One of the most common questions I get asked on the sidelines is: “What is the crease?” We could spend a full week going over every intricacy of crease play, but for now let’s focus on the basics.
The crease is an eighteen foot diameter circle, nine foot radius, extending around the lacrosse goal that protects the goalkeeper from the opposing team. As long as the goalie is inside the crease he enjoys these privileges:
Rule 4, Section 19: Goal-Crease Privileges (NFHS Rulebook)
Article 1: The goalkeeper may stop or block the ball in any manner with his crosse or body. He may block the ball or bat it away with his hand, but he may not catch the ball with his hand. However, if the ball is outside the crease, the goalkeeper may not touch it with his hand even if he is within his crease. He or any player of the defending team may receive a pass while in the crease area.
Article 2: No opposing player shall make contact with the goalkeeper or his crosse while the goalkeeper is within the goal-crease area, regardless of whether the goalkeeper has the ball in his possession. An attacking player may reach within the crease area to play a loose ball as long as he does not make contact with the goalkeeper or the goalkeeper’s crosse.
Article 3: The crosse of the goalkeeper, not his body, when extended outside the cylinder above the crease area, is subject to being checked under the same circumstances as the crosse of any other player, except when the ball is in the crosse.
Those are the basic rules governing play in and around the crease area. The trouble most fans have recognizing crease violations (or non-violations) is the above rules are applied in different ways depending on where the ball is, and whether or not the goalie has possession. An officiating mentor of mine gave me this helpful list:
- Loose ball & goalie stick outside the crease = legal to check goalie stick
- Loose ball & goalie stick inside the crease = illegal to check goalie stick
- Goalie has possession inside the crease = illegal to check goalie stick
- Goalie has possession outside the crease = legal to check goalie stick
The two key parts to focus on are possession and where the ball is. Apply the four points above during a game and you should see why the official calls goalie interference or lets the play go.
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