Captain Patrick Berneski pursues excellence on and off the pitch
Charlie Ortega Guifarro | Tuesday, September 11, 2018
Irish defender Patrick Berneski had lived his whole life in a suburb of Philadelphia called Warrington. After receiving an email during high school from the recruitment wing of Notre Dame soccer, Berneski decided to do research on the team and the school. In addition to the tradition, the culture, the academic rigor and the prestige of the soccer team, Berneski was thrilled with the idea of playing under then-Irish head coach Bobby Clark. With all that in mind, Berneski was sold on joining the Irish and decided to take his talents to South Bend, Indiana.
The now fifth-year-student has come a long way from struggling to adjust to the midwestern way of living to now becoming one of the team’s captain’s and leaders. In terms of playing time, Berneski went his entire freshman year without stepping on the pitch, but is now a starter and currently one of the team’s highest scorers. Berneski says that those experiences have helped him become a leader in the locker room.
“It’s been a long ride for me. Came in freshmen year and didn’t play at all; sophomore, junior year kind of got on the field a little bit. Then in senior year I finally started starting and now obviously, [I’m] captain. Those experiences throughout every position in the team helped me turn into the leader I am,” Berneski said.
“ … Everyone, no matter where they stand on the team, can relate to me in some way or another. I feel like that’s really helped me connect with the team because I can understand what everyone is going through.”
Berneski recalls two struggles that he had freshman year: finding a balance between academics and athletics, and learning to play with more understanding.
“The biggest thing here was getting that routine down between balancing going to school at an academic institution like Notre Dame and on top of that, playing on one of the top soccer teams of the country. You’ve got to give it 100 percent in everything you do, there’s no times for breaks,” Berneski said.
“ … before I came to Notre Dame I’d get on the field, play my game, and that would be it. The biggest thing here was playing the game, then evaluating what I did right or wrong. Really understanding why we’re doing certain things — not just feeling the game out.”
While all of Berneski’s work in trying to improve his game and academic repertoire has paid off, the journey started memorably with his first collegiate goal in the Sweet 16 of NCAA Tournament against then-No. 10 Maryland.
“My first goal was sophomore year against Maryland. We were down 2-0, I scored one to make it 2-1. It was kind of a shoddy goal honestly. It hit off my head and bounced off other players then went in. Obviously my first goal though, I was extremely excited,” Berneski said. “ … Unreal feeling, I can remember that I froze in the moment with my teammates around me and I just thought, ‘did I really just score that?’ It was a pretty awesome feeling.”
The graduate student also excels in the classroom, having earned ACC Academic Honor Roll recognition in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. This kind of academic and athletic excellence is a unique quality of Notre Dame’s soccer team, Berneski noted, adding that, “people who come [to Notre Dame’s soccer team] are able to give 100 percent in the class and on the field.”
In terms of his current performance, Berneski is off to a hot start this season, already tallying a team-high four goals — one in each game. Even though the goals and statistics are racking up for the Pennsylvania native, Berneski is officially in his last year of eligibility. After four years and countless experiences he’s had with the team, Berneski says that the one thing he’s going to miss the most is the camaraderie.
“My favorite thing about Notre Dame soccer is the togetherness, it’s always a family, everything we do we do together, it’s never about the individual, everyone’s grinding together and working towards a common goal. That camaraderie is something I’m going to miss out on when I’m done with my time here.”