How to Win a Ground Ball with Alice Mercer


“Every time the ball is on the ground on our defensive end, it has to be ours.” - Alice Mercer

You only have one opportunity to get the ball out of your opponent’s hands and into yours.

That axiom stuck with Team USA defender Alice Mercer, who learned it from Maryland women’s lacrosse assistant Lauri Kenis and has carried that with her as an assistant coach at Niagara. In every practice, she leads a competitive ground ball drill.

“Those little plays will give us the big plays,” Mercer said. “I’m always trying to give credit to the kid who worked her tail off to get the ball back, which in turn gave us a goal. It’s all about celebrating the little moments.”

 “Ground balls mean possession and possessions mean another opportunity for us to score,” she added. “Every time the ball is on the ground on our defensive end, it has to be ours.”

The Ground Ball


Read the ball’s speed and direction. Approach the ball at an angle to be able to box out your opponent. If there are several players fighting for the ball, flick it into open space.


Get low and stay low. “‘You should have grass stains on your knuckles,’ was always the line I heard growing up,” Mercer said.

Run Through

Find the balance between slowing down to get low enough to scoop the ball and accelerating through the ball.


Bend your back and lean over your stick to protect it from being checked, while keeping your eyes up to assess your surroundings.

Know What's Next

Determine your space, your speed and the location of your teammates and opponents. If the ground ball leads to a fast-break opportunity, then push the ball. If it came on the defensive end after a long possession, then run to space and hit it back to your goalie. The key is to stick to a plan.

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