By, Shane Palmateer
The lights were on, it was 25 degrees with frost on the field. February 11, 2016 at 7pm the Christopher Newport University Men’s Lacrosse program lined up for the national anthem. The starting line ups had been announced. As always number 50 waited at the end of the line to shake the hands of the announced starters. Eyes blood shot from adrenaline number 50 walked to the wing line, stick in his hands and eyes on the ball. Before that whistle was ever blown it was his to take. Game on, the ball popped loose from the center X back towards the captains defense, the ground ball workhouse for the CNU Captains gobbled up his first groundball of the season turned up field and fired a dart to a fellow teammate. There had been a chip on his shoulders since the day he picked up a stick. He was there to prove himself; Brandon Moloney was there to dominate.
The tenacious Captains long stick midfielder hails from East Quogue, New York. The summer tourist town found on Long Island is home to some of the most sought after beaches and high school lacrosse talent. However this young man was not one of them. As a senior in high school Brandon Moloney stood at a towering 5’7 and weighed 165lbs. This stature alone left him off the recruiting board for many division 1 programs that came to watch his high school games. Moloney reflected on his early recruiting experiences “ It was difficult at first, I was guarding some of the best players on Long Island and doing very well. I was passed on by several division 1 schools because of my height, but rather than letting that discourage me, I accepted it, I embraced it and used it to fuel my work”.
In the summer of 2011 the Long Island native made his way 10 hours south to take a visit to the College of William and Mary to pursue high academic aspirations. “A family friend had come down to CNU, so my parents and I figured since we were close we might as well take a peak.” Little did Moloney know that he would stumble upon a lacrosse recruiting tour in progress. Moloney took it upon himself to introduce himself to the coaching staff in hopes of potentially continuing his lacrosse career.
“I knew from the first day when I stepped foot onto the campus and spoke with the coaches that this was where I wanted to be, this was home.” Moloney and the coaching staff communicated throughout the summer and a few months later he committed to make the 10-12 hour, depending on traffic, trip south to become one of the best lacrosse players in CNU history. From his first day on campus Moloney found himself making progress as a player and as a person. Entering his first fall of off-season practices and workouts Moloney was 2nd on the depth chart for the captains as a long stick mid-fielder. But as an upperclassman returned from injury for the spring season Moloney’s chances of seeing playing time as a true freshman shrunk. Although still finding ways to get onto the field for just a few minutes or less per game, he did not let this lack of playing time discourage himself but saw it as a learning experience to better understand the game and the speed at which it was played. The lack of playing time only fueled number 50’s work ethic, “ Of course I wanted to play more, but I accepted my role at the time and knew I had to earn anything before I got it”.
Another year of offseason workouts and another year older, as a sophomore Moloney found more time on the field where he would be a key contributor in the upset of rival and the #2 ranked Salisbury Seagulls. Moloney and other current members such as Junior Goalie Matt Hayden, senior defensemen Michael Mabry, senior midfield Joey Rolando found themselves pulling one of the greatest upsets in the programs 10 season history. “The game and the players are bigger, faster, better, it was a bit of a culture shock initially, finding confidence was hard”. But it was at this point in Moloney’s Career that he began finding confidence in himself and in the program.
As the 2015 season approached Brandon Moloney was voted as the first junior captain in program history. He found the role as the starting long stick midfielder to be his at last. He stepped into this leading role by helping the captains to their best finish in program history at 11-5 and finishing 3rd in the Capital Athletic Conference. It was his best season thus far as a player earning All-CAC and All-State honors. However the Captain’s post-season campaign was cut short with a defeat at the hands of Mary-Washington in the first round of the CAC tournament. “It was heartbreaking, it was difficult to lose in the first round to a team we had already beaten and knew we were better than, but it was more devastating seeing the senior’s faces who were some of my closest friends, seeing their sadness knowing their careers were over. I never wanted to feel that pain again and it has pushed me to work harder than ever before.” Moloney took this loss more personal than ever and found himself working harder off the field to prepare for his senior season. Best friend and fellow senior captain Michael Mabry reminisced on seeing this drive in his teammate “ There was something different about him, most guys tend to push their goals of sports to the side once they leave campus, but not him (Moloney). We could be at a festival in Arkansas in the summer and he would look at me and say “we aren’t going out like that, we are going to win a conference title, we are going to be All-Americans” you just don’t see that kind of mind set very often”.
The start of the 2016 season came with adversity as Head Coach Todd Boward informed the team that he would be taking a leave of absence for the spring and assistant coaches Mikey Thompson and Zach Thomas would take over. “Coach Boward was a great man and did a lot for this program by taking it to the level it is at now, but I felt completely confident in coach Thompson and Coach Thomas. I have always known they were the two best assistant coaches in the nation and they were ready for this role”. The surprising change of who was at the helm of the captains ship came as inspiration to Moloney “I knew my role was to step up and help them with this transition. It was my job to keep my teammates in check and keep them confident in our coaches. I wanted to make sure that we were doing everything necessary on and off the field to set ourselves up for success”.
The 2016 kicked off with a double-overtime loss at home to Washington and Lee. Since then the captains turned things around beating instate rivals Hampden Sydney and Randolph Macon. As the captains continue their 2016 campaign they take on the tough task of keeping their momentum after upsetting #11 Roanoke down in Salem. After the win there was a different message being sung in the locker room by the captain “we are no longer an underdog but we will always play with a chip on our shoulders. It’s the difference between thinking you’re the best team and knowing you’re the best team. When we got off the bus there (Roanoke), we had the confidence in ourselves to believe we were the best team that stepped onto that field.” The captains are just getting into their CAC schedule with high hopes of winning the conference title for the first time in program history. In his first conference game of the 2016 season versus Marymount University, Moloney piled up a single game career best 10 groundballs, helping his team to a 14-8 win and a 6-1 start.
It is not only his on the field performance that separates Brandon Moloney from others. He takes the term student-athlete in the order that it is written, student first. With only a couple months left in his academic career he reflected on his attitude in the class room “tests are similar to games; when its time to put in work, its time to put in work. I know that whether it is in the class room, on the field or in life, if I want to succeed I have to put in the work”. The senior will be graduating in May with honors, earning two diplomas for double majoring in accounting and finance. “Maintaining my grades is always hardest in season. You might get home from an away trip at 3:00am, go straight to the library all night to study, just to make sure you can be successful for your 8am test. It’s grueling”. The lives of student athletes are often over looked for how busy they truly are, but Mr. Moloney has been an exemplarity student as well as an athlete by earning All-CAC Academic in every semester he has been in college as well as making Dean’s list at CNU three times. “Is it bad that I actually enjoy tests? Its similar to sports, everything academically is earned. I love that”. After graduation he plans to return back to New York in hopes of becoming a Certified Financial Analyst and working in New York City.
Although his name is never mentioned in the starting line up, but he is the true definition of what it means to be a Captain. On and off the field Moloney’s success is contagious as he continues to lead his team in their 2016 season. When asked what motivates him to be the best on the field he simply smiled and stated “I finally made it, this team is all of my brothers, and for them I will always bring the energy because playing with them is a gift earned not given.” The rest of Brandon Moloney’s senior season is yet to be written, but if you were to place your bets now; I wouldn’t bet against number 50 because he is working harder now than ever.