February 24, 2011

Brown Offense in Search of New Identity

by Joel Censer | Special to Lacrosse Magazine | Censer Archive

Brown's David Hawley enjoyed a breakout season after transferring from Division III Williams. Hawley has taken to practicing with teammate Roger Ferguson to help prepare him for being guarded by a long pole as the focal point of the Bears' midfield.

© Greg Wall

Last year, opposing teams had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the Brown offense: a heavy dose of midfielder Reade Seligmann dodging from up-top, or All-American attackman Thomas Muldoon, an explosive, highly skilled quarterback, slashing his way to the net.

It may not have been unpredictable, but it worked pretty well. The Bears went 8-6 and won a share of the Ivy League men's lacrosse regular season crown before being unceremoniously dumped by Cornell 14-8 in the conference semifinals. They will host Quinnipiac in their 2011 season opener Saturday.

But after graduating those primary initiators, the Brown offense is left trying to adapt.

Senior captain Andrew Feinberg (35g, 7a) is the lead dog. The Bears' attackman suffered a broken foot that kept him out for the entire fall, but returns healthy. Since arriving in Providence, the southpaw has carved out a niche as a slick, lefty finisher with nice instincts around the cage. After leading the Bears in scoring the past two years -– as the primary beneficiary of Muldoon and Seligmann's handiwork -- Feinberg now plans to diversify his game and create for himself more.

"It's completely different. [Muldoon] made everyone's life so much easier ... Reade was the quarterback we ran things through at the midfield," Feinberg said. "We're still trying to figure everything out at this point."

Juniors Parker Brown (19g, 12a), a back-and-forth guy who saves his best work for behind the cage, and Rob Schlesinger (10g, 9a) will likely be the other starters on attack.

At the midfield, David Hawley returns as the headliner. After transferring from Division III Williams College last year, Hawley (27g, 4a) landed on the Bears' first midfield, where his blistering shot and quick release made him the perfect target for Seligmann's patented skip passes.

Like Feinberg, Hawley is adjusting to his new role in the Bears' offense, where he'll likely be guarded by a long pole and take on increased dodging responsibilities. To prepare, the former NESCAC Rookie of the Year has enlisted teammate and star long-stick midfielder Roger Ferguson to keep him on his toes at practice.

"Roger's one of the best long poles in the country," he said. "We stick together during drills."

Despite the graduation losses, Hawley thinks the offense has the potential to be dynamic, if not a bit more balanced, in 2011.

"Guys can carry from the attack. We have midfielders who can run downhill. There are a lot of people who do something different, which is good to have," he said.

In case the team faces a learning curve or inconsistencies in the half-field, head coach Lars Tiffany has continued to emphasize a fast, up-tempo approach.

He certainly has the defensive pieces to push transition. Ferguson is a thrilling end-to-end playmaker who starred between the stripes as a freshman. Also standing by are star senior defender Peter Fallon and goalie Matt Chriss, a former understudy of Jordan Burke who came on strong at the end of the season.

"We have an experienced defense," Tiffany said. "We need them to be stalwart early in the year, so we can have a little more growing time with our 'O.'"

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