Virginia’s Club Lacrosse goalie is a gamer, a championship gamer at that. You see Carter Malkus didn’t show up for the Elite 8 or Final 4 games on Saturday in Annapolis, MD. It wasn’t a case of Saturday being for the boys or anything like that. Carter had a final at UVA that kept him out of Saturday’s action. Saturday was Grant Melchers show to run. Melchers, in a tight game with Penn State in the opening round of the Elite 8 playoffs recorded 10 saves and he matched that effort with another 10 versus the Dirty Cats of Vermont in the Final Four. On Sunday, for the DI championship versus the Navy Sleddawgs, the baton was passed to Malkus and he took it and ran with it.
Navy found the back of the net first in the championship game. Jack Larsen found attackman Kyle Coolbaugh on the doorstep for a quick dunk to open the scoring for the Sleddawgs. Virginia answered off a fast break opportunity led by long pole Robby Byrne. Byrne hit the point man, Charlie Tiene, who found Robbie Berndt down low off a nice skip pass to even the score. Cortland Heneveld hammered home an EMO goal later in the 1st to give Navy a 2-1 advantage. The Cavaliers’ Robbie Berndt quickly got his second of the day to even the score as he collected an errant shot just below GLE and sprinted top side to finish a falling down lefty shot that beat Navy keeper Zach Skirpan. Trey Sterling finished an 8 yard shot for Navy as the teams continued to trade punches. The Sleddawgs added another a few minutes later as Luke Coughlin found a wide open Cortland Heneveld in front of the goal to give Navy a two goal advantage and cap the scoring in the first.
Virginia found their stride and quite frankly, the ball bounced their way in the 2nd quarter. The Hoos opened the scoring when Zack Skirpan denied a UVA shot but gave up a fortuitous rebound that UVA’s Nicolaas Drapanas collected and hammered home to cut the lead to one. On ensuing possessions, Navy piped a good look and Carter Malkus made a pair of outstanding saves for the Cavs before Luke Ledva skipped a ball through to Luke Coughlin who finished near pipe on an EMO chance to give Navy a 5-3 lead.
Momentum seemed to shift noticeably in the 2nd when Navy, in a settled offensive set, tried to get the ball to Luke Ledva up top and Virginia’s Andrew Harrison made an athletic play to pick off the pass and and start a fast break going the other way. Harrison carried into the box and found Robbie Berndt backdoor as his defender was hedging. Berndt bagged his third of the contest to bring the score to 5-4. Berndt, on an ensuing possession, weaved his way into the paint evading a number of Navy defenders before releasing a shot that sailed just off the mark before getting planted in front of the crease. Virginia’s Harrison struck again and made Navy pay as he knotted the score at 5 on an EMO dodge and shot. Will Russ added another for UVA on a strong dodge down the alley where he released an overhand bouncer that found five hole and the back of the net and gave the Cavs a 6-5 lead going into the half, their first of the game.
In the third quarter, Carter Malkus was dominant. The UVA keeper made 4 of his 15 saves in the 3rd frame, several of the highlight reel variety, to keep Navy shooters in check. Navy did catch Malkus out of the goal on a quick restart and capitalized on the open net to tie the game at 6. Later in the 3rd, UVA’s Nick Bierman found time and room after a nice dodge and dump from Charlie Tiene and released an absolute cannon that went top shelf to give UVA the lead once more. Navy’s Luke Coughlin collected a loose ball in front of the cage and buried it to keep the see-saw action going and the game tight at 7 a piece. Taylor Swindell for the Cavs scored toward the end of the third on another feed from Charlie Tiene that resulted in a step-down shot from 12 yards that beat Navy’s 2nd half keeper, Cole Oliver who finished with 7 saves.
Carrying an 8-7 lead into the 4th, UVA played with the confidence of a team that was up 5 goals instead of just 1. Patient, but opportunistic, the Cavalier’s offense continued to put Pressure on Navy. Charlie Tiene (1G,5A) and Nick Bierman (3G,1A) combined for the final 3 goals of the contest to put the Cavs on top to stay, 11-7. Robby Byrne anchored the defensive unit that harassed Navy all game long and limited the open looks that Navy got on Malkus late in the game. As the clocked counted down the final seconds in the game, Navy got a point blank shot off on the door step and Carter Malkus denied Navy as he had done all game as if to put an exclamation point on his performance.
Malkus and Melchers, with their performances on Sunday and Saturday respectively, earned co-tournament MVP honors to go with the team hardware the Hoos took back to Charlottesville.
More images of the DI finals action can be found in our online gallery.