Men's Lacrosse Feature | Remarkable duo leading Jumbos, each other into history books
Hessler, Molloy enjoy rare chemistry on and off the field
Published: Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Updated: Wednesday, March 10, 2010 17:03
When one has a conversation with juniors D.J. Hessler and Ryan Molloy, the only thing that stands out is what typical Tufts students they are. Hessler, standing at 6−foot−1 and a generous 175 pounds, is a chemical engineer who graduated high school near the top of his class. Molloy, 5−foot−9 and tipping the scales at 180, is a quick−witted economics major who isn't afraid to make himself the punch line.
One would never guess that the two of them compose one of the most dynamic attack tandems in the history of the men's lacrosse program a tandem that has produced an unheard−of 218 combined points in just two years at Tufts.
But to those who know Hessler and Molloy — those who know how driven they are in all their endeavors, academic and otherwise — their success on the lacrosse field is less than shocking.
"It wasn't much of a surprise, the impact [Ryan] had as a freshman," said senior tri−captain Mike Droesch, who attended Ward Melville High School with Molloy. "He was a very talented player from high school; he was always a good finisher, especially on the crease, and that's only gotten better since his time here."
"I knew [D.J.] would make an immediate impact," said Rick Brocato, Hessler's high school coach. "And I believed in my heart of hearts that he was going to be an All−American … I knew with his drive and determination to be best, he would thrive, and I knew coach [Mike] Daly would work on the physical side of his game, getting him in weight room. So you put all those factors together, and for me it was a no−brainer, and that he would be an instant success."
Hessler graduated in 2007 from St. Paul's, a private high school that boasts one of the most prestigious programs in lacrosse−crazed Maryland, as an Academic All−American. Coming from a school that churns out Div. I prospects, Hessler developed not only the physical skills necessary to play lacrosse, but also the cognitive aptitude to excel at it.
"For lacrosse, it's just such a good area," Hessler said. "I've been playing since I was four maybe. They have great clinics there, everything set up, so you just go through the entire thing. Especially playing where it's so popular and everyone's been playing for so long, it's completely different [than] going some place … that's just starting a program. So playing all the time with kids who have a ton of skill, who know what they're doing on the field, makes you not only a better player but a smarter player."
"[Hessler] grew exponentially, no doubt, over the course of his career," Brocato said. "He made the team as a junior after leading JV to a championship … and we could see he was a real technician. Everything he did was fundamentally really sound. We used to call him ‘Textbook.' He would make the right read, the right pass. Senior year he was our quarterback. D.J. was the guy that made our offense go and opened it up for others. He knew not only what his job was supposed to be, but what everyone else on the field was supposed to do as well."
At Tufts, Hessler wasted no time impressing his coaches and teammates; in his first two games, he racked up 12 points — seven goals and five assists — and hit a game−winner in double overtime to defeat Eastern Connecticut on March 11, 2008. He never looked back after that point, racking up 23 goals and 23 assists that year for a team−leading total of 46 points.
Senior Keith Hinton, a former goalie for the Tufts lacrosse team and a native of Maryland, has a unique perspective on Hessler, having played with him at Tufts and against him several times in high school.
"He is one of the most complete lacrosse players I ever played with or against," Hinton said. "He's not the most physically talented — he's not the fastest or strongest — but his field vision is incredible. I have not played with a lot of guys that see the field and the play developing so early. It's like everyone else is playing checkers and he's playing chess. He sees two passes ahead, and he knows when to get rid of it and when to take it to the hole. He makes every player around him better."
While Hessler was being heavily relied upon from day one, Molloy took a little time to work his way into the rotation, not starting until the seventh game of the 2008 season against Trinity. But once he got there, he proved that he belonged.
"We had a three−game losing streak, which we don't tolerate and don't expect, so we felt going into that Trinity game that we were making some changes," Daly said. "We moved lineup to include Ryan, who was doing a great job against the first defense in practice. Defensive coaches said this guy needs to play, so we threw him in and he had four goals, and that's how you make the most of your opportunity."
"I was definitely nervous going into my first game, but then the first minute of the game D.J. found me for my first collegiate goal, so that kind of settled me in," Molloy added.
Hessler and Molloy quickly developed a strong friendship during their freshman year, which has only grown since. They currently live in adjoining rooms in the same off−campus house, and they joke about their fictional "dates" to J.P. Licks and Outback Steakhouse. That chemistry off the field has undoubtedly helped to improve their teamwork on it.
"Those guys have clicked from the beginning," Daly said. "They're just on the same page, and there's times when as coaches you have a different angle, and we don't even know how D.J. sees Ryan, but he just seems to know where he is all the time, which is a big part of their success."
The Hessler−to−Molloy combination has become a common one for the Jumbos — and an effective one as well. In their sophomore season in 2009, Hessler broke the Tufts records for assists and points with 47 and 89, respectively, while Molloy accumulated 44 goals — including eight in a single game against Bates on March 3 — which ranks as the fourth−most by any Jumbo in a single season and was the most by any underclassman in the NESCAC. Both of them also shot over 40 percent while taking over 100 shots apiece.