Dec. 11, 2013
By Maura Jones ('14)
As the starting goalkeeper of the third-ranked Notre Dame men's soccer team, senior Patrick Wall has a lot to be excited about. At the beginning of the season he set out with a list of goals, and one-by-one he and his team have been checking them off. Already the ACC regular-season co-champions, and one of the best defensive teams in soccer, the Irish recently advanced to the College Cup for the first time in program history. However, far from resting on his laurels, Wall is more ready than ever to compete, looking to take the team to new heights.
"There is a level of excitement that you feel. A lot of people are congratulating us for getting to the final four, but our goal from the beginning of the season was to win the national championship," Wall says. "The way we see it, we are not done yet."
Wall's enthusiasm for competing in soccer stretches the whole way back to when he was three years old, and his older brother Chris introduced him to soccer. Ever since his childhood, soccer has been a major part of Wall's life as he has grown up through the Houston Dynamo's farm teams.
"I decided to come to Notre Dame because of the tradition and the way everyone acts around here," he says. "Obviously it is a special place. When I came out here the campus was beautiful. The fact that the student athletes get mixed in with all of the other students stuck out to me. For me, I got thrown into St. Ed's for my dorm, and I met some of my best friends there who I still live with today."
Since coming to Notre Dame, Wall has made a big impact both on and off the field. He will be a three-time monogram winner at the end of this season, he is the starting goalie for one of the most successful soccer teams in Notre Dame history, and on top of that he is pursing a degree in aerospace engineering.
In his academic pursuits, Wall helps the Notre dame rocket team with their designs, is designing a 6' by 6' airplane in one of his classes, and had the opportunity to work with NASA scientists this summer. Through his internship with L-3 Communications, Wall worked on the Johnson Space Center.
"I got to work on the Orion spacecraft, which will be going into space in about a year," he says. "Just saying that you put something into space is a pretty cool accomplishment."
While some only dream of reaching for the stars, Wall's work could literally land him there. His hard work earned him recognition as a BIG EAST Academic All-Star last year.
Wall's accomplishments on the field are equally as striking as his academic success. He began seeing more game action last year as he switched off starting with then-senior Will Walsh. His most memorable game from that season was against Georgetown when he and the team clinched the BIG EAST tournament title, 3-2. Wall says, "That was one of the more dramatic games that we have played. It was really exciting to win and play in."
The Michigan State game that sealed the deal for the Irish to move to the College Cup semifinals was another big game for Wall, who had to make some crucial saves toward the end of the game to ensure Notre Dame's win over the Spartans.
With the team's first trip to the College Cup ahead of them, Wall says, "When you go into the national championship you kind of need three things. You need talent, character, and a little bit of luck. Our team has a lot of talent; they are filled with character, and our guys fight through tons of games; we have gotten a lot of luck. It always helps."
Wall says that the team is now taking it one game at a time and is concentrated on beating New Mexico on Friday. He says that the team's new training program that everyone completed during the summer is one of the major advantages they have over other teams this year.
"Matt Howley, who is our fitness coach, redid everything that we were doing and wrote a very difficult fitness program for the summer, and all of the guys pushed through it and did it, and now we are the most fit team in the country," Wall explains. "Throughout the whole season, we haven't met a team that is more fit than us. That's been one of the crucial factors. I think that and hard work has gotten us here."
During the game, Wall says that he is always anticipating what is going to happen next and trying to prevent opponents from ever even getting a shot off. He and the back line work together and communicate during the game to guard the goal cohesively.
Admittedly, Wall says that he can get cold during the game, especially playing in South Bend where temperatures have been below 20 degrees for some of their postseason games.
"I am from Sugarland, Texas, and that is pretty far south, so I freeze during the game. I just try to act like I am warm," Wall laughs. "I have to be ready though, because at the end of the game, even if I don't do anything early on in the game, I am expected to save the ball in the last minute."
Wall will need to stay warm and ready during Friday's game against New Mexico if the Irish want to make it to the title game. If they win, they will play either Maryland or Virginia on Sunday. They tied Maryland earlier in the season, and Virginia is the only team to whom they lost. Wall feels ready for his potential opponents, saying, "Obviously it is the national championship, so you never know what could happen. I think that if we face Virginia or Maryland that we are more than prepared to play them."
Friday night's game at PPL Park near Philadelphia will determine whether or not the Irish will have a second chance against one of those two teams.
As Wall's season comes to a close, he reflects back on his time at Notre Dame. During his time here, he has over come some adversity concerning his height as a 5'-11" goalie. Wall, who has made many critical saves for the team this year, says that he embraces that scouting reports often comment on his height, and he enjoys being challenged during games.
He comments, "As a goalie that is seen as being very short. Most people would look at me and say, `Oh, he's too short. He can't really do the job.' The challenge has been fighting through what people expect of you and earning the faith of your team to know that you will do your job. It has definitely been a thing that I have had to overcome."
He has also learned many other valuable lessons during his time at Notre Dame.
"I think that one of the main things is just how to carry myself. I think that Coach (Bobby) Clark is one of the most liked college coaches of any sport. When you have that guy teaching you how to act everyday, not only just professionalism but also how to treat other people and put other people first, I mean that's one of the values that this university stands for. I think that leaving here, I will be a better person than when I came in."
Wall has racked up a number of accomplishments during his time with the Irish, including putting the Irish at the top of both the ACC and the BIG EAST, and possibly being a four-time monogram award recipient.
"Hopefully winning the national championship will outdo everything that I have done so far," He adds. "When I do get the degree that will be my top accomplishment."
Going forward, Wall anticipates that he will stay with the Irish for one more year. As a protected player for the Houston Dynamo, he could possibly go with them as soon as this year, but will not be in contact with them until the end of this season. Another option would be for Wall to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer, but he anticipates that soccer is what is in his immediate future, not that he can go wrong choosing between careers in NASA or professional soccer.
As he enters the final push towards a possible national championship, Wall says that he has enjoyed his time with his teammates the past four seasons, and he has been proud to represent the university.
"I am just excited to win the whole thing with these guys. I have worked with these guys for the past four years, and even if I don't leave after this year, to be able to say that the people you worked with for four years, you ended with being the top team would be great," Wall says. "I would say thank you to everyone who came out and supported us and to everyone who I worked with and got me to this stage. I am very appreciative."
The Irish (15-1-6) will take on the seventh-ranked New Mexico Lobos (14-5-2) at 5 p.m. (ET) on Friday at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and WatchESPN. The national title game is slated for 3 p.m. on Sunday.