NCAA Notes: Role Reversal Has Brown Offense Humming
Four games into its 2016 season, undefeated, ninth-ranked Brown looks very much like the Bears of recent vintage.
Under 10th-year coach Lars Tiffany, the Bears play at the same, breakneck pace that has made them a rising power in the Ivy League. Brown, 12-5 a year ago, wants to go from defense to offense as swiftly as possible. The Bears want to trap opposing, offensive midfielders on defense, and want their close defensemen or defensive midfielders to take good shots in transition whenever they are available.
It's no shock that, after crushing Holy Cross on Tuesday by a 20-7 count, the Bears lead the nation with a scoring average of 17.75 goals per game.
But something new is brewing in Providence, in the form of a role reversal.
Junior attackman Dylan Molloy, who scored a school-record, 62 goals a year ago and was the most prolific finisher in Division I with 3.65 goals per game, is emerging as the Bears' primary feeder.
Molloy scored one goal against Holy Cross. But he confounded the Crusaders with eight assists, as senior attackmen Kylor Bellestri and Henry Blynn accounted for 11 goals, with Bellestri going off for a career-high seven scores.
Molloy isn't exactly a stranger to the facilitator role. He did record 30 assists in 2015. But he already has 16 assists this season. And it's apparent that Molloy is determined to make defenses pay this spring in multiple ways.
"It's a product of our coaching staff working to make [Molloy] a better feeder and of Dylan wanting to be great by being open-minded and willing to take some constructive criticism," Tiffany says. "He realizes that when he's drawing all of those slides and when defenses throw two or three guys at him, he can still affect the game by getting the ball out of his stick quickly."
Opposing coaches already have plenty on their plate when facing Brown, from senior faceoff specialist Will Gural to senior goalie Jack Kelly to 6-5 senior midfielder Brendan Caputo. Then there's the quick-strike rope unit led by junior LSM Larken Kemp, who already has a goal and six assists in 2016.
Now they must contend with a new-and-improved version of Molloy.
"I think [opposing] defensive coordinators will realize that last year's game plan on stopping [Molloy] is in need of a few edits," Tiffany says.
Richmond celebrates a score in its 12-10 win over Duke. (Richmond Athletics)
Duke Playing Tight In Recent Slide
Before its recent stumbles – a 14-9 loss at home to Harvard on Saturday, then Monday's stunning, 12-10 loss at Richmond – No. 8 Duke had shown a concerning inability to take care of the ball.
When the Blue Devils (4-3) improved their record to 2-0 with a 13-11 win over Lehigh back on February 14, Duke nearly blew a 9-3 halftime lead. The Blue Devils turned the ball over 20 times that day, including 17 miscues after the first quarter.
Duke, which plays at No. 7 Loyola (4-1) on Saturday, repeated that sloppiness last week. The Harvard loss featured 19 turnovers and nine failed clears by Duke. At Richmond, the Spiders unleashed their 10-man ride with great impact, as the Blue Devils committed 19 turnovers and four failed clears.
"We're playing tight right now. We're not enjoying the sport," said Duke coach John Danowski, who blamed himself for scheduling the Richmond game on such a short turnaround, something Danowski has done consistently with past, nonconference schedules.
"I think I learned a great lesson. We need to practice more and play fewer games," he adds. "I thought our guys would be angry at Richmond, that there would be that carryover from Harvard. There wasn't. When kids look at the schedule and mark down games they are sure to win, this happens."
Besides Lehigh, the Blue Devils have beaten High Point, Mercer and Jacksonville. They also dropped a 14-12 decision to Denver on Feb. 20.
The Blue Devils are still in pursuit of their first signature win. They will try to avoid a three-game losing streak for the second straight season.
"I'm very curious to see how we'll respond to our opponent this week," Danowski says. "We're an average team right now."
Hot Start for Rutgers
No. 19 Rutgers is off to its first 5-0 start since 2003* and is ranked for the first time since 2011. And don't be surprised if the Scarlet Knights, looking for their first winning season in nine years and their first NCAA tournament berth since 2004, hang around and become serious contenders in the Big Ten.
Under fifth-year coach Brian Brecht, Rutgers is making an early-season mark with an offense led by the most productive attack unit in the nation, and a defense that is wreaking havoc with its penchant for takeaways and instant offense.
"We were very young last year, going through a change of culture and style of play," Brecht says. "We're not just a year older. We're a year better with a real collection of puzzle pieces now."
Some of the new faces of Rutgers lacrosse include redshirt freshman attackman Adam Charalamades (team-high 17 goals) and sophomore attackman Jules Heningburg (14 goals). Along with senior quarterback Scott Bieda (13 goals, 13 assists), they have become an interchangeable trio.
Then there is sophomore defensive midfielder Christian Mazzone, who has emerged as a potent threat on a strong rope unit led by senior LSM Zack Sikora, an all-conference performer headed to the MLL with the Charlotte Hounds.
Mazzone, 5 feet 9, earned his second straight Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award after hanging a hat trick – a true rarity at the SSM position – on Monmouth in a 12-6 win. In victories over Monmouth and Wagner, he combined to scoop 10 ground balls and cause five turnovers.
The Scarlet Knights are averaged nine forced turnovers per game.
"All of our short-sticks [including Christian Scarpello, Austin Divitcos and Zackary Franckowiak] are high school All-Americans who were known for their offense," Brecht says. "Mazzone scored 60 goals as a high school senior. He's got a real edge to him. He's slick and tough as nails."
*Rutgers lost to Stony Brook Friday evening for its first blemish of the season.
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