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The reactions to the rule changes in men's lacrosse for 2013 have largely been very positive, and both TV commentators and casual fans have noted improvements in the flow/pace of play.  Did the changes affect scoring?  It appears that may be the case.  Scoring this past spring in Men's Division I rose to 20.6 goals/game, up from 19.8 a year ago.  That's the highest average since 2000. The increase was greater in Division II (18.9 to 21.0) and about the same in Division III (19.2 to 20.2).  The overall men's average was 20.4 goals per game, up from 19.2 in 2012.

The situation was reversed in women's lacrosse, where average goals/game dropped in all three divisions.  Scoring declined from 23.0 in 2012 to 21.9 in 2013 in Division I, from 25.4 to 23.6 in Division II, and from 24.2 to 23.0 in Division III.  The overall average decreased from 24.1 to 22.9.  The change is puzzling.  There were MANY new teams in 2013, and that could reduce overall scoring.  However, at least in Division I, matches involving new teams resulted in 1.5 more goals/game.

For this analysis, both scoring (average total goals per game) and high score differentials (15+ and 20+) were examined, but only for games played within each division (there are relatively few interdivisional games any more).  The first two figures show the trends over the last 14 years.  You can click the graphs to view a larger (900 x 611) version.

High-Differential Games

What has happened with score differentials over this period?  The four graphs below show the percentage of games in each division with differentials of 20+ and 15+ goals.

High goal differentials remain extremely uncommon in Men's Division I.  In Division II, 12.2% of games had a 15+ margin and 2.8% a 20+ margin; both represent increases compared to 2012.  The corresponding figures for Division III were 14.0% and 6.5%, respectively, which also rose slightly vs. last year.  The growth of new programs may have had an effect.  Although we didn't examine this for men's lacrosse, we did take a quick look for women's.

On the women's side, the percentage of games with high goal margins is substantially greater, and it grew in all three divisions this spring despite the drop in scoring.  For 15+ goal differential games, the increases went from 5.7% to 8.7% in Division I, from 17.8% to 19.1% in Division II, and from 13.0% to 17.0% in Division III.

Here one suspects that the large number of new teams may well have had an impact.  Such was the case in D1, where the average margin in games involving new programs was 10.1 vs. 6.8 for all D1 games.  For new teams, 26.9% of games had 15+ goal differentials vs. 8.7% for all D1 games.

Average Goal Differential

Over the last five years in men's Division I, the average differential (not pictured) has stayed 4.5-4.7 goals per game.  Division II has been more variable (5.9-7.1), averaging 6.5 during that period and coming in at 6.9 in 2013.  The average differential in Division III was 7.1-7.3 goals per game in 2009-2012 but rose to 7.7 this spring.

From 2009-2013 for women's lacrosse, there has been considerable stability in average differential in both Division I (6.2-6.8 goals/game) and Division III (8.1-8.5).  On the other hand, the average dropped each year in Division II from 2009 (10.1) to 2012 (8.7) and remained unchanged in 2013.

Home Field Advantage

On a side note, for those interested in home field advantage (HFA), the average goals per game in favor of the home team for the 2009 through 2013 seasons are shown below.  The HFA figures have bounced around to some degree, and it's frankly hard to know what to make of any apparent trends given the nature of scheduling.

Div.     2013      2012      2011      2010      2009
MD1      0.90      1.32      1.49      1.16      1.63
MD2      0.72      1.32      0.46      1.28      2.03
MD3      1.54      1.20      1.60      1.79      1.95
WD1      1.59      1.42      1.25      1.87      1.41
WD2      1.39      1.51      0.75      1.95      1.73
WD3      1.96      1.07      1.49      1.59      1.77

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