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Players preparing for a game last season. Photo by Ian Fieldmann

Men’s lacrosse season preview

Since the beginning of time, people have used sounds to identify with a multitude of things, from the chirping of the birds to signify the start of the day or the loud sizzling sound of bacon sitting in the frying pan indicating breakfast. These same tactics can be used to identify different sports. On a sunny afternoon at UMBC, you could hear a loud pinging noise coming from the UMBC Stadium, as you move closer to the stadium you begin to hear loud directions being shouted out and the sound of whistles echoing in the distance. As a small gust of wind brushes against your ear you come to the realization that this could only mean one thing, lacrosse season is finally upon us.

This season could be unlike any other. A year removed from a devastating loss to Vermont, UMBC is looking to make this year special having recruited 11 players with the hopes of exceeding all expectations and make the playoffs. “They’re a buttoned-up group that’s ready to follow and work hard to the leadership of this team,” said head coach Ryan Moran when talking about this young group. Billy O’Hara, a former UMBC lacrosse player, has chosen to assist the team as a volunteer coach. Coach Ryan Moran described O’Hara as a “passionate person” when talking about what type of impact he could bring to the team.

“Billy is very passionate about UMBC and the coaching … he knows our calls, he knows a lot of schemes and drills so he can just hit the ground running because he knows all our stuff,” said Moran. The Retrievers have their two leading scorers sophomore-attacker Steven Zichelli and senior-midfielder Billy Nolan returning to pick up where they left off. The two combined for 61 of the team’s 130 points last season, five players finished in double figures last season as well.

The Retrievers open the season on the road against Navy followed by a trip to Richmond. UMBC faced both these opponents beating Richmond handily in the season opener while losing to Navy in the following week. It is very crucial for the team to get off to a good start and get these wins on the road. Coach Moran was a former coach for Navy and sees this as an opportunity for his young team to gain confidence within themselves. “You want to come out the gates running wherever you are … winning cures a lot and it keeps morale high and it sets the stage in breeding confidence going into conference play,” Moran explained.

Following those games, UMBC’s home-opener will come against Mt Saint Mary’s. Another team the Retrievers are familiar with having faced them in a losing effort last season. UMBC will continue in their home-stand into March as they take on Brown University. At this point in the season, the team will be gearing up for conference play after they take on High Point. Conference play will begin at home against Vermont, the same team that prevented the Retrievers from making waves in the playoffs.

This is the part of the season where every player is crucial to the team. Whether it is on the practice field or in the middle of the game this team has to not only gel together but stay healthy. One of the biggest issues last season was the inability to stay healthy. UMBC lost two of their key players last season to injury and hope to not fall back into that hole. This is where depth plays a key role in the team. The 11 freshmen that UMBC has recruited will each have a unique role on the team and some could potentially turn out to be an unsung hero.

“There’s gonna be some differences on offense, just some new faces and new personnel through the freshman that are gonna be able to step in and help us add a little more depth to the offense,” exclaimed Moran. These freshmen have come from all over the east coast including Virginia, New York and of course Maryland. One freshman is from our brothers up north, Canada. Each player will have his chance to showcase their talent through a grueling season that can see a massive change in lineups.

After taking on Vermont the team heads to StonyBrook to take on another high-class rival where they will look to avenge their 7-6 loss from a year ago. UMBC will close out the month of March with a home game against a non-conference team in Lafayette. During the month of April last year, the Retrievers went on a run including a big victory over Albany, who at the time was undefeated, until coming up short against Vermont. The Retrievers have a chance to get off to the same start with a home game against Binghamton.

In the final three games of the season UMBC take on UMass Lowell and hit the road to face Hartford and defending conference champions Albany. In these away games it will take more than just a strong offense to get the job done. UMBC will rely on its defense to help out when the team goes into a scoring drought. The team has forced 126 turnovers last season behind the tutelage O’Hara and junior-defense-man Jake Brothers who accumulated 32 ground-balls. There are many things that can change the tide of a season, this team has all the qualities to make a major run in the conference. The only thing standing between them and this opportunity is themselves. With more depth than ever before and in addition to the coaching staff, this team will go far and bring respect back to the UMBC lacrosse program.