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Sunday, April 21, 2024
The Observer

Underrated stalwart Josh Ramsey delivers 'signature performance' to help Irish reach College Cup Final

Junior defender Josh Ramsey looks to pass during the game between Notre Dame and Indiana at Alumni Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023.

In the 67th minute at least, Notre Dame's College Cup semifinal match against Oregon State seemed destined for a tie score.

Fran Cortijo raced down the wing for the Beavers, playing a measured ball across the face of goal. Irish senior goalkeeper Bryan Dowd was quick to react, punching the ball out of immediate danger...but right into the path of Oregon State midfielder Arnau Farnos.

With Dowd off his line and still getting to his feet, only one thing stood between Farnos and an equalizing goal. One person, that is. Notre Dame centerback Josh Ramsey.

Few players have done as much for the Irish with as little acclaim as Ramsey this season. The junior has played just about every meaningful minute possible for one of the nation’s best defenses. But he wasn’t one of the seven Notre Dame players to earn All-ACC honors. Perhaps it’s because of his lack of statistical production, with just one assist to his name this season. Maybe it’s because of his placid, composed nature on the pitch, often out of the eyes of the ever-searching broadcast camera lenses.

But with his body being the only thing preventing Farnos from firing the ball into an empty goalmouth, Ramsey’s action spoke louder than any words could. He pushed his chest out and seemed to absorb the shot’s force with an emphatic block. He dropped to his knees in the process. It was a downright heroic save.

It didn't end the sequence, though. Scrambling to his feet, Ramsey then rushed forward to lunge in and prevent a second attempt by Farnos. And then a third try by Ellis Spikner. Eventually, Dowd was able to cover up the ball and calm the nerves of Irish fans everywhere. But Ramsey still had work to do.

He and the rest of the Notre Dame backline would spend the next 20 minutes dutifully repelling any Beaver chance that came their way, of which there were plenty. A barrage of crosses and entry passes were pummelled away every time.

Right there in the middle of it all was Ramsey. He faced a difficult assignment ahead of the semifinal, helping contain one of the highest-scoring teams in the NCAA Tournament. Much of Notre Dame's man-marking efforts came through Ramsey, likely the team’s most well-rounded defender from a physical and technical standpoint. Not just in the 67th minute, but for all 90 minutes, he aced that assignment.

“His consistency throughout the entire season has been tremendous,” said head coach Chad Riley after the game. “Tonight I think he put in another signature performance…Dealing with two of the probably hottest attacking players right now in the country, I think he did a tremendous job handling both of those guys. I think it was a really good night for him.”

Consistency has been a strong point for Ramsey, whose experience in high-stakes soccer stacks up with any other junior in the country. He’s missed just two starts in his three years since arriving in South Bend as a freshman. Ramsey has started 14 different postseason matches with the Irish, going the full 90 (or 110) minutes in each. He’s faced off against some of the best attackers college soccer has had to offer. More often than not, he has come out on top. He has every right to be arrogant or aggrieved by his lack of honors this season.

Yet when asked about his heroic block on the line against Oregon State, Ramsey turned the attention elsewhere: to the team. A strong performance by one player can win you a game. But you need (at least) 11 to win a national championship. Ramsey, who will get a chance to play for his first on Monday, is well aware of that.

“It shows the mentality of our team,” Ramsey said. “We’ll die out there for each other. It happened to be me who made that block, but I know every player on the field would do the same thing.”

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