Every region has a sport that they identify with, from Spain and their love for soccer to Americans’ passion for football. For Maryland, the argument can be made that the sport the state identifies with the most is lacrosse. When you think of lacrosse, you may think of it as a prestigious sport. While it may be true that it is on the higher end of the bracket in terms of cost, the sport is beloved by thousands, and it continues to grow every day.
Lacrosse has talent all across the northeast, from New York to North Carolina, and even here in Maryland. Maryland has two major collegiate teams that are always in contention for a national title. Johns Hopkins and Maryland are two of the top tier lacrosse schools in the country, but one school that has been lost in the shuffle in recent years is UMBC. People seem to forget that UMBC was once a powerhouse lacrosse school in its own right.
The Retrievers were once perennial contenders to make it to the NCAA tournament through the mid-2000’s, including a 4 year span of Tournament appearances. From 2006 to 2009, you could find the Retrievers in the tournament, three of which came from winning the America East championship. Two of the Retriever’s own attackmen, Brendan Mundorf and Drew Westervelt, thrived at the school and went on to star professionally and internationally as members of Team USA. During the 2007 season, UMBC upset against Maryland in the tournament before losing in the semifinals to North Carolina. In 2009 the team finished with a 12-4 record and gained entry to the NCAA tournament before a first round elimination by North Carolina. The Retrievers have failed to make the NCAA tournament since.
Nine of the last ten seasons have ended with a losing record. During this span, the Hartford Hawks and the Albany Great Danes began to assert themselves as real threats in the conference, recruiting nationally ranked players to change the landscape. In the lone season, where the team finished just above .500, UMBC made it to America East tournament, where they lost to University of Albany. Two years later, before the 2016 season, UMBC decided to go another path and fired former head coach Don Zimmerman in favor of current head coach Ryan Moran. In Moran’s first season, it was rough waters, as they could only muster up four wins.
The 2017 season had a more positive vibe to it as the Retrievers added two more wins to the season, going 6-8 under Moran. Four players from the 2017 season were named to America East All-Conference honors, three of which were on Second Team All-Conference, while the fourth made the All-Rookie Team. The 2018 season had its moments of excitement but still resulted in a losing season for the Retrievers. The team did manage to knock off the undefeated and number one ranked conference team in Albany. The team would go on a three-game winning streak and came within one game of making it back to the conference tournament but fell to Vermont in the final game of the season.
The 2019 season seemed to be a promising one for the Retrievers. They had revamped their roster with new freshman and even buffed up their coaching staff with the hire of volunteer assistant head coach Billy O’ Hara. Along with the help of returning upperclassmen and second-year starters, the team believed they could spark a new chapter for the UMBC lacrosse program. So far, the first month has been somewhat forgetful as they started the season 1-2. As the team enters the midpoint of March, they will have their first in-conference game facing Vermont. UMBC must get back to its identity as a defensive minded team and keep teams from scoring so easily. In the last two games, the team has given up 36 goals and only scored 26 of their own. If the Retrievers want to get back to who they once were and be considered a top team in the America East, they must play like every game is their last, and this starts Saturday on their own turf against Vermont.