Every time Brett Malamphy takes a faceoff it is a triumph.
Not because Malamphy wins the majority of draws he handles for Salisbury men’s lacrosse, which will attempt to defend its Division III national championship on Sunday.
Rather, Malamphy’s integral role with the perennial powerhouse Sea Gulls is a testament to the determination and perseverance of a young man who was dealt a difficult hand.
Malamphy has fought a frustrating battle with a rare sleep disorder that threatened to not only derail his lacrosse career, but his life as well. There have been some tough times along the way, but the Crofton resident has come out the other side with a positive outlook.
“It’s been a long, hard road, but to be honest I feel like I’ve become a lot stronger as a person because of it,” Malamphy said. “I feel like God made me go through this for a reason. Battling through adversity at such a young age made me appreciate the important things in life like faith and family.”
Malamphy is having the time of his life as a standout faceoff specialist for the most decorated program in the history of Division III men’s lacrosse. Third-ranked Salisbury (20-3) will be seeking its 13th national title when it squares off against No. 9 Wesleyan (18-3) at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
As always, faceoffs will be a crucial factor in the contest and Malamphy will team with T.J. Logue to try to give the Sea Gulls more possession time.
“This is a dream come true and I’m just so glad to be part of it. It is very surreal to think about playing in a national championship game. It still hasn’t really hit me yet,” Malamphy said. “I can remember going to the NCAA championships as a kid and there is no bigger stage to play on for lacrosse. This is going to be an experience I will never forget.”
Making the moment even more special is the fact Malamphy had to overcome so much just to reach this point. As a freshman at St. Mary’s High, the youngster could not figure out why he was so tired during the school day after seemingly getting plenty of sleep.
So began a difficult journey that took many twists and turns before doctors finally pinned down what was wrong with the teenager. John and Kathleen Malamphy took their son to see a slew of specialists and he even underwent testing at Kennedy Krieger Institute.
“I think the toughest part was getting an accurate diagnosis. We went to see so many different sleep specialists and heard all sorts of varying opinions,” Kathleen Malamphy said.
SEARCHING FOR AN ANSWER
Brett Malamphy transferred from St. Mary’s to Arundel High, largely because he missed so much school because of doctor’s appointments. Always an effective full-field midfielder at the recreation level, Malamphy suddenly found conditioning to be an issue for the first time in his career.
“I wound up gaining a lot of weight, which really hurt my endurance,” he said. “No matter how much I worked out the weight would not come off.”
Kathleen Malamphy became more and more concerned with the inability of doctors to solve the issue, which exhibited some symptoms of sleep apnea and narcolepsy.
“As a mother who has done immense research and been an advocate, there are a lot of misconceptions about sleep disorders,” Kathleen said. “Doctors did not have Brett completely diagnosed for three years, which was incredibly frustrating. I give Brett so much credit because he was so resilient and so determined that he was not going to let this beat him.”
Speaking to The Capital on Friday from Boston, John and Kathleen could not even express the combination of joy and relief they felt when doctors finally prescribed an FDA-approved medicine that solved the problem.
“We finally got Brett on the right medication and things started clicking,” John Malamphy said. “Brett began to get his life back more and more each day.”
Brett Malamphy helped Arundel capture the county championship in 2013 and steadily developed into the Division I prospect most observers predicted he would become going into high school. The 5-foot-10, 195-pounder was named to the Public School Coaches’ All-County team as both a midfielder and a faceoff specialist his junior and senior seasons.
It wasn’t always easy as the sleep disorder and its affects were a constant concern.
“There were times as a sophomore and junior, before we got things straightened out, that Brett would exert every ounce of energy he had on that field for two hours then collapse for the next two hours,” Kathleen said.
Malamphy earned a scholarship to UMBC and was slated to succeed fellow Crofton resident Phil Poe as the primary faceoff specialist when he suffered another setback. A torn meniscus sustained during the fall season led the coaching staff to use long stick midfielder Nathan Klein to take the draws.
That despite the fact Malamphy performed well when given a chance; he captured 12 of 14 faceoffs against Lafayette on March 27, 2015. He finished 33-for-66 (50 percent) for the season as a freshman.
Some recurring symptoms of the sleep disorder led Malamphy to withdraw from school during the 2016 spring semester after appearing in three games as a sophomore. He spent another semester at UMBC to wrap up some classes toward a computer science degree then transferred to Salisbury last January.
“When I took a step back and evaluated things I just felt like I needed a fresh start somewhere else,” said Malamphy, who chose Salisbury over Stevenson. “UMBC just wasn’t the right fit for me on a lot of levels.”
Legendary head coach Jim Berkman was thrilled to land a faceoff specialist the caliber of Malamphy, but encouraged the youngster to sit out the 2017 season in order to acclimate to Salisbury and become comfortable as a member of the program.
“Coming to Salisbury was one of the best decisions I ever made. From the moment I got here I was welcomed as a brother by the players and coaches,” he said. “Coach Berkman has been great and my teammates have been awesome. I really love it here.”
Salisbury has employed a two-headed monster at the faceoff stripe all season and it has worked well with Logue and Malamphy combining to capture almost 60 percent. Assistant coach Jayme Block, who tutors the faceoff specialists, said it’s a nice luxury to have two good ones.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a one-two deal, more like 1A and 1B,” Block said. “Brett and T.J. have their own unique skill set and complement each other,” Block said. “I love the way they support each other and provide positive feedback about what the opposing faceoff guys are doing.”
Normally, Logue and Malamphy switch every two faceoffs. However, there have been times this season when Block elected to stick with whomever was having the most success, such as during last Sunday’s quarterfinal against Gettysburgy when Malamphy got into a rhythm and wound up winning 7 of 10 draws.
“Brett and T.J. have a great working relationship and totally understand that dynamic of riding the hot hand,” Block said. “We feel like we have a big advantage because we can wear guys down over the course of a game. We look at this as a marathon, whether over the course of a game or the entire season.”
That is what happened against Christopher Newport in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Tony Cruz, an honorable mention All-American who holds school records for faceoff wins (773) and career percentage (.610), got worked over by Logue and Malamphy as Salisbury finished with an 18-8 advantage on faceoffs.
“I think it has worked out really well having two guys with different styles and techniques. We keep the other team’s faceoff man off-balance and are able to tire him out,” Malamphy said. “T.J. and I have completely opposite moves. T.J. is really good at the power clamp while I’m good at the quick clamp and scrape – getting the ball out of there and going.”
Block, a 1993 Southern-Harwood graduate, was a standout faceoff specialist for Salisbury from 1994-97 and played on two national championship teams. He preaches driving through the ball on draws and giving yourself a chance to gobble up the grounder.
“Brett is a compact, thick kid with excellent strength,” Block said. “Brett puts the ball out in space pretty quickly and does a good job of staying low. He can absorb a check or two while scooping the ball and has deceptive speed and quickness.”
Block, who works full-time as Salisbury’s Director of Alumni Relations and Gift Development, has given Logue and Malamphy the green light to go to the cage if the opportunity presents itself. Malamphy scored his lone goal of the season against Christopher Newport, waltzing right down the middle for a short overhand shot.
“Teams usually don’t slide to the faceoff man because they figure he’s going to dish off. It was like the seas parted and I got right to the front of the net for a point-blank shot,” he said.
Block has enjoyed working with Malamphy, who has claimed 133 of the 207 faceoffs he has taken a — a phenomenal .642 winning percentage.
“Brett is a terrific team player and has a really focused mindset. I can’t say enough about how well he has assimilated into the team,” said Block, who has been part of five national championship squads during his 13 seasons as a Salisbury assistant.
John Malamphy, a 1984 graduate of Annapolis High, coached his oldest child with the Crofton Cardinals and Annapolis Hawks. He and Kathleen have three other children that play the stick sport.
Brooke, 19, played at Arundel High and spent one season on the women’s squad at LaSalle University. Olivia, 17, just completed her senior season at Archbishop Spalding and has earned a scholarship to Boston College, which will be playing in the national championship for the second straight season. Blake, 14, currently plays for the Annapolis Hawks and will be a freshman at Spalding.
All the Malamphys, parents and children, are extremely proud of 21-year-old Brett, who has not allowed the sleep disorder issue to define him.
“Going through this whole ordeal has matured Brett immensely. It has been just one part of his journey,” Kathleen said. “We think Brett has managed this issue so beautifully. It is a real success story and that is why it is so special for our family that Brett is where he is now.”