On Saturday, the UMBC men’s lacrosse team begins their 49th season overall and their 36th season in Division I athletics. The Retrievers look to improve upon a season in which they finished a disappointing 5–8 overall, 1–5 in the America East conference. As a result, the Retrievers failed to qualify for the conference tournament for the first time in 12 seasons.
In spite of the tough season, many expect the Retrievers to bounce back with the team garnering votes in the men’s top 20 according to ESPN.com.
If the Retrievers want to improve on last season, they must score more. Last year, the Retrievers averaged only 8.54 goals per game. Only the University of Massachusetts Lowell River Hawks scored fewer goals per game in the conference. The Retrievers also finished near the bottom of the league in assists, averaging only 4.54 per contest. Only UMass Lowell averaged fewer assists than the Retrievers.
The Retrievers finished at the bottom half of the league in shots per game, points per game, face-off percentage and shots on goal per game.
Increasing the scoring for the Retrievers will aid a strong defense that finished second in the America East, allowing 10 goals per game. The Retrievers finished second in the America East in penalty killing percentage, with only the University of Vermont Catamounts defending the man advantage better. The Retrievers also finished second in the conference with a .529 save percentage, with only the University of Albany Great Danes converting a higher ratio of saves.
The Retrievers bring in 15 freshman for the upcoming season. Five starters and 25 letter-winners return to the team this season. Two starters not coming back are defenders Mike Dahl and Ian Gray.
Midfielder Pat Young, who finished second on the team in goals, points and shots, transferred to the University of Maryland. Young also finished tied for third on the team in assists, weakening an already weak spot on the team.
UMBC brings back standout senior defenseman Zach Esser, naming him one of the two team captains for this season. Esser led the Retrievers with 16 created turnovers last year. Esser’s play earned him America East all-conference first team honors.
The other named team captain, senior attacker Nate Lewnes looks to continue his strong play this season after finishing eighth in the America East in goals per game and third in shots per game. Lewnes scored in every game last year, racking up five hat tricks as well. Senior midfielder Jack Gannon looks to be a factor for the Retrievers after leading the team in shots on goal percentage and finishing third on the team in points.
Junior goalkeeper Ruston Souder looks to build on starting the final seven games of the season where he finished fourth in the America East in goals against average and second in the conference in both saves per game and save percentage. He will be competing for the starting netminder job with junior Connor Gordon and sophomore Dave Pisanic.
The Retrievers face some tough competition in their quest to finish with a winning record and make their first NCAA tournament since 2009. Among their 14 games, they play 11th ranked Ohio State University Buckeyes, a home finale against 12th ranked Albany not to mention games against state rivals, the 17th ranked Towson University Tigers and the sixth ranked Johns Hopkins University Blue Jays.