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Hanover - The stall heard 'round New Hampshire took a relative blink of an eye to be resolved in Hanover High girls lacrosse coach Chris Seibel's favor.
The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association on Monday verified Seibel's belief that officials erred in warning the Marauders against holding the ball for lengthy periods of time during Saturday's 18-11 loss to Windham at Merriman-Branch Field.
Down 6-5 late in the first half, Seibel called for his players to stall with possession in hopes of drawing out a packed-in Windham defense. The delay game lasted for roughly four minutes before referee Lyn Cusack blew play dead, held a conference with partner Brad Ayers and restarted the game. The Marauders scored twice in the final 12 seconds of the half for a 7-6 lead.
Seibel and Windham coach Paul Cino conversed with the referees during the intermission, at which time the Hanover coach was told he would be penalized for further stalls. Cusack's position revolved around a rule that allows officials to sanction a team for "any type of behavior that appears to delay the game."
Monday's ruling essentially backs Seibel's belief that stalling is a legal coaching strategy.
"Our game, moving forward and throughout the year, has been to be a very deliberate offense, which at times means drawing a defense out," Seibel said in a phone interview on Tuesday. "That's been our plan. Moving into the (playoffs), to get a ruling that is OK is very important. It's great to hear that."
Windham rendered Hanover's strategy moot by scoring nine times early in the second half to build an insurmountable 15-8 lead.
Seibel said his intention on the protest wasn't to reverse the game result or force a replay. As it was, he couldn't: Because his protest was made after the game rather than during halftime, the NHIAA said the final score would stand. Windham hopped over Hanover into the top seed for the eight-team Division II tournament, which starts today.
The second-year Hanover coach said employing a stall became a need given the number of 8-second violations Windham's defense was drawing, evidence of a team packing the space around its goal. In girls lacrosse, defenders are not permitted to stand within the 8- meter scoring fan without guarding an opponent for more than 8 seconds.
Seibel uses what he called a "spread offense" frequently, often when up by a large margin in order to not put further shots on an opponent's goal.
"I could tell how upsetting it was for the Windham community to see us do that," Seibel conceded. "It's not with the intention to upset people, but to be successful. If the byproduct is upsetting people, then I'm not going to apologize for that.
"As we coach the game of lacrosse, we have to prepare our athletes to encounter anything. Do we employ it on a regular basis? We played 18 games, so I'd say we have the stall in practice 80 percent of the time. Some of that is - when you build up a lead - maintaining the lead. If we're up by 10 or 12 goals, we just work the ball around and don't bring it to the cage."
The second-seeded Marauders (15-3) open the D-II tournament at 5:30 p.m. today against No. 7 Merrimack (7-8) at Merriman-Branch. The Marauders earned an 18-8 win over the Tomahawks in the only regular-season encounter on May 10.
Greg Fennell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727- 3226.