Offense 101: Dodging From the Top

In this week’s chalk talk segment, we’ll break down offensive techniques when dodging from the top. Follow along as Virginia associate head coach and offensive coordinator Marc Van Arsdale runs through a 2-3-1 offensive set and highlights key dodging tactics. Next, watch as Van Arsdale breaks down film revolving around dodging from the top using recent Virginia game footage. This exclusive look can give you a clearer picture of player roles, movements and strategies.

The 2011 Virginia men’s lacrosse team is coming off a thrilling 13-12 win in overtime against Bucknell in the first round of the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse tournament. The Cavaliers are now  slated to play Cornell on Saturday beginning at 12:00 PM in Hempstead, N.Y.


Virginia men’s lacrosse has always placed a high priority on its team offense. According to head coach Dom Starsia, everything comes down to being able to score enough goals to win. That’s why being equipped with an effective offense is such an important part of lacrosse. Here are four key principles that Starsia looks for in his offensive weapons:

  1. Ability to beat your man.
  2. Recognition of where slides are coming from.
  3. Ability to handle the ball under pressure.
  4. Ability to hit a shot and finish opportunities

With these principles in mind, Starsia’s teams often find success by implementing the 2-3-1 offensive set and attacking with a dodge from the top. Let’s break it down some more so that you can benefit with your own lacrosse team.

Chalk Talk: Dodging from the 2-3-1 Set

One offensive area that Virginia has been particularly successful at over the years is dodging from the top. Let’s start things out in a 2-3-1 set and break this concept down a little bit further.

Players 11 and 12 are midfielders and will start out at the top of the offense. 7 should be another midfielder and will be positioned on the crease. Meanwhile, 6, 9 and 14 are attackers, with 6 and 14 starting out on opposite wings of the goal, and 9 positioned behind the net, hence the 2-3-1 set.

The play begins with a dodge from the top via one midfielder. Here, we want a dodger who can penetrate to the goal and can get himself in an area that is dangerous. The goal here is for this player to get to the middle of the field and stretch the defense.

The play commences with a dodge from 11 at the top. The ball will initially start with 14 on the wing. 12 will then make a V-Cut and 14 passes the ball to 12. With a little V-Cut of his own, 11 now sets up his dodge. He should come to the middle of the field to meet the ball and give him some room to dodge on the backside. 12 will throw the ball to 11, and now he’s in a position to initiate the offense.

From here, the crease player will move out to the right just a few steps as 11 makes his dodge down the alley. All the while, 6 looks to clear through and makes an inside cut into the crease area. 12 will then follow where 11 vacated and provides an outlet in that area of the field. Next, 9 moves into 6’s spot and becomes an outlet in the area near the GLE. 14 will hold down the backside pipe and is a threat to score there. 7 will anticipate a slide and there should also be options for 11 to create his own shot and take it to the cage. If he can’t get to the cage, the offense will break down.

The overall goal here is to create some unsettled opportunities by dodging from the top and making the defense to react to it. If the dodger doesn’t have a shot, his options are to make a through pass to 14 for a shot, pass to 7 on the backdoor, or throw the ball to the frontside for 9. The attackman should always look to the backside for something to show up – especially after the defense has initially reacted and has to recover. Also, 14 can come hard on the dodge with 6 and 12 getting open off the seal.


Film Breakdown

Follow along with Van Arsdale as he highlights offensive tactics when dodging from the top using actual Virginia game footage. Note the player movements and roles as described above and in the video.


The previous clips can be found on the Championship Productions ‘DVD “High Scoring Team Offense” with Dom Starsia. To check out addition offensive videos in our exclusive catalog, click here.

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