Though UMBC is not known for its athletic excellence, there have been two teams in particular and a handful of athletes that have rattled up the sports world. These teams and athletes have surprisingly given UMBC national attention for its gritty athletics in the world of Division I sports.
In 1980 the men’s lacrosse team paved their way into Division I NCAA play by winning the national Division II tournament. The team had made their way to the finals the year before and redeemed their prior defeat. Head coach Dick Watts, who established the program 12 years earlier, cleverly navigated the program to success with excellent coaching and leadership. Watts pioneering for the program helped pave the way for regular success in Division I play, with the team making it to two NCAA appearances in the late 90s and four more in the mid aughts.
The men’s basketball team shocked the America East Conference in 2008 with a first place season and an NCAA tournament berth as led by head coach Randy Monroe. The Retrievers were coming off a middle of the table fifth place season in the AEC and the same core group of upperclassmen that had taken them to the AEC semifinal the year before took the program to new heights the following year.
Scoring was led by the plucky senior guard Ray Barbosa, who scored 16.5 points a game while playing through the whole season. He was followed on the rear by choppy junior forward Darryl Proctor who was second on the team in assists per game and led the Retrievers in rebounds. Junior guard Jay Greene led the team in assists and rounded it out with a solid 8.8 points per game.
Confidently battling their way to a 24-9 record on the season, the Retrievers achieved an even more dominating 13-3 record in the AEC to lead the conference. The season’s conference play ended with the team rolling over University of Hartford, 82-65, in the conference tournament. The team’s inter-conference play led to a place in the NCAA tournament, where they earned a 15 seed in the Midwest to go against eighth ranked Georgetown. The Retrievers maintained a respectable 47-66 scoreline in a defensive competition to end their season.
The 2014 Men’s Soccer team also found amazing post season success through the direction of head coach Pete Caringi Jr. The coach’s 24th season turned out to be a memorable one after a disappointing month of September that resulted in worry over maintaining the AEC championship after winning it the back to back years.
However, the following month the Retrievers turned around their season with an impressive string of wins by the team, including a goal earning a spot in ESPN’s top 10 by team leading scorer Kay Banjo. The team would go on to defeat Hartford handily to win their third straight AEC title.
The team went on to the NCAA championship and earned their first win by beating Wake Forest University in penalties, earning a heated match-up against the University of Maryland, College Park at the Terrapins’ home field. The Retrievers went on to advance past College Park with a magical goal in the 70th minute by Malcolm Harris. They followed that up by advancing past the University of Louisville 1-0 in a game where goalkeeper Billy Heavner made a handful of miracle saves to keep the Retrievers ahead.
The miracle run by the Retrievers continued with a 0-0 penalty win over Creighton, giving UMBC their first berth into the college cup of any sport. The semifinal entrance of the men’s soccer against the University of Virginia Cavaliers was an astronomical night for UMBC athletics, where students flocked to North Carolina during finals week to watch the squad play an impressively hard working match against the Cavaliers. The Retrievers would eventually fall 1-0, ending a miraculous run for the school.
In track and field, Trinidad and Tobagonian Retriever Cleopatra Borel received her personal best in the hammer throw while attending UMBC in May of 2001. Since graduating, Borel has gone on to appear for her home country in every Olympics since and received first place in all but one Central American and Caribbean championship she has appeared in since her UMBC graduation.
The 1980 Men’s Lacrosse team, the 2008 Men’s Basketball team, the 2014 Men’s Soccer team and Borel both highlighted on the national stage UMBC’s hard working and gritty attitude and showed off how even in athletics the retrievers can fare with the elite.