Notre Dame's Andrew O'Malley celebrates the Fighting Irish's NCAA title, December 15, 2013.

College Cup: Notre Dame's Andrew O'Malley makes his case for jump to next level

CHESTER, Pa. -- Notre Dame senior defender Andrew O’Malley had himself a game and a half on Sunday night.

O’Malley scored the third goal of his college career, a 60th-minute game-winner in the Fighting Irish’s 2-1 victory over Maryland to win the NCAA Championship, and his work on the defensive end played a big part in shutting down Maryland's dynamic attack.

"People think I'm good now," he joked after the match.

His performance in stopping Maryland's Patrick Mullins was no joke, though. Many argue that Mullins, who scored 19 goals this season, including one in the final, is the best striker in the college game. O'Malley doesn't agree.

“I would argue that Harry Shipp is probably the best striker in the country,” O’Malley said, giving some love to his Notre Dame teammate. “But when you get the opportunity, if you can take [Mullins] on one-v-one, it’s a big chance to prove yourself playing against someone like that.”

The big chance for O'Malley, who has one more year of eligibility, is a possible jump up to MLS some day.

That jump for players like Mullins, Shipp and Notre Dame center back Grant Van De Casteele, who were both invited to the MLS adidas Combine in January, is already inevitable. This season and the College Cup were, in many ways, just the latest rehearsals before going to the next level. 

“[At Maryland] I get challenged every day," Mullins said after the final. "That’s exactly what I signed up for, and that’s exactly what I got. I think the people that I encountered in my time [here] made me into a great human being that is ready to move on to that next level.”

Shipp, a Chicago Fire Homegrown and MAC Hermann trophy finalist, has people making comparisons to another recent Notre Dame star: Colorado Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers.

“I think Boss [Notre Dame head coach Bobby Clark] does a good job of preparing players for the next level,” Irish forward Patrick Hodan told this weekend. “Dillon Powers won Rookie of the Year, and I would not be surprised if Harry did the same.”

So what about O'Malley, who hasn't been invited to the combine and has not made many lists of potential MLSers? Has he shown enough to prove to a coach or two that he can compete at the next level?

“Playing at a school like Notre Dame, at a school that really tries to play soccer really well and play a good style of soccer, we’re really lucky,” O’Malley said. “It prepares you really well for anything you’re going to do."

Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.