Notre Dame wins first soccer title

Posted: December 17, 2013

WHEN YOU think of Notre Dame, you can't help but consider the mystique that goes along with it.

And if the discussion were about football, Notre Dame and its 11 national championships certainly would be worthy of the praise.

But as far as other men's sports, the Fighting Irish haven't had nearly as much success. Notre Dame male athletes have won seven other national championships - three in fencing, two in tennis and one each in cross country and golf.

As far as team sports, the Notre Dame women have won NCAA titles in basketball and soccer, but except for football, men's teams had been shut out - until yesterday.

West Chester native Andrew O'Malley ended his collegiate career in memorable fashion by scoring the game-winning goal as Notre Dame defeated Maryland, 2-1, at PPL Park to win the 2013 NCAA College Cup.

O'Malley, a senior defender who played at Salesianum High in Delaware, put a header by Maryland freshman goalie Zack Steffen in the 60th minute as the Irish (17-1-6) won the championship in their first appearance in the College Cup.

The national championship was the first for a Notre Dame men's team since the 11th football title in 1988.

"I tried to get as many people as I knew to come out," O'Malley said. "I got as much of my family out; I think they ran a tailgate, stuff like that. It was really good to get a goal in front of them. The goal itself was really put up on a silver platter for me. It would have been really tough to screw it up. Harry [Shipp] played a beautiful ball and I just had to redirect it to the back post.

"Being able to take the program to somewhere it's never been, like an Elite Eight win, to a national championship win is a huge jump. It's euphoric."

Making its debut as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Notre Dame won a College Cup that also included ACC members Maryland and Virginia.

Playing its final season in the ACC after 60 years, Maryland could not land a fourth NCAA title before moving to the Big Ten next year.

It was a bitter loss for Maryland (17-4-5), which played the Irish to a scoreless draw at Notre Dame in the regular season.

The Terrapins likely will always wonder what would have happened had referee Chico Grajeda issued a red card for a blatant, goal-saving, hand ball by Notre Dame midfielder Patrick Hodan.

Hodan used his arm to deflect a shot by Maryland's Alex Shinsky off the goal line.

The ball bounced out to the Terps top goal-scorer, Patrick Mullins, who whistled a shot into the back of the net to put Maryland up 1-0 in the 35th minute.

But even though Maryland scored, Grajeda's decision to not issue a red card to Hodan, for what was clearly an automatic ejection offense, kept the Terps from playing 11-on-10 for what would have been the final 55 minutes.

That could have been a huge difference between teams so evenly matched. The Terps were smarting even more when Grajeda did not call what appeared to be a second hand ball in the penalty area by Notre Dame in the 67th minute.

A call there would have given Maryland a chance to tie the score, 2-2, on a penalty kick.

Interestingly, Mullins, who led the nation with 19 goals, said after the match that he had set up his goal-scoring shot by knocking the ball down with his hand - something he said he would "regret for the rest of his life."

"It did hit the kid's hand on the line, it bounced out, came back out and I made a mistake on my part," Mullins said. "I'm very disappointed in myself, but in the heat of the moment, I hit it down with my hand, and like any good forward, I put it in the net.

"But that's not who I am, and I'm very disappointed in how that play resulted. All I can control is my actions, and I'm not happy with that action."

Hodan didn't beat up himself nearly as much - downplaying his violation by saying he was trying to catch the ball with his shoulder.

Still, soccer is a sport of opportunity, and Notre Dame was simply more effective with its chances than Maryland.

After Mullins had given the Terps the lead, Irish reserve senior forward Leon Brown, who had entered the game when starter Vince Cicciarelli suffered a broken collarbone, got the equalizer.

Brown ran down a ball that midfielder Nick Besler had headed into the Maryland box. Turning down the right end line and shooting from virtually no angle, Brown slipped a ball under Steffen and into the net in the 40th minute.

With four seniors on defense - O'Malley, Grant Van De Casteele, Luke Mishu and goalkeeper Patrick Wall - the Irish had too much experience for Maryland's offense to break down.

"Senior leadership is so important," Notre Dame coach Bobby Clark said. "Seniors set the tone."

The College Cup was the crowning result of a dozen years of building in South Bend by the 68-year-old Clark, who won his first NCAA title after 27 years of coaching at Dartmouth, Stanford and Notre Dame.

Before Clark arrived in 2001, Notre Dame, which began its program in 1977, had been in the NCAA Tournament five times.

The Irish have made the tournament 12 times in 13 seasons with Clark and now have a championship.

"Obviously, I think we're all smiling big smiles," Clark said. "I thought it was a very hard-fought game . . . I know our guys worked terribly hard."


Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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