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When Patrick Mullins slotted home the opening goal of Sunday’s NCAA College Cup Final, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looked like a team ready to fall to a Maryland side with a history of winning national championships.
Notre Dame didn’t fold though. The Fighting Irish rallied, tying the match before halftime, and putting away an Andrew O’Malley game-winner in the 60th minute to post a 2-1 victory at PPL Park.
Notre Dame’s Leon Brown helped the Fighting Irish tie things up in the 40th minute when he slotted home a tight-angled shot past Zack Steffen to make the score 1-1 before halftime. A pair of Notre Dame seniors combined on the winning goal, as O’Malley headed home a Harrison Shipp free kick past Steffen.
Notre Dame’s defense helped make O’Malley’s goal stand up, though the match did have its share of controversy. Notre Dame’s Connor Keikota appeared to handle a Maryland cross in the penalty area, but refereee Hilario Grajeda didn’t call a handball.
Grajeda also missed a clear handball on the goal-line by Notre Dame’s Patrick Hodan just before Mullins slotted home the match’s opening goal in the 35th minute. Hodan clearly stuck out his arm to block a goal-bound shot from Alex Shinsky, but Grajeda was screened on the play.
The Terps looked a good bet to enter halftime with the lead, but Notre Dame responded just five minutes after Mullins’ goal with an equalizer started by a Nick Besler header off a long throw-in. Besler’s header found Brown, who muscled off a Maryland defender before sliding a shot past an on-rushing Steffen to make the score 1-1.
Notre Dame’s defense did a good job of limiting Maryland’s chances, with the central midfield tandem of Keikota and Nick Besler controlling the middle of the field.