Notre Dame senior captains Andrew O’Malley and Harrison Shipp started pushing their teammates to work for a national championship last January. They finished their mission Sunday afternoon, connecting for the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Maryland in the title game.
Sophomore Patrick Hodan and Notre Dame won their first national championship Sunday with a 2-1 win over Maryland.
A year ago, the Irish entered the NCAA Tournament as the country’s top ranked team, but fell early to eventual champion Indiana. The loss forced Notre Dame’s veterans to rethink their approach to the offseason.
Head coach Bobby Clark said this team was the most ready-to-play he’s had at the beginning of the season. That paid off in the form of a one-loss regular season, an ACC regular season title and the first national championship for the program and its coach of 12 years.
Shipp lined up a free kick from roughly 30 yards out in the sixtieth minute and lofted it through the middle of the box. O’Malley, a six-foot defender playing one city over from his hometown, elevated about a nearby Terrapin defender and flipped the feed into the net with his head.
The goal was only the third of the season for O’Malley, but helped complete a comeback victory in his last career game. Maryland struck first on a putback shot off the leg of junior Patrick Mullins in the 35th minute.
The play started with a shot on net off of a corner kick, one that was knocked away at the goal line by the arm of Irish sophomore Patrick Hodan in a play that looked dangerously close to a handball. Before Maryland could protest the rebound rolled to Mullins, who made a quick turn and gave his team the early lead.
Had the handball been called, Hodan would have been saddled with a red card. It was one of two potential handball calls referees didn’t call against Notre Dame. The other came with 23 minutes remaining in the second half during an unsuccessful flurry from Maryland.
The game was hyped as a match-up between two of the nation’s top player in Shipp and Mullins, both of whom are finalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy this year. The Irish were able to keep Mullins away from the action for most of the second half.
Notre Dame’s comeback began just five minutes after Maryland scored on a goal from junior forward Leon Brown. Defender Luke Mishu started the play with a long throw-in which was redirected past Maryland’s back line on a header by sophomore Nick Besler.
Brown slid into the loose ball just outside the goal post and swept it past Terps goalie Zack Steffen. Brown normally doesn’t take the field until the second half for Notre Dame. He was pressed into early service when forward Vince Cicciarelli broke his collarbone early in the game.
O’Malley completed the turnaround with 30 minutes remaining in the game. Maryland responded with a handful of scoring threats, but wasn’t able to convert. Sophomore Tsubasa Endoh became the Terrapins catalyst by trying to attack the defensive-minded Irish group from the flanks. He created four corner kicks in the second half, but couldn’t connect on any of the crossing attempts.
Mullins had perhaps the biggest opportunity of the second half with 90 seconds left on the clock. Notre Dame defender Connor Klekota was called for a handball only a couple yards outside the 18-yard box. Mullins took the direct kick that resulted, but sliced his shot well wide of the net.
The win gives Bobby Clark his first national championship in more than two decades in college soccer. This year was the first time he took the Irish to the College Cup. It was the first national championship for any sport at Notre Dame since 2011 when the fencing team won it all.