Notre Dame wins first College Cup

College Cup

IMG_0686For the second year in a row, the College Cup is going back to the state of Indiana, but for the first time in school history it’s going to the men’s soccer team at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame benefited from a controversial no-call that could have put them down a man in the first half and came back from a 1-0 first half deficit to beat Maryland 2-1 in the final at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. on Sunday. The win on college soccer’s biggest stage was a first for coach Bobby Clark, who came up short with Stanford in a 3-1 loss to Indiana in the 1998 final, and the first men’s national championship in a sport other than American football for the Fighting Irish.

Maryland star forward Patrick Mullins opened the scoring in the 35th minute in a sequence that included two handballs that went uncalled by 2013 MLS Referee of the Year Hilario Grajeda. The first was an obvious one off the arm of Patrick Hodan when cleared the ball from the line off an Alex Shinsky header. The second wasn’t quite so obvious, but Mullins himself later fessed up to handling the ball intentionally at the six before burying the ball in the back of the net for his third goal of the weekend and 47th of his career.

Had the first handball been called, Hodan would have been given a straight red card and Notre Dame would have been down a man for the final 55 minutes of play. Grajeda, who refereed the MLS Cup final on Dec. 7, didn’t blow his whistle on a third handball in the box by an Irish defender with a little more than 23 minutes left.

Leon Brown scored the equalizer in the 40th minute thanks to some shoddy Maryland defending. Brown subbed in for Vince Cicciarelli after he broke his collarbone in the 10th minute and had several chances at goal, including a couple opportunities found wanting late in the game.

Irish defender Andrew O’Malley, a nearby West Chester native, scored the game winner with a glancing header in the 60th minute off a free kick from Harrison Shipp. The assist was the Herman Trophy finalist’s third of the weekend and it gave him 11 assists on the season to go with 12 goals. Shipp came close to opening the scoring early in the game with a great turn and low hard shot that was pushed off the line and out for a corner by Maryland keeper Zack Steffen.

Maryland brought numbers and pressure for the final 20 minutes searching for an equalizer but the Irish defense led by Grant van de Casteele was up to the task as they have been all year in a season with just two setbacks – a loss to College Cup semifinalist Virginia and a penalty kick loss to the same Cavaliers after a a double-overtime stalemate in the ACC tournament.

Shipp and Mullins, who will be in St. Louis with UCLA’s Leo Stolz for the presentation of the MAC Herman Trophy for college player of the year, shared the College Cup most outstanding player honor but only Shipp was able to finish his college career clutching the NCAA trophy as confetti reigned down in the middle of the pitch at PPL Park.

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