Game Ready: Help Defense, the Brooklyn Way

PHOTO BY PEYTON WILLIAMS

Brooklyn Walker-Welch burst onto the scene in 2022, earning USA Lacrosse Magazine All-American honorable mention recognition.


This article appears in the November edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

Brooklyn Walker-Welch has had herself a 2022.

She started on defense as a freshman for NCAA champion North Carolina, won a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Lacrosse Women’s Championship and then took home gold with Canada’s Sixes team at The World Games.

Not bad for someone who didn’t start playing field lacrosse until junior high and got cut from Ontario’s U17 team on her first try.

Team successes aside, Walker-Welch was responsible for one of the highlight-reel plays of the season when she stepped to Charlotte North in the waning seconds of UNC’s regular-season meeting with Boston College in March. The slide sealed a one-goal win over Boston College and a No. 1 ranking the Tar Heels would never relinquish during their perfect campaign.

Walker-Welch says sliding is a key component to the Tar Heels’ underrated defense, which ranked sixth in Division I in goals allowed per game. For beginners, the play happens when one defender gets beat and another shifts to prevent the attacker from driving to the cage. In the case of UNC and BC, Walker-Welch slid to North, who had gotten by Emma Trenchard.

The execution requires communication and foresight.

HEAD ON A SWIVEL

Walker-Welch must prepare to slide at a moment’s notice but also can’t be so consumed with the idea that she loses sight of her mark. Positioning is everything. Defensive coordinator Phil Barnes reminds her to keep her “head on a swivel” and position herself to be ready for the slide while focusing on neutralizing her current matchup.

“You want to be in a triangle between yourself, the player you’re marking and the player with the ball,” Walker-Welch said.

COMMUNICATION IS CRITICAL

Sliding is an important skill but should only be used when necessary. Doubling one player can leave another open and allow her to drive to cage. If Walker-Welch notices a teammate has bad positioning or an attacker is a step ahead on the dodge, she’ll communicate that. She’s not always the one stepping to the attacker, though. Sometimes, she’s the second slide, assuming another player’s assignment so she can slide. In these cases, she calls out, “I’m taking your girl. You can go,” to the defender in front of her.







GO WHERE THEY’RE GOING

Slide to where an offensive player already is, and you’ll miss them. “I slide to where they want to go,” Walker-Welch said.

To accomplish this step, Walker-Welch has to use her game IQ and field vision to anticipate how the play will develop before it does.

GET IN POSITION

Being in the right place at the right time also involves positioning. “We always want to keep ourselves between the net and the offensive player,” Walker-Welch said.

As she slides, Walker-Welch keeps her hands and stick up, ready to make contact and get a stick check off to disrupt the attacker if needed.

RECOVER

Return to your original assignment only after the dodge has been neutralized.

“Sometimes, we chase out the double until she is not a threat anymore,” Walker-Welch said. “When she has her head down and is cradling between her two shoulders, we stick the double, run it out because she doesn’t know where the open girl is. But once the pass is made, the closest defender would take someone farther away, and we would bump someone back [to her original matchup].”

UNC’s DEFENSIVE PRINCIPLES

  • Off-ball positioning.

  • Triangle/V formation.

  • Direct communication: It’s a conversation.

  • The second slide is the link between the first and third slide.

  • Footwork.

  • Check-mark to space. Where to meet and to maintain double.

  • Slide recovery.

  • Where is the predetermined recovery spot (i.e., the crease)?

  • Who is the initial recovery slide?

  • Backside helps direct the recovering defender where to go short or long.

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