It was an up-and-down week for the No. 2 men’s lacrosse team. After dropping a game against in-state rivals Bryant for its first loss of the season, Bruno got back on track by cruising past Ivy League foe Penn Saturday. The Bears are still undefeated in conference play with a huge matchup against No. 3 Yale on the docket Saturday.
Bryant 11, Brown 10
It was a humbling Tuesday night for the Bears. Sitting with a perfect record of 8-0 and the program’s highest ranking since 1991, the Bears stumbled against the Bulldogs in a heart-stopping 11-10 overtime loss. Bruno held a three-goal advantage with under three minutes remaining in the game, but Bryant pulled off the unlikely comeback bid to give the Bears their first loss of the season.
“I’ll never say losing a game can be good for a team — I don’t believe that,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “But I would say losing can sharpen the sword.”
On a frigid night at Stevenson-Pincince Field, it was not a typical start to a Brown lacrosse game. Instead of a back-and-forth high-scoring affair, fans were greeted with a slugfest that didn’t see its first goal until over halfway through the first quarter. It was Henry Blynn ’16 who kicked things off, but the Bulldogs quickly responded within the minute to notch the score at one. The short burst of goals continued 40 seconds later when Dylan Molloy ’17 sent a beautiful pass to Matt Graham ’16, who tallied to help the Bears regain the lead. But at the quarter’s end, Bryant scored again to tie the game.
Momentum continued in the Bulldogs’ favor in the second period, as they quickly scored to take a 3-2 lead. The goal marked the first time the Bears had been trailing in a game since the opening minutes of their very first contest against Quinnipiac. But Bruno was unfazed and tied the contest within 40 seconds when national points leader Molloy found the back of the net. Three minutes later, Blynn scored his second of the day to give his team a 4-3 advantage. The rest of the period saw little offensive action and the scoreline remained when the halftime whistle blew.
The opening of the second half picked up right where things left off, as both teams struggled to generate scoring opportunities. Bryant broke the ice over six minutes into the quarter, leveling the score yet again. After conceding the goal, Bruno showed its first signs of playing like the team fans have seen all season. Kylor Bellistri ’16 sparked a 3-0 run after scoring from a nice feed from Molloy, and all of the sudden, Bryant’s upset hopes started to look bleak. After trading goals, the Bears carried a three-goal lead into the final frame.
While fans might have expected the lead to be enough, the Bulldogs had other ideas. Down 9-7 with just 2:36 remaining, Bryant went on its own 2-0 scoring spree to even the game with a minute left. It looked like the Bears saved themselves when Larken Kemp ’17 tallied at the 53-second mark, but the Bulldogs found the back of the net with 27 seconds remaining to shock Bruno and send the contest into overtime.
The Bears had their chances in the extra period, but after a shot from Molloy was saved, Bryant ran an impressive counter-attack that resulted in the game-winning goal.
Tiffany wasn’t pleased with the loss, but he was happy with the way that the team handled the result.
It was “a good next step for Brown lacrosse to come together and really analyze what we’ve done,” he said. “We got to talk to each other, hear each others’ opinions and feelings about how we can become a better unit.”
Brown 17, Penn 6
By the time Saturday rolled around, Bruno certainly did look like a better unit. The Bears’ swords were as sharp as ever in a 17-6 demolition of the Quakers. The team was led by Molloy, who after scoring only once against Bryant, erupted for eight goals to get the offense back on track.
Unlike Tuesday’s game, the scoring came early and often against Penn. Despite conceding the first goal of the game, the Bears quickly turned things in their favor and rattled off seven goals in a row to build a 7-1 lead heading into the second quarter. The attack was well-rounded, as five different players found the back of the net, including underclassmen Stephen Hudak ’18 and Carson Song ’19.
The second period was more of the same for Bruno, as it extended its lead to 11-1 after two goals from Bellistri and a tally each from Molloy and Blynn.
While the offense was clicking, the star of the day was goalie Jack Kelly ’16, who blocked 15 of 19 shots and repeatedly denied the Quakers from scoring at close range. The senior leads the nation in save percentage at an impressive 61.2 percent.
“What he does for our program cannot be (overstated),” Tiffany said. “His teammates draw confidence and inspiration from his preparation, his play and his character.”
In the third quarter, Kelly continued to make things difficult for Penn as he helped the team build a 16-3 advantage heading into the fourth quarter. By that time, the final period became merely a formality with the scoreline settling at 17-6.
The dominant win was just what the Bears needed to right the ship after losing earlier in the week. With Saturday’s contest against Yale around the corner, Bruno now has all the confidence it needs to try to take down the Elis for the first time since 2009.
“While we recognize that the Yale game is not just another game, we will approach our next opponent as we have all year,” Tiffany said. “We believe in our system and we will continue with it.”