Ready to defend the title
Mike Ginocchio | Wednesday, August 27, 2014
On December 15, 2013, for the first time in school history, the Notre Dame men’s soccer team captured the NCAA championship with a 2-1 victory over Maryland. As classes have begun in the fall and the preseason reaches its conclusion, the Irish aim to do it again.
And if you take the word of returning graduate student defender and team captain Andrew O’Malley, the man who scored the game-winning goal against Maryland, it’s just business as usual in South Bend.
“I think, to be honest, we’re trying to keep a lot of things similar,” O’Malley said. “Just because last season was so good, and the kind of things you want to do are the kind of things we did last year, without trying to replicate too much of last year because we’re trying to create our own identity this year. We’re trying to make sure that complacency doesn’t creep in as a team.”
Fortunately for the Irish, the team has multiple players returning at key positions this season, especially on defense, with five of the six starters from last season coming back to play. The lone exception, Grant Van De Casteele, graduated and was drafted by the Colorado Rapids of the MLS.
The number of returning players, most of them underclassmen, is something O’Malley looks forward to working with.
“We’ve got a lot of really great young talent looking to fill in this year, which is really exciting,” O’Malley said. “There’s actually a battle between two sophomores to fill a spot and I think the friendly competition has really pushed the guys to prove themselves, and I think they can do more than replace what Grant brought [to the team.]”
In addition to being at the head of what looks to be a strong returning defense, O’Malley also finds himself in the position of being the only returning captain on the team. However, when asked whether that requires him to take on an even bigger role on the team, he instead said he expected other team members to emerge as leaders in their own right.
“I get that question a lot,” O’Malley said. “It’s different now that I have returning captaincy. I don’t think it’s any more responsibility than it was last year because [while] the captaincy is the ‘leader’ of the team, … the team is very self-motivated, and they do a lot of leading of their own and in places you wouldn’t really expect it. Freshmen are leaders in their own way. Sophomores are leaders in their own spots. Starters, bench players. Everyone has their own role on the team, and everyone leads in that role.”
In particular, O’Malley pointed to senior defenders Max Lachowecki and Luke Mishu as two players who stepped up in the past year. He also said he realizes how fortunate the Irish are to have graduate student goalkeeper Patrick Wall back between the posts for one more year.
“He’s one of those guys that’s always striving to improve,” O’Malley said of Wall. “You see him always walking, [and] he’s got his little notebook because he’s scouting other teams. He’s finding out what other peoples’ tendencies are and what his own tendencies are. It’s just exciting to see all of the guys finding ways to improve themselves, and they’re all hungry to get more.”