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Men’s Soccer: Shipp leads Irish offense

Joseph Monardo | Thursday, November 1, 2012

The team’s roster lists him as a forward, but Harrison Shipp sees himself filling a role more often associated with a midfielder. Irish coach Bobby Clark has a whole different designation altogether for the talented junior: magician.

A native of Lake Forest, Ill., Shipp is one of the central components to an Irish offense that has No. 7 Notre Dame atop the nation’s leaders in scoring offense. His ball skills and seemingly charmed passes in the middle have earned Shipp the nickname from his coach and have allowed him to gather 14 points on the season, tied for second-most on the team.

Shipp has four assists and five goals this season, with three of the goals coming came in a hat-trick during Notre Dame’s 6-1 victory over Seton Hall on Oct. 13. The three-goal performance was somewhat of an anomaly for Shipp, who said he feels more comfortable on the beginning end of plays rather than the finishing end.

“I think even though I play forward I definitely consider myself more of a distributor, like a point guard in basketball,” Shipp said. “I get just as much enjoyment setting people up as I do scoring goals. I think it’s my role to set people up in positions to succeed instead of always thinking about ways to succeed [personally]. That’s what I enjoy doing. I think also just not touching the ball too much [is important], just getting it from person to person so the offense runs.”

Shipp has found plenty of players to receive his passes, aiding a Notre Dame lineup that has the Irish ranked No. 1 in the RPI. The Irish (13-3-1, 5-2-1 Big East) have netted 2.35 goals per game, good for sixth in the country, in part due to Shipp’s ability to control the ball through the middle of the field with Irish senior midfielder and captain Dillon Powers.

“I think we work together really well,” Shipp said. “Playing in our third year together here now, we kind of have a good feeling where each other is going to be. So I don’t even have to think about where he’s running, I just kind of know. And that will get us to the point where we are interchanging more, where we are just switching positions freely. That’s really nice because I always have a security blanket.”

Shipp also makes regular use of Irish senior forward Ryan Finley, who is tied for second in the country with 17 goals on the year.

“I think Ryan is one of the best, if not the best, in the country at making runs behind the defense and just knowing when to time his runs and when to check to the ball,” he said. “He’s just a really smart forward, so I think that’s like a dream for me because I like giving the ball to people who make runs behind.”

Although Finley and Shipp combine to make Notre Dame’s most experienced front line, the duo begins every game on the bench and only enters after several minutes of play.

“It’s definitely something that is obviously different,” Shipp said of the strategy. “But it’s nice because we get to look for the first 20 minutes at what the other defense is doing and find ahead of time what ways we can take advantage of – the way the defense is playing, the little spaces and opportunities for us when we get in the game. So I really don’t mind it at all.”

Last year, the Irish ranked 64th in the country with a 1.5 goals-per-game average and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000 after losing in the first round of the Big East Championship. Shipp said some key differences between last year’s team and this year’s, which will begin conference tournament play Saturday at Syracuse, have made the difference.

“The biggest difference is I think we are not panicking, especially when we get in the final third,” he said. “Last year, [if] a couple of things didn’t go our way … we would start to press and kind of panic, especially if we hadn’t scored late in the game, whereas now we always have a confidence that we are going to score.”

It’s like magic.

Contact Joseph Monardo at [email protected]