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Men’s Lacrosse: Walsh ends career in style

Tim Dougherty | Thursday, April 27, 2006

Notre Dame attack Tim Walsh has been a scoring threat his entire career with the Irish.

With just two games left in his collegiate career, Walsh’s offensive numbers place him in the top ten in Notre Dame lacrosse history in career assists (third), goals (ninth) and points (fourth) – and the senior is ready to move up even more in his last two contests..

With one more assist – the hundredth of his career – Walsh will tie Randy Colley (’95) for second-place on the all-time list. Walsh is also five goals from seventh-place Bob Trocchi (’85) – not an insurmountable deficit, considering he scored six goals in a single game in a 9-8 win against then-No.13 Hofstra last season.

And with a three and a half point per game average, the Wantagh, N.Y. native is on pace to tie second-place point man Mike Sullivan (’92), whose 178 total points outnumbers Walsh’s goals and assists by seven.

Despite boasting such gaudy numbers, Walsh is quiet about his own accomplishments. To him, his last two games are not a chance to build statistics, but a chance to earn two more wins.

As the Irish sit at 8-4 (3-2 GWLL) on the season as Inside Lacrosse’s No. 15 team, their tournament hopes tiptoe on thin ice. They need strong performances against Ohio State (6-5, 3-1 GWLL) and Quinnipiac (6-5, 1-3 GWLL) to convince the tournament committee to invite them to the 16-team field.

Walsh’s senior class has never played in the postseason, despite missing the field by one spot on multiple occasions. And once the automatic bids of conference champions are taken into account, Notre Dame will need some late help.

“We’re taking it once game at a time,” Walsh said. “If we win the next two, we’re 10-4. If a couple of people lose it takes them out of contention. There’s always some hope and always something that can happen.

“You try to keep it optimistic and stay positive. We’re going to try to win the next two and make it tough for the committee not to put us in the tourney.”

Above any of the individual accolades, Walsh has always evaluated his play in his ability to help his team win – dating back to his New York state championship at Wantagh High School in Long Island and his gold medal in the International Lacrosse Federation under-19 Junior World Championships.

“It was definitely a major goal of mine when I came here to make it to the tournament, make the Final Four and win the national championship,” Walsh said.

Walsh’s college career has been a process of setting goals and – for the most part – achieving.

“Every year I’ve played I always set goals for myself,” he said. “If you don’t set goals there is nothing to work towards.”

Freshman year, his goal was starting, which he did.

Then he became determined to lead his team in points, which he has all three years. Then his goal was to earn All-American recognition following, which he has all four years.

Walsh burst onto the college scene with 32 assists and 20 goals in his freshman campaign – helping him become Notre Dame’s first freshman All-American when Inside Lacrosse awarded him honorable mention status.

Irish head coach Kevin Corrigan attributed the early and continued success of Notre Dame’s first four-time All-American to his in-and-out knowledge of the game.

“Pat is an intuitive player,” Corrigan said. “That’s one of the things about how he plays – he doesn’t overanalyze what he does. He has a good sense of the game, he feels that game and he knows intuitively what he does. That’s the beauty of the way he plays.”

No matter where Walsh, who talks regularly with Notre Dame’s all-time assist leader, David Ulrich, finishes on the all-time lists, Corrigan, who has coached many Irish stars since he arrived in South Bend in 1988, recognizes his place among the Irish.

“Pat was a little like all of them,” Walsh said. “As an assist guy, you have Sullivan and Ulrich, who are great feeders. Both guys relied on their quickness, and Pat relied on his savvy-ness.”

That’s not to say his success came easily. Corrigan said Walsh worked tirelessly to improve his game. And Walsh echoed his coach when describing his own work ethic over the last four years.

“Me and Coach Anderson would meet at the beginning of each year to talk about what I need to do to improve – whether it’s shooting or decision making,” Walsh said. “Freshman year I made a lot of mistakes turning the ball over a lot because I was trying to make a play. Over time I had better control, not turning the ball over as much and understanding the offense a little better.”

Walsh’s teammates have taken notice. Senior co-captain defenseman D.J. Driscoll said Walsh helped improved his own game. Driscoll was recognized last year as the Great Western Lacrosse League Defensive Player of the Year.

“He’s a tremendous talent,” Driscoll said. “Going against him every day for four years has definitely taught me how to play against such a good attackman. He’s such a good feeder and such a good finisher. His stick protection has helped me develop my checks.”

Overall, Driscoll said Walsh has helped make his four years that much more memorable, for better or worse.

“It’s just fun going against a player of his capability day in and day out and see the plays he’s making in practice,” Driscoll said. “But it’s definitely frustrating at times, too.”

The captain also appreciates Walsh’s leadership on the field. After the team voted Driscoll and senior midfielder Drew Peters captains, Corrigan adopted a council-system similar to that employed by football coach Charlie Weis that includes seniors Walsh, midfielder Matt Karweck and goaltender Dan Hickey.

“He’s definitely clearly the most talented player on our team and people look up to him, and he has embraced that role this year,” Driscoll said. “He comes and gets his business done. He’s a no-nonsense type of kid. He knows what he wants and he works day in and day out for that.”

Because he has high expectations of himself, Walsh’s current role did was something into which he had to grow, according to Corrigan.

“Personally, he has matured and taken on a leadership role on this team,” Corrigan said. “He’s a kid who has always asked a lot and demanded a lot of himself and I think it was not really in nature to be demanding of other people. Essentially, he leads by the example that he expects a lot of himself and demands a lot of himself. That’s been his MO while he’s been here.”

Corrigan’s point was made so clear last Sunday, when Walsh lifted the Irish onto 5-foot-8 183 lbs. frame, scoring three of his four goals in the last period to lift the Irish to a 10-7 victory against Lehigh, despite an illness that has kept him out of Tuesday and Wednesday’s practices.

“Doctor’s orders,” Walsh said, adding – between coughs – that he would have practiced Wednesday if he was allowed. “I’ll be fine by Saturday. I played through it Sunday, and if I need to, I will again.”

Not to for the chase of any records, though, according to Corrigan. The chance to fight for a playoff spot is motivation enough.

“He would trade every goal and assist he’s made to play in an NCAA tournament and showcase himself on the stage he would most like to play.” Corrigan said.

If the Irish come up short of the tournament again this year, Walsh said he has still treasured his time at Notre Dame and still appreciates the significance of his accomplishments.

“It’s definitely an honor,” Walsh said. “It’s not something I step on the field with, but it’s something that when it’s all done it’s nice to have there.”

Whether it is in two games or more, whenever the Irish season – and Walsh’s career – comes to an end, all those moments Walsh flashed numbers up the scoreboard will find permanence in the Irish lacrosse archives as one of the greats. But judging by the respect Walsh has earned from coaches and teammates throughout his four years, few will forget him – with or without the records.