CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia senior defenseman Bray Malphrus gave interviews after his team’s 11-2 victory over No. 13 Pennsylvania in men’s lacrosse on Saturday with a raspy voice that had grown hoarse during the day.
“It was pretty passionate out there,” Malphrus said.
It was fitting he nearly lost his voice in a week in which there was a lot for the 11th- ranked Cavaliers to talk about. On Friday, senior midfielder Shamel Bratton, a two-time first-team all-American, was dismissed from the team following a third violation of team rules.
His twin brother Rhamel, a four-year starter at midfield, is suspended indefinitely and was not on the sideline on Saturday.
The decision was reached following a vote by team members.
“The decisions that were made were not easy ones,” Malphrus said. “They were very difficult ones. At the end of the day it’s about the team and you’re either part of the team or you’re not.
“Whether the individuals we’re speaking of rejoin us or not, I don’t know. I think there is an avenue for their [return]. We never give up on kids. If they decide to be part of this again, we’d welcome them with our arms wide open. It was hard.”
Penn (8-5) entered with three victories over teams ranked in the top 15, the same number as the Cavaliers (9-5).
But the Cavaliers began the game with an impetus on offense and defense. On the first midfield, redshirt junior Colin Briggs and freshman Rob Emery joined senior John Haldy. The unit combined for four goals and three assists. Junior attackman Steele Stanwick led the way with five assists. He said the coaches had emphasized better ball movement during the week in practice.
“We had to play smart, play our team offense and be patient,” Stanwick said. “Without [the Brattons] we lose some athleticism and they can do things other guys can’t. But we have some young guys who can step up.”
Meantime, Malphrus moved to close defense from defensive midfield and guarded Penn senior Al Kohart, the team’s leading goal scorer. Kohart finished 0 for 7. Redshirt junior Chris Clements took Malphrus’s spot as the longstick midfielder and finished with seven groundballs.
The move came because Malphrus is a better interior defender, Coach Dom Starsia said. Malphrus also is more experienced and thus can communicate better with his teammates when the Cavaliers are in a zone defense, which they have been using off-and-on since an overtime win over North Carolina on April 9.
“Virginia did a fantastic job,” Penn Coach Mike Murphy said. “Good, organized, skilled and well-coached offense and they did a good job tightening things up on defense and mixing up zone and man.”
When asked if Virginia was different without the Brattons, Murphy said: “They’re probably a little bit more of a unit and a little less dangerous and athletic going to the goal. But I’m not sure you can say they’re any better or any worse.”
Virginia is assured of an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament and almost certainly a first-round home game. The 16-team field is announced next Sunday night. And Starsia said he will take his chances.
“If we can come out of the shadows a little bit and sneak up on people, that’s not a luxury we’ve had at Virginia in a while,” Starsia said.