I

nitially, there was the scooter.

As Brown attackman Dylan Molloy began to work his way back from the broken foot he famously played on in last year’s NCAA men’s lacrosse semifinals, his hopes for a rapid recovery were a tad optimistic.

“It was very exciting,” Molloy said. “At first, I thought I was going right into a boot.”

"> Dylan Molloy: The Rehab, the New Regime and the Season Ahead | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY BRYCE VICKMARK

Despite a new supporting cast and his offseason foot surgery, reigning Tewaaraton winner Dylan Molloy believes Brown is poised to make another deep run into May.

Dylan Molloy: The Rehab, the New Regime and the Season Ahead


I

nitially, there was the scooter.

As Brown attackman Dylan Molloy began to work his way back from the broken foot he famously played on in last year’s NCAA men’s lacrosse semifinals, his hopes for a rapid recovery were a tad optimistic.

“It was very exciting,” Molloy said. “At first, I thought I was going right into a boot.”

Not so fast. Last year’s Tewaaraton winner spent his summer rising at 5 a.m., making it into rehab by 6 and then showering and heading to an internship at CCMP Capital Advisors in New York for a day of work.

The scooter, it turned out, didn’t lead directly to a boot. More like two crutches with only a little weight bearing. “I learned you can’t just put 230 pounds on it right away,” he said. Then some additional weight. Then down to one crutch.

Eventually there was the milestone of shoes, which helped lead Molloy to this Sunday afternoon. It marks Brown’s season opener against Quinnipiac, and the beginning of a senior year he hopes is even more memorable than his sterling junior season.

Brown’s offensive juggernaut was one of the riveting stories of the season. That it wasn’t a traditional power — at least not in the last few decades — played a role. The presence of open-minded coach Lars Tiffany, who would take over at Virginia less than a month after the season concluded, played a part, too.

But it was the players who made it work, Molloy as much as anyone. He had 62 goals and 54 assists, and then riveted the sport when he came back from a broken foot in two weeks to play in an overtime loss to Maryland in Philadelphia.

It’s little wonder new coach Mike Daly — who has known Molloy for about a decade since he coached the attackman’s older brother, Ryan, at Tufts — is plenty impressed with the complete player he inherited since taking over in Providence.

“Since we’ve been here, he’s been the hardest worker in the weight room and he’s been an incredible leader as one of our captains,” Daly said. “He just plays the game the way as a coach you want the game to be played. He’s the hardest rider in practice. He’s definitely everything we could hope for in our best player.”


"Once you start dodging real bodies, you couldn't think about it. You had to get out there and do the practice and make the muscles that were out of use start firing again." — Dylan Molloy on his recovery from offseason foot surgery


The lacrosse portion of the equation was never in doubt for this season. The question was how soon would Molloy be, well, Molloy again.

The timing of the injury didn’t help the Bears last season, but it gave them plenty of time to get things right when their first fall ball under Daly began. Molloy had surgery to insert a screw in his foot May 31, 2016, and wheeled up to accept his Tewaaraton Award on a scooter later that week. Then the hard work began.

“When he got here, he was starting to get slowly into it,” Daly said. “We were in no rush whatsoever to try to force that. The biggest thing was just getting back to being confident in putting weight on that thing.”

The fall, it turned out, was as much a test of Molloy’s mind as his foot. The X-rays were fine. He was walking in August. Noncontact work came in October. As the weeks passed by, the thoughts of what might happen as he turned on the outside of his right foot faded.

“It was just the mental awkwardness,” Molloy said. “It eventually got easier as they threw more things at me. Once you start dodging real bodies, you couldn’t think about it. You had to get out there and do the practice and make the muscles that were out of use start firing again.”








While getting back on the field was a driving force in the offseason, there was also the matter of getting to know a new staff. Brown had poached a Tufts assistant, Sean Kirwan, when it wanted to install a frantic system for the 2015 season. To maintain competitiveness and offensive continuity, they hired Daly away from a school he led to three NCAA Division III titles.

“Lacrosse-wise, it’s a pretty smooth transition,” Molloy said. “We’re just faster and faster. We’re learning more and more, which is great. Two years ago, when Kirwan came, it was, ‘This is ridiculous.’ I thought we had it, and now we’re going faster. That’s crazy. But that’s really the only thing.”

Still, the awareness of Molloy, of Brown, of the throwback, up-tempo systems means some things are different. Savvy followers of the sport knew the Bears were electric and understood Molloy was a budding star.

After a Tewaaraton turn and a place in last year’s NCAA semifinals, Molloy and Brown command attention. The big difference is so much of the supporting cast has graduated.

Gone are Kylor Bellistri and Henry Blynn and Bailey Tills, three major cogs in the offense. Star goalie Jack Kelly graduated, as did faceoff ace Will Gural. These Bears can’t help but to be different.

Molloy is the biggest known, on his team and maybe in the country. Daly shrugged off any concern about the senior worrying too much about external attention. And Molloy points to a talented group of newcomers as evidence Brown will be fine on the field if opponents allocate extra resources to contain him.

“It comes into making sure my teammates are going to be prepared, and I know they will be,” Molloy said. “Getting the other five into the mix and doing what they need to be doing is the biggest thing. If something happens to me, we need to make sure they’re contributing. I’m not too worried about being the known. I think with this coaching staff, it doesn’t matter what they throw at us.”




PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Molloy's memorable performance in the 2016 NCAA semifinals, playing against Maryland on a broken right foot, clinched the Tewaaraton Award.


It helps, though, to have the best player in the country from a year ago back for a final run. Fully healthy, Molloy has the potential to piece together another monster season as he closes out his college career.

As a sophomore, he helped Brown make a surprise postseason appearance. Then in 2016, a broken bone didn’t keep him off the field in the Bears’ first Memorial Day weekend appearance in 22 years.

From afar, Molloy’s ability to play — let alone score a couple goals — that afternoon conjures as much astonishment now as it did then. It’s not the only thing unchanged over the last nine months since that epic semifinal encounter in Philadelphia that ended with Maryland beating Brown 15-14 in overtime.

A rehab process complete and a season still to play, Molloy’s only regret about his rapid return was the outcome, and he’s intent on changing that this spring.

“It’s still the same,” Molloy said. “I haven’t been removed from it yet. Maybe one day when I stop playing. It’s so recent. I’d do the same thing today. It was kind of in the moment. I wish I did more in that game. I should’ve had one more goal or we should’ve won. That’s still a chip on my shoulder.”