Career ends; legacy begins

Transitioning from scoring goals to stopping them has worked out pretty well for USF senior goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi.

During a four-year career, which ended this weekend after the Bulls were eliminated from the Big East tournament, Lofton-Malachi has stormed up the program’s record books, becoming one of the best players in USF women’s soccer history.

The Philadelphia native didn’t always make a name for herself in the goal, however. And she wasn’t always a soccer player. Her elder sister, Morgan, was the soccer player in the family, while Lofton-Malachi participated in Girl Scouts.

“My sister used to play soccer and I thought she was so cool playing soccer,” Lofton-Malachi said.  “My mom signed me up to be a Girl Scout, but then I decided I wanted to be like Morgan and play soccer.”

Lofton-Malachi excelled at the forward position, saying she scored “a lot of goals,” but made the switch to keeper when she was 14.

“I decided to be a goalkeeper because I was really athletic, and it seemed like a good fit for me,” she said. “I was excited about it and I’m sure I messed up a lot, but in the end I had a lot of fun.”

Lofton-Malachi was an all-star goalkeeper in high school. She played two other sports:  volleyball and basketball. She was named Southeastern Pennsylvania Female Athlete of the Year in 2006 and won the State Cup Championship from 2003-05.

She was spotted by USF’s coaching staff while playing at the Disney Showcase in Orlando toward the end of her high school career, and felt like “it was the perfect place” to play.

Lofton-Malachi sat a majority of her freshman year, but once USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown stepped into the program, she earned the starting role.

“(Schilte-Brown) demands so much out of you as a player, and I’ve worked so hard to be a better player, teammate and person,” Lofton-Malachi said.

In her sophomore season, Lofton-Malachi made 76 saves and recorded five shutouts, earning a spot on the Big East’s All-Academic team.

In 2008, though, Lofton-Malachi made a much larger impact, upping her production to a school-record 117 saves while playing every minute in all of the Bulls’ matches. She led the Big East in saves per game with 6.44 — good enough for 22nd in the country.

Lofton-Malachi was invited to try out for the 2009 U.S. women’s team last summer, and U.S. coach Bill Irwin referred to her as “the most athletic goalkeeper in the country.”

“It’s awesome to hear from someone who’s seen a lot of keepers, and it’s nice to know that I’m one of the better keepers in the country,” Lofton-Malachi said.

Now that her USF career is over, Lofton-Malachi’s goal is to play professionally in the newly founded Women’s Professional Soccer League.

“If not (soccer), I want to get my master’s in public health and be a nutritionist,” she said. “I have a dream to play soccer, so hopefully it works out.”

Schilte-Brown said she feels Lofton-Malachi, a National Merit Scholar, has the ability to make it to the next level.

“She’s one of the best goalkeepers in the country, if not the best college keeper,” she said.

During her career, the Bulls have also improved as a team, thanks in large part to Lofton-Malachi’s 292 saves, which ranks second on the program’s all-time career saves list.

This season, USF finished with a 9-8-3, 5-2-2 record. The five conference wins are the best in school history, and the Bulls won their first conference tournament game as well, defeating DePaul on Thursday.

“I’ve seen the team grow from not doing well in the conference to being at the top of the conference. I’m really proud of our team,” Lofton-Malachi said.