CHESTER, Pa. – For much of Sunday’s NCAA men’s soccer championship game, Notre Dame star senior Harrison Shipp was quiet.
Whereas in Friday’s semifinal win over New Mexico, Shipp – a product of the Chicago Fire academy – controlled everything in the middle of the field, he was mostly held in check by Maryland’s Dan Metzger – a former New York Red Bulls academy player – in the title game.
But as great players so often find a way to do, Shipp came through when it counted the most, setting up Andrew O’Malley’s game-winning second-half goal to propel Notre Dame to its first-ever national crown.
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Shipp finished the College Cup with three assists and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Offensive Player.
“It’s pretty awesome, to be honest,” Shipp said. “We experienced a lot of pain our first three years. We realized that if we wanted to make that next jump, it was all 30 guys on the team, not just the 11 that played or the 21 that dressed. I think we showed that over the past five games.”
It was indeed an unlikely hero that came through with the most important goal of Notre Dame’s season. Coming into the national title game, O’Malley, a senior defender, had scored just twice in his college career. And after the game, head coach Bobby Clark playfully ribbed him that he missed his fair share of opportunities throughout the 2013 season.
But, according to O’Malley, he didn’t have to do much to score the championship-deciding goal because of Shipp’s perfect free kick. And he later contested a reporter’s claim that Mullins is the best forward in the country, saying that his teammate deserves that honor.
“It would have been tough for me to screw it up, I suppose,” O’Malley said. “Harry played just a beautiful ball. All I needed to do was redirect it to the back post.
“I kind of jokingly said after the game – but I’m a little bit serious – that people think I’m good now. So hopefully I’ll just ride that.”
No one has ever questioned the talent of Shipp, who finishes his senior season with 12 goals, including five game-winners, and 11 assists. And although he’s now poised to sign a Homegrown contract with the Chicago Fire, Shipp didn’t talk much about his professional future during the College Cup weekend.
He was more focused on bringing home the first national championship for Notre Dame and for the Fighting Irish’s 68-year-old coach Bobby Clark, who has been on the college coaching scene for nearly 30 years without an NCAA title to show for it.
“I think this program has known for the last few years that we’re headed in the right direction,” Shipp said. “We had a great regular season [last year] but I think we kind of realized that it was time for this program to take the next step. And we thought the only logical place to do that was to reach the final four and win a national championship.
“And to do it for this guy – our coach – is amazing. He’s probably the most underappreciated college soccer coach in the country.”
Email Dave Zeitlin at email@example.com.