After a thrilling victory over conference-rival Stoneybrook, UMBC made its return to the America East Championship game as they faced the New Hampshire Wildcats. On the road to the championship game, UMBC first had to overcome a grueling match with Vermont in the pouring rain that ended with penalty kicks, which UMBC won 5-4. In the semifinals, UMBC traveled to face Stoneybrook where they would leave everything they had on the field. UMBC scored in minute 60 as junior-fielder Jordan Dove scored the game-winning goal, sending the Retrievers to the championship game.
As the team warmed up, you could feel the tension as they prepared for what could either be the final game of the season or the beginning of a strong run toward the NCAA tournament. The Retrievers faced an uphill battle not only with their opponent but with the weather as well. With the winds gusting at over 10 mph, players did everything they could to keep themselves warm as they listened to the singing of the National Anthem. UMBC looked to end New Hampshire’s undefeated streak at home and prevent them from winning their first American East title.
In the early going, the Retrievers looked to take an early advantage, applying pressure to the middle of the field in an effort to force the Wildcats off their game and create confusion. Unfortunately, New Hampshire came in with a gameplan of their own, attacking inside to draw attention to the ball, which in turn left players open to advance the ball down the field. The Wildcats scored within the first four minutes of the game on a throw-in that allowed for sophomore-fielder Josh Bauer to head a shot that found the back of the net off the right crossbar.
Not even two minutes later the Wildcats added to their score with a shot from senior-midfielder Alex Valencia who managed to lobby the ball high enough to get over the outstretched hand of freshman-goalie Quantrell Jones. Before the end of the half, New Hampshire would add another goal to push the lead to 3-0. Jones struggled to keep the ball out of the net in the first half and seemed very frustrated with his play. Offensively, the team did very little to help, as they were held scoreless and out-shot by New Hampshire 7-3.
In the second half, the Retrievers continued to unravel as they still struggled to get on the scoreboard. Defensively, they had no answers for New Hampshire, who continued to keep the Retrievers on their toes by pushing the ball up the field and maintaining possession as much as possible. New Hampshire scored their fourth goal on a free kick from Valencia that landed in the area of junior-midfielder Siggi Geirsson, who headbutted the ball to junior-midfielder Kyle Brewster who then kicked it into the upper right corner of the goal. Jones vented his frustrations as he spiked the ball into the turf after giving up the fourth goal of the game.
Tempers began to flare between the two teams after a Wildcat player who was chasing the ball out of bounds was inadvertently tackled by a Retrievers player sparking a verbal altercation between the two. No one was physically harmed, though the players had to be separated by their respective teammates. The Wildcats would score one last goal, leaving the final score at 5-0. UMBC had opportunities to get on the scoreboard but was turned away, marking the largest loss for UMBC this season.
UNH outshot UMBC 16-5 and was given seven corner kicks while UMBC received only three. Despite the loss, Dove, senior-backfielder Kyle Saunderson and junior-midfielder Jon Bell made the All-championship team. Now that the season has come to a close, the Retrievers look to the future to improve on what many can consider an exciting and eventful season.