May 25, 2011

Father & Son: Molloys Share Sunday Spotlight

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

Tufts senior captain Ryan Molloy (above) is shooting for his second national title on Sunday. Molloy's father, Don, has four rings and will be honored at halftime of this Sunday's title game, but the old man only has one thing on his mind.

The black and white videotape flickers on the TV screen. The quality isn't that great – nobody was talking "HD" in the early 1980s – but Ryan Molloy quickly recognizes the reckless figure barreling down the field in a lacrosse game that is being played very differently than the one with which he has become accustomed.

Molloy, then a 10th-grader, is viewing the game tape he acquired from the Hobart coaching staff and presented to his father, Don, as a 50th birthday present. It's one of two tapes. The one the youngster is watching is the Statesmen against Syracuse in the Dome in 1983. The other is Hobart versus Cortland from the same year in the fledgling Division III tournament.

Don Molloy darts across the screen, a replica 30 years younger than the man standing behind his son and watching the same screen. They both smile; one about what once was, the other about what is yet to come.

It was a memorable moment for a father and son.

It was also a preview of what will be a similar occurrence on Sunday evening in Baltimore.

At halftime of the NCAA Division III national championship game, Don will be on the field, looking up at the massive screen on the east end of M&T Bank Stadium, watching clips from the '81 Hobart championship season – the one whose 30th anniversary is being celebrated this year and one of the four national titles Molloy won with the Statesmen.

Walking out of the tunnel, and perhaps grabbing a quick glimpse of the end of the ceremony, will be Ryan, now a senior attackman and captain for the Tufts team searching for a repeat of last year's first NCAA crown. On the first glimpse of his son, Don Molloy will remember why he is in Baltimore. And it's not for a trip down memory lane.

"Nothing can compare to watching my son play," said Don, who won national championships from 1980-83 with Hobart. "That's the most. I like seeing my friends, but I get so much pleasure out of watching him play."

Much of Don's pleasure is derived from Ryan's ability to consistently defy conventional wisdom along his playing career. Whether it was playing as a first-grader in a third-grade youth league in Setauket, N.Y., or cracking the starting line-up as a 140-pound crease finisher at Long Island powerhouse Ward Melville, or quietly completing his career as the third-leading scorer in Tufts' lacrosse history, Ryan has managed to surreptitiously exceed initial expectations.

It was the same when Molloy arrived in Medford as a freshman.

"Ryan was a 'look team' guy and our defensive coaches came down and told us every day, 'What are you guys doing? Ryan Molloy scores against our defense every day. We can't stop him on man-up. Get him out of here,'" said Tufts coach Mike Daly. "We said, 'No, no,' and resisted it."

At just about the same time, the Jumbos hit a rough patch in 2008 and Daly felt revamping the line-up would be the answer. Molloy, slightly undersized, but with the 'Long Island public school' grit that Daly craves, was inserted into the starting ten.

"He got in and had two or three goals in the first game," said Daly. "As they say, that's how it goes. We hold it as a lesson to all of our younger players since him."

"D.J. and I had some chemistry right from the beginning," said Molloy, referring to Tufts' stud feeder and classmate D.J. Hessler. "I was able to throw some balls in the goal and was able to play from then on."

Barring a 20-point performance in the national title game ("I hope he gets it," said Daly), Molloy will finish third on the all-time Jumbos points list behind Hessler and Bryan Griffin. It was nothing he set as a goal, but something set in motion by his father. While Don did have his standards – "He didn't let me play baseball because it was too boring," said Ryan – he wasn't an oppressive parent. Ryan admits to breaking his father's heart by telling him soccer was his favorite sport in sixth grade.

Still, the old man wasn't about to give up on lacrosse.

"I was constantly playing with my dad and he was taking me to the wall every day," said Ryan, who would also test his skills against his talented younger brother. "I'd be doing one-on-ones with my dad in the back yard. I was always playing lacrosse with my dad growing up."

Despite the training with his father, there are very few similarities between the dad and son.

"He has a high lacrosse IQ and he's very careful with the ball and doesn't make a lot of mistakes," said Don. "He's more cautious with the ball than I was. It was a different brand of lacrosse back then."

"I was just impressed how different the game was," said Ryan, of viewing his father's tapes. "It was such a fast game and more reckless than it is now. I know we play a fast style, but everybody played fast then. It was incredible to watch."

Ryan will never be able to win four national championships like his father – he's already a senior and Division III has matured to a point where that is nearly impossible now – but it doesn't mean that a father and son can't enjoy a shared experience on Sunday. Regardless of the result, they'll both have championships to tell their children about.

Perhaps someday, Ryan's kids will be able to witness his accomplishments, much like he did with his father.

"I got to see him play with the little shorts and the big helmet," said Ryan with a chuckle. "But he always tells me how I should cherish it and understand it's the best time of your life."

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