Sports

No. 1 Terps top men’s lacrosse despite Molloy’s ’17 return

Tewaaraton favorite plays on broken foot, but Bears fall in OT after four-goal comeback

By
Senior Staff Writer
Sunday, May 29, 2016

A storybook season came to an end for the men’s lacrosse team Saturday in the national semifinal in Philadelphia. No. 5 Bruno fell to top-ranked Maryland, 15-14 in overtime.

Despite the loss, the Bears (16-3) showed the rest of the nation — on the biggest stage in college lacrosse — what Brown fans saw all year: grit, a never-die attitude and high-powered offense.

The drama started before the opening whistle, as Tewaaraton award finalist Dylan Molloy ’17 came out for warmups on his broken foot, which he suffered in Brown’s first-round win over Johns Hopkins. After spending the quarterfinal against Navy on the sideline in street clothes and a walking boot and not practicing all week, it was a surprise to many to see the junior suited up. Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90 said after the Navy game that Molloy was “highly unlikely” to play against the Terrapins.

Maryland (17-2) opened up a 4-1 lead, but as he had all year, Molloy sparked the offense with his 61st goal of the season, opening up a 6-1 Bruno run. He was clearly limited by the injury, limping visibly during play, but still managed to score a pair of goals.

The Terps carried a 9-8 lead into halftime and capitalized on a sloppy third quarter from the Bears to stretch the lead to 12-9 heading into the final frame.

Reminiscent of the team’s loss to Harvard in the Ivy League tournament, turnovers proved to be the Bears’ achilles heel early in the second half. Bruno went over 20 minutes of gameplay without a goal, from the end of the second quarter to the end of the third. But the consequences could have been much worse if it weren’t for first-team All-American goalie Jack Kelly ’16, who made seven third-quarter saves, many from point-blank range, to keep Brown in the game.

“There’s no excuse for it. We were just kind of throwing the ball away,” said junior midfielder  Larken Kemp ’17. “We were feeling the pressure maybe a little bit.”

“There was a stretch there at the end of the second quarter through much of the third quarter, we just couldn’t sort of make that next pass and complete it,” Tiffany said to reporters after the game. “Certainly, those are on us.”

Things looked bleak for Brown after Maryland’s Henry West scored with 9:33 remaining in the game to bring the score to 14-10.

But as the game’s commentators noted, four goals is nothing for the nation’s highest-scoring offense, and after a goal from Bailey Tills ’16, the floodgates opened.

A quick goal from Kylor Bellistri ’16 and another from Henry Blynn ’16 cut the lead to one and completely swung the momentum in Brown’s favor. With Maryland reeling, Brendan Caputo ’16 launched a shot past Maryland’s Kyle Bernlohr with 1:49 remaining, sending the Brown bench into jubilation.

Both teams had a chance with possession in the final minutes, but the clock would hit zero before either team could break the tie, sending the game into sudden-death overtime.

Will Gural ’16 won the opening face-off forward but Brown couldn’t corral the ground ball, allowing Maryland to set up its offense. In what appeared to be a miscommunication on defense, Maryland’s Colin Heacock was left open in front of the net, where he faked out Kelly and buried the winning goal for the Terrapins.

Despite the heartbreaking close to the season, taking the number-one team in the nation to overtime thanks to a furious comeback showed the determination of Tiffany’s team.

“Not for a second did we think we were out of it,” Kemp said. “Everyone believed. In every huddle, no one was down on each other. Everyone thought we were coming back.”

The effort of Molloy, who will have surgery on his foot Tuesday, similarly embodied the gritty personality of this team. In a post-game press conference, Molloy made it clear that there was no way he was going to be held out of the game.

“I needed to be out there after last weekend. Being on the sidelines is probably the hardest thing ever. So whatever the risks were, I had to take it,” he said in the press conference. “I just needed to be out there with my teammates once more.”

While he was limited, the junior’s presence surely provided an emotional lift to his teammates.

“Anyone in that room would sacrifice anything for the guy next to him,” Kemp said. “With Dylan, he kind of encapsulated that with the amount of rehab he was putting in. It means the world.”

“It was just incredible to watch. I think that he made our team proud, our school proud and our league proud,” Kelly told reporters after the game. “A lot of people look at the Ivy League and think it’s a bunch of softies, but you look at Dylan Molloy, battling through a broken foot.”

On top of advancing to the final four for only the second the time in school history, the accomplishments for this team and the senior class in particular are seemingly endless. Sixteen wins is a school record. Kelly, Molloy and Kemp were named first-team All-Americans before the game, and five other Brown players were selected for the second and third teams. Bellistri led the nation in goals with a school-record 63, one ahead of Molloy.

But beyond the eye-popping stats, the leadership of the team’s 10 seniors was perhaps the most valuable contribution of the class.

“I love this team. I use that word not haphazardly,” Tiffany said after the game. “The group, the effort, the commitment, you know, everyone works hard, but there’s something different about this team.”

“We had seniors, leaving everything out there every practice, every ground ball, and it’s that effort that gets you to this stage,” Kemp said. “People only see the end result, but the fact of the matter is that those guys came in, they had a swagger about them, they believed we were going to get here, and they led us to the promised land. It’s been a thrill.”