Brown is playing championship-caliber lacrosse again, just in time to challenge Navy for a berth in the NCAA Final Four Memorial Day Weekend in Philadelphia.
Eight days after losing to Harvard in the Ivy League semifinals, the fifth-seeded Bears (15-2) crushed perennial power Johns Hopkins, 17-8, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Saturday before a standing room only crowd of 3,200 at Stevenson-Pincince Field in Providence. They earned a berth in quarterfinals next Saturday at Brown Stadium.
Unseeded Navy (11-4) upset fourth-seeded Yale (13-3), 13-10, Sunday in New Haven. Top-seeded Maryland (15-2) and eighth-seeded Syracuse (12-4) will meet in the other quarterfinal at Brown Stadium. The Terps eliminated Quinnipiac, and the Orange rallied to beat Albany. Game times are noon and 2:30.
The other quarterfinals will be at Ohio State. Third-seeded Notre Dame (11-3) will play unseeded North Carolina (9-6), and seventh-seeded Loyola of Baltimore (13-3) will take on unseeded Towson (15-2). Towson upset second-seeded Denver in the first round.
The Brown-Hopkins game had a real college feel to it. Other than ESPNU banners on the sideline fence and longer than usual timeouts for the cable network to rake in advertising dollars, there was little commercial hype except for the quaint Frenchy’s concession booths. Inside the chain-link fence fans filled the west grandstand, and students packed the east stands. Dozens lined the fences on both sides, but security personnel kept spectators from the berm at the scoreboard end of the field.
Sold Out signs disappointed fans hoping to buy tickets at the last minute. They stood on the slope outside, still able to glimpse part of the field. Others were happy to continue tailgating in the parking lot at the north end and peek through the windscreen.
After a slow start – Brown, played the first 10:37 before scoring and led only 6-2 at the half -- it was show time for coach Lars Tiffany’s hard-charging, explosive Bears. Faceoff specialist Will Gural won the draw to start the second half, sprinted down the middle and whipped a shot by Hopkins goalkeeper Grant Limone seven seconds into the quarter. Johns Hopkins countered, but six seconds later Gural won another faceoff and scored, igniting a seven-goal barrage, keeping the cheering students on their feet and convincing Hopkins fans this was not the Blue Jays day. It was 14-3 after three quarters. Brown had won 15 of 20 faceoffs, Gural 12 of 16.
Brown’s awesome attack, averaging best-in-the-nation 17 goals per game, produced again. Junior Dylan Molloy scored four goals for a career total of 151, breaking the school record of 150 set by Andy Towers in 1993. Molloy also assisted on four goals. Senior Henry Blynn scored four times and senior Kylor Bellistri three. Gural won 16 of 20 faceoffs and picked up 10 ground balls, the game high.
Molloy, an All-America and two-time Ivy League player of the year, leads the nation with 60 goals, 54 assists, 114 points and 6.73 points per game. He is the active leading scorer in the nation with 245 points, and his 114 this season put him fourth in NCAA history. He is the sixth player in NCAA history with 50 goals and 50 assists in a season.
The Tewaaraton Foundation on Sunday named him one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the best college player and considered the Heisman Trophy of lacrosse.
This Brown team is more than offense. The Bears can defend as well as score. They shut out the Blue Jays in the first quarter and held them to one goal in the third. Senior Jack Kelly, the All-America goalie, made 11 saves in the game.
The change in venue for the quarterfinal doubleheader will be interesting because the playing surface is grass, slower than the artificial turf at Stevenson-Pincince Field. Also, the stadium field has not been used since the football season last fall. Brown should have a slight advantage because the Bears will be able to practice on the field this week.
Brown last played lacrosse in Brown Stadium in 1996 against Syracuse. Fleet Bank sponsored a tournament there in 1994 and 1995. The last lacrosse games played in the stadium were in 2002, an NCAA first round doubleheader featuring Stony Brook, Cornell, Massachusetts and Fairfield.