Sports

No. 5 men’s lacrosse takes down No. 14 Harvard

Quick start, face-off advantage give Bears crucial edge in top-20 tilt against rival Crimson

By
Senior Staff Writer
Monday, March 21, 2016

Face-off specialist Will Gural ’16 brings the ball up the field. The senior won 14 of 21 face-offs to help lead Bruno to a victory over the Crimson.

Saturday’s contest at Harvard Stadium was certainly not for the faint of heart. After jumping out to a comfortable five-goal lead at the half, the No. 5 men’s lacrosse team stumbled in the third quarter before outlasting No. 14 Harvard 11-8 in thrilling fashion. With the win, Bruno (6-0, 1-0 Ivy) remains perfect on the year with a critical matchup looming against No. 7 Villanova in eight days.

“For two hours, we proved we were able to face a talented program and earn the victory,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “Now we have to do it again.”

While the nation’s highest-scoring offense has often carried the Bears this season, it was the midfield play of Alec Tulett ’17, Larken Kemp ’17 and Will Gural ’16 that made the difference Saturday. The trio combined for an impressive 23 ground balls, while Kemp caused five turnovers. At the face-off X, Gural proved to be dominant again, grabbing 14 of 21 opportunities.

“Kemp, Tulett and Gural were outstanding,” Tiffany said. “Kemp intercepted Harvard passes repeatedly, Tulett was again strong with picking up the loose balls and guarding their top offensive threat and Gural won us possessions throughout the day, as he has done all year.” 

But while the defense kept the Crimson at bay, Brown needed its offense to give them an edge. When the Bears absolutely needed a goal, it was Kylor Bellistri ’16 who saved the day. The senior captain scored two of his three goals in the last five minutes to preserve the lead and make sure the defensive efforts were not wasted. Bellistri leads the Bears with 23 goals on the year.

After watching the Bears roll at the start of the game, it seemed unlikely that they would find themselves in crunch time defending a small advantage. Bruno jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the first quarter by scoring three times in just 53 seconds. Dylan Molloy ’17 led things off, quickly followed by tallies from Stephen Hudak ’18 and Matt Graham ’16.5. It was one of many rapid scoring bursts that the Bears have engineered this year.

At the five-minute mark, Harvard finally got on the board, but Graham and Hudak responded with their second tallies of the day to extend the lead to four. With five seconds left in the first, the Crimson’s Morgan Cheek pulled the deficit back to three.

In the second quarter, Bruno continued to look like the better side, with Molloy slotting a beautiful pass to Henry Blynn ’16 to spark another three-goal spurt. With the Bears carrying an 8-2 lead, Harvard was desperate to swing momentum in its favor before the half, doing so with a man-up goal with 1:53 left.

When the whistle blew to start the second half, it seemed as though the two teams switched places. Gone was the Bears’ confident, high-energy attack. Instead, the game turned into a defensive slugfest laden with turnovers. The Crimson capitalized on the sloppy play, scoring twice in the opening minute of the third quarter and again midway through the period to pull the margin within two.

The final frame continued on a bad note for Bruno, as Harvard found the back of the net yet again to extend its scoring streak to five in a row. At that point, the Bears’ 8-2 lead seemed like a distant memory. But the team did not lose its composure: Carson Song ’19 helped Bruno get back on track with an assist to Blynn that broke the team’s 25-minute scoreless run and doubled the lead to 9-7.

But the Crimson came right back four minutes later with a tally from Devin Dwyer to put the pressure on again. With the game slipping away, in stepped Bellistri. The captain came through in the clutch to score the last two goals of the game and hand the Bears an all-important victory over their Ivy League rivals.

After the emotional win, Bruno will have a week to recharge before it takes on Villanova in what should be a highly entertaining contest. The Wildcats (5-1) boast the nation’s second highest scoring offense. Tiffany said that it should be “an exciting challenge” to face off against a team that “plays as fast as we do.”