The No. 3 men’s lacrosse team did not have a traditional spring break. Instead of spending the week at the beach, the Bears were busy playing No. 6 Villanova (6-3) and conference rival Princeton (2-6, 0-3 Ivy). But the extra work paid off, as Bruno posted a pair of dominant, 19-8 wins to keep its perfect record intact. Now more than halfway though the season, the Bears (8-0, 2-0) have proven that they are a serious contender not only for an Ivy League title but also for the national championship.
No. 3 Brown 19, No. 6 Villanova 8
There was a lot of excitement before Tuesday’s matchup between Brown and Villanova, then the first- and second-ranked offenses, respectively, in college lacrosse. Both squads were looking for a marquee top-10 win to erase any doubts about their place among the nation’s best teams. When the final whistle blew that afternoon, the Bears left the field with a statement win.
“We could not have been more excited about the chance to play a top-10 team in their stadium,” said Head Coach Lars Tiffany ’90. “Our men defined our style of play and the tempo of that game from the opening whistle.”
Bruno’s offense was once again in peak form, but it was the defensive effort that helped the team cruise to a 19-8 victory. Facing off against the Wildcats’ high-octane offense, the Bears knew they were in for a test.
Alec Tulett ’17 was given perhaps the toughest task: guarding Jake Froccaro, the nation’s second-leading scorer. The junior defenseman did a superb job, holding Villanova’s star to just one goal and one assist. Also playing their part in stopping the Wildcats were John Yozzo-Scaperotta ’16, who caused a team-high two turnovers, and Will Gural ’16, who picked up seven ground balls.
On the other end of the field, the offense was clicking. The Bears were led by the usual suspects — Dylan Molloy ’17, Kylor Bellistri ’16 and Henry Blynn ’16 — each of whom tallied five points on the day.
In the first quarter, Bellistri kicked things off for Bruno, scoring the team’s first two goals. Villanova managed to keep the game close, trailing the Bears just 4-2 midway though the period. But the game quickly turned into a blowout, as the Bears broke off a 7-0 run and took an 11-2 lead into halftime.
In the second half, the Wildcats seemed to get back on track with a goal 11 seconds into the frame, but Bruno responded with a surprising goal from goalie Jack Kelly ’16 just moments later. From there, the two teams traded goals throughout the third quarter to maintain the 11-goal margin, ending at 15-6. The last period proved to be merely a formality, with the final score settling at 19-8.
No. 3 Brown 19, Princeton 8
After taking down one highly touted opponent, Bruno turned its attention toward Ivy League rival Princeton for Saturday’s contest. Though they were the underdogs, the Tigers had the extra motivation of trying to avoid a 0-3 start in conference play. But the incentive proved insufficient.
After a tight first half, Bruno put the game away with a dominant third quarter and recorded its second 19-8 win of the week.
The Bears were led by Molloy, who erupted for 11 points on six goals and five assists. The junior attacker leads the nation with 6.38 points per game. At the face-off X, Gural continued his season-long dominance by taking away 13 of 20 opportunities from the Tigers, while Ted Ottens ’17.5 also grabbed seven of nine.
Larken Kemp ’17 was brilliant on the defensive end, picking up six ground balls and forcing two turnovers. In goal, Kelly was his typical self, making several point-blank saves and stopping 10 of 18 Tiger shots.
Saturday’s contest started off as well as it could have for Bruno, as the squad raced out to a 5-0 lead just six minutes into the game. But the Tigers responded nicely and cut the deficit to 6-3 by the end of the first quarter. At the start of the second, the Bears seemed to have righted the ship by scoring a goal within the first minute, but Princeton battled back to draw within 7-6 by the end of the first half.
With momentum in their favor, the Tigers looked poised to give Bruno a run for its money in the second half. But Molloy had other ideas, tallying twice in the opening five minutes of the frame to kickstart a 4-0 run. After conceding two goals, the Bears put the hammer down, ending the quarter on a 5-0 run to push the score to 16-8.
By the end of the fourth, Bruno found itself on the winning end of a second consecutive 19-8 contest.
“The emotional strength of this team is what allowed us to regroup at halftime and play such a strong second half,” Tiffany said. “The men willed the game back into our style and our favor.”
The Bears now have a quick turnaround as they prepare for Tuesday’s game against Bryant. Last year, the Bulldogs provided a surprisingly tough test, falling to the Bears 9-8 despite finishing the year with a losing record.
Bryant is “a team that always plays with unrelenting heart and grit. We respect them wholeheartedly,” Tiffany said.
Bruno should expect the Bulldogs to give everything they have Tuesday. After all, the target on its back is only getting bigger.