There was plenty of hype surrounding the men’s lacrosse team before the season started in February. Excitement was high for good reason, as the Bears were coming off a breakout year that led to an Ivy League championship and a trip to the first round of the NCAA tournament. But it was fair to wonder how Bruno would handle the pressure of becoming a team with a target on its back.
Five games into the young season, it seems safe to say that the Bears have lived up to the expectations. After starting the year ranked 10th in the nation, they have breezed through the early portion of their schedule while posting the highest average margin of victory in the country. Now, ranked fifth nationally, Bruno hopes to continue building on its promising start when it kicks off Ivy League play against No. 14 Harvard Saturday.
“It means a lot to us to have gotten off to this start, especially because of all the work we put in over the winter,” said attacker Henry Blynn ’16. “I think, moving forward, we can look at these games as encouraging, but we have to stay confident and focused.”
One of the main sources of this confidence has been the team’s potent offensive attack. After installing a new system last year under the guidance of second-year Assistant Coach Sean Kirwan, the Bears have taken what was already one of the country’s best scoring units and turned it into something even better. Bruno currently ranks as the number one offense in the nation, averaging an impressive 18.6 goals per game.
The increased efficiency has much to do with the Bears’ vastly improved six v. six offense, said defenseman Alec Tulett ’17. While the team had no trouble scoring in transition a year ago, it often stumbled when the pace of play slowed. This time around, that hasn’t been the case, as Bruno has found numerous ways to find the back of the net within its more traditional set offenses.
Another important factor has been attacker Dylan Molloy ’17, who has taken on a new role after leading the nation in scoring last year. With so much attention geared towards keeping him away from the goal, a lot of opportunities have opened up for other players, Blynn said.
This is more than evident when looking at the stats. Perhaps the biggest beneficiary has been captain Kylor Bellistri ’16, who is currently second in the country at four goals per game. Bellistri was just named the USILA’s Division I Offensive Player of the Week after tallying 13 goals in the last two games alone. Blynn and Bailey Tills ’16 have also been heavily involved, scoring 14 and eight goals during the season, respectively.
But it would be a mistake to think that Molloy only serves the purpose of a decoy. The junior standout has become the Bears’ main distributor and leads the nation in both assists and points per game. Even with this new style of play, Molloy has managed to score three times per contest, good enough for eighth in the country.
The face-off X has also been an area where the Bears have excelled, often sparking the team’s high-octane system. After a solid junior year, Will Gural ’16 has blossomed into the nation’s number one face-off specialist, converting at an astounding rate of 75.8 percent. With Ted Ottens ’18 right behind Gural on the depth chart, the healthy competition has lead to the improvement of both players, Tulett said.
While it would be easy to talk about the offense all day, Bruno is anything but a one-dimensional team. You can find three of the team’s best players on the defensive side of the field, starting with All-American Captain Jack Kelly ’16 in the goal. Adding to the long list of top-ranked Bears, Kelly is first in save percentage in the nation with a 65.5 percent success rate. Anchoring the defense in front of him are Tulett and All-American Larken Kemp ’17, who constantly disrupt play in the midfield. The two are tied for sixth in turnovers caused per game, and Tulett has averaged an impressive 7.2 ground balls per game.
There is no denying that the stats are impressive, but the numbers won’t mean anything once the Bears take the field in Cambridge Saturday. After losing its last two contests, the Crimson will be eager to right the ship and spoil Bruno’s perfect start. Blynn and Tulett expressed their excitement for the game, noting that playing Harvard is always a big rivalry.
According to Tulett, it’s pretty simple: “We hate Harvard, and they don’t like us.”