals, in the name of letting the players settle the game. I can understand if that’s a reason why the game officials in the Yale-SBU game let the foul on Everson go unpunished.
But still, according to the letter of the law, that should be a continuation and a yellow on SBU. Cards are carried by umpires for a reason, and this was a prime example of when a penalty should have been called. Sure, a yellow on the play would not have lessened the severity of the injury to Everson, but if the defender knows a card is coming for a crosse-check, the player and her coach would have applied the last sentence of the emphasis: try to find a way to stop an opponent without illegal means.
I’m really hoping that this doesn’t bring back the debate over mandatory protective equipment such as helmets, arm pads, and flak jackets.